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How to Go Places

Summer is here, and for many people that means road trips with the family!

In this day and age of minivans and large SUVs, packing up the car isn’t usually an issue. Navigation systems and smart phones mean people hardly ever get lost, at least not for long. But what was it like in the 1950s?

In 1954 Chevrolet produced a video with an appropriately kitschy title, “How to Go Places,” that gave useful tips on taking road trips. If you want to take your next trip ’50s-style, mark up that map, and don’t rely on strangers for directions!

Bonus: You’ll learn how this family fit three-across in the back seat. (Hint: It doesn’t involve child restraints! Or seatbelts!)

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Bigger is Not Always Better: Lexus LX570 Video Review

The Lexus LX570 is a full size sport utility vehicle, something of a departure from the midsize models I usually review.  As a vehicle with limited appeal in terms of sales, this review will be limited mostly to photo and video content.  Please stay tuned over the next few weeks for our reviews of the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander and Mitsubishi Outlander.

 


Gallery:

Here are a few examples of some carseats I installed.  Left, a Britax Frontier 90 Combination Harness Booster seat and a Britax Advocate Convertible Carseat in the second row.  Center, a Britax Parkway SGL in a third row seat.  Right, a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Infant Carseat in the second row.

LX570BritaxAdvocateFrontier LexusLX570ThirdRowLegroom LexusLX570PegPerego435

Top Likes:

  • Relatively quiet interior and smooth (adjustable) suspension
  • Seating is heated/ventilated and very comfortable
  • Good towing capability at 7000 lbs.
  • Decent interior space for a full-size SUV
  • Heavy duty 4WD off-road capability
  • Second row seat is fairly practical for carseats
  • Mark Levinson audio is good, but not worthy of the brand name
  • Plenty of power, but throttle is somewhat twitchy from a stop

Top Dislikes:

  • No crash safety testing from IIHS or NHTSA
  • Minimal advanced safety features are optional
  • Dismal Fuel Economy 12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway.  I managed under 13 mpg around town.
  • Awful handling.  It’s a land whale, and drives like it.
  • No LATCH or top-tether in 3rd row.  Un-excusable at this price.
  • Third row seats fold awkwardly upward
  • Third row middle seat is over a split and very narrow.
  • Second row monitors project into seating area, could interfere with space for rear-facing carseats
  • More expensive and less practical than some competition
  • Quirks: Satellite radio cuts out periodically, even with clear, unobstructed sky.

 

Conclusion:

The Lexus LX570 is a niche vehicle.  Yes, it has heavy duty towing and off-road capability, being based on the same platform as the Toyota Land Cruiser.  But will more than a few people really be taking an $80,000+ luxury SUV to tow their camper over boulders and mountain streams?  Apparently less than 5,000 per year have even bought one since it was refreshed for 2013.  My pick in the full-size luxury SUV category is the Mercedes Benz GL Class Bluetec.  For over $10,000 less, nicely equipped with every advanced safety feature, it is superior in almost every important regard.  The Audi Q7 TDI and Infiniti QX60 Hybrid are other fine luxury choices that are very flexible for families with children and get a lot better fuel economy for a much lower price tag.

New Parent Carseat Basics: What You Need to Know

pg hwYou’ve peed on the stick and found out you’re pregnant. Yay! (Or not. Who am I to say?) You’ve gone to Target, and Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com and registered for every single baby item under the sun that’s plastic and can be sanitized and trust me, it all coordinates, right? Now you’ve come down to the final weeks and it’s panic time when you realize this baby is coming out one way or another and you have to get it home. You just stick Baby in the carseat and go, right? No. Nope. No way, new parent. You are now attending Carseat 101 and there will be a quiz at the end. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors!

First, let’s go over some vocab you’ll need for the next, oh, decade or so. Yeah, baby, your precious is going to be in a seat for a loonngg time. In chronological order, please:

Infant seat: This carseat is used for newborns to sometimes toddlerhood. It’s easily identified by its handle, canopy, and left-in-the-car base. The carrier portion fits onto the base.

photo  Chicco KeyFit30 Fuego

Convertible seat: This carseat can be used for newborns, but is often used after a child outgrows an infant seat. It rear-faces, then converts to forward-facing for older kids.

GracoSize4Me70newborn2  GracoHeadWise70FF

Combination seat: This carseat is for older kids, the kind who order combo meals at fast food restaurants (and yes, you too, will succumb to buying your child a grease-loaded meal item at some point). A combo seat FORWARD-FACES ONLY. It has a harness to keep wiggly kids safe, then the harness comes off and it can be a belt-positioning booster. See why it’s for older kids only? It combines a harness and a booster into one seat. You don’t always need a combo seat. Sometimes your child can go straight from a convertible seat to a belt-positioning booster, depending on which convertible she uses and how old and big she is.

Photo Oct 02, 2 20 32 PM  Britax Pinnacle 90 belt fit

Belt-positioning booster seat: This carseat is for kids who nearly have gray hair. Just kidding. Barely. The purpose of a booster seat is to boost a kid up higher so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt will fit them superbly over their bones, not their soft bellies. Kids have to have a certain amount of maturity in order to sit still in a vehicle seat belt and that comes around ages 4-6, depending on the child. Most parents find their kids transitioning out of a harness around ages 5-6, when “real” school starts, not that “pre-“ stuff. There are highback and backless varieties of boosters. Highbacks are great for the younger crowd because they provide head and torso support for sleeping. Backless boosters are harder to see from outside the car, so older, image-conscious kids like them better. Kids use booster seats until they can 5-step—fit in the belt like an adult—which is when they get to be the size of a small adult, around age 10-11.

lap and shoulder belt fit  Graco Connext buckle side

Let’s identify that you’ve gotten the right carseat for you. It used to be that an infant seat was an infant seat was an infant seat. Basically, all the carriers did more or less the same thing—it was the bases that distinguished them. Now we have carriers that fit small babies very well, some that don’t, some that have no-rethread harnesses, some that have canopies that disappear, and some that fit kids up to 40 lbs. There’s quite a variety from which to choose and that can cause more confusion than ever! What’s my very first piece of advice to you in this area? Don’t insist on a travel system. Pick the very best infant seat that will work for you, then pick the very best stroller you can afford and put them together. Many strollers come with adapter bars and with a little bit of research on their website, you can find if the infant seat you want will fit on the stroller you want. The patterns may not match perfectly, but you will get a much better stroller this way usually unless you buy a high-end infant seat/stroller combo to begin with. I speak from experience: you don’t want to be stuck with a stroller you hate for years because you wanted to be all matchy-matchy with an infant seat you use for months. To help you in your search, we have both thorough, professional reviews and a list of our favorite seats.

Most of the time you will know if you’re going to have a small, average, or large baby by the end of your 40 weeks. If you and your partner are small folks and come from small families, genetics won’t let you down. Look for an infant seat that starts with a low birth weight of 4 lbs. It’s the same if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or if you’re having multiples. Fortunately, there are lots of infant seats that now have a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs., but they don’t always fit the preemie-sized babies well. We have a list of our favorite seats that fit preemies and multiples. If you’re having an average- or large-sized baby, any infant seat will do, though you’ll get more bang for your buck with a larger one. The size of your vehicle also has to be factored in since the larger the infant seat, the more space it takes up in the vehicle.

Prezi Keyfit compared

 

Now for some answers to common questions:

Going Green?

We celebrated our 20th anniversary recently.  I planned a spectacular weekend for my wife.  A night out at our favorite restaurant and a stay at our favorite hotel without kids.  Then the surprise, a trip to NYC for a show on broadway and dinner with good friends who celebrated our first anniversary with us many years ago.  It all went smashingly well.

suburbanI hate to even blemish the weekend, but there was a tiny little quirk.  Instead of using our normal limo or taxi service, I opted to impress my bride with an “Eco Friendly” limousine service that I had seen.  After all, we own two hybrids and why not make a tiny effort to avoid burning up our dwindling fossil fuels when possible?  It was only a few dollars more than normal, so no big deal.   I had assumed that like many Chicago and NYC taxis, typical models would be Prius, Camry and Fusion hybrids.   Of our three segments, the first was in a Ford Escape Hybrid.  Certainly no Prius, but perfectly reasonable.  I wasn’t expecting to be driven in a Tesla or something, though that would have been a nice touch!

Well, much to our dismay, the next two trips to and from the airport were not hybrids, electrics, diesels or fuel conserving vehicles of any kind.  Not only that, they were actually among the least fuel efficient passenger vehicles that could have been used to transport two passengers.  For both trips, a dreaded Earth Destroyer was dispatched for our very UN-green airport commutes.  When I asked later, the service said that they keep some of these monster SUVs for larger parties and assured me they were flex fuel models using E85.   I guess they didn’t realize that even if the drivers actually did put E85 in the tanks, the fuel economy is much worse!

Oh well, so much for having “Green” in the name of your limo service!  Next time, I guess we’ll save money and fuel by driving our 50 mpg Prius and paying for parking.  In my defense, it was a big anniversary and we departed and arrived at different airports.  Still, my apologies for the extra CO2 and smog you are now breathing!  At least it was comfortable inside…

Britax Releases Anti-Rebound Bar for Canadian G4 Convertible Carseats

20140530_155521_resizedWoohoo! After stalking my mail lady all week awaiting the arrival of the anti-rebound bar (ARB) available upon request to all registered Britax G4 convertible carseat owners in Canada, it finally arrived while I was outside enjoying the sunshine (full review of G4s here).  I’m impressed. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and straightforward to install.  From my very brief test it takes up a tiny bit more front-to-back space (maybe 3/4″-1″ at most, quite possibly less if a person was motivated to gain that space back by compressing the vehicle seat back with a lot of enthusiasm), but the benefits far outweigh that minor issue. It’s already a very compact seat so that 3/4″ isn’t likely to be a make-or-break situation for most people.

20140530_193625_resizedWhy is it such great news? Until now,  Canadian G4 seats must be tethered rear-facing, a marked difference from the G3 seats, and also from American seats (Canada has an anti-rebound standard in our testing process, the US does not).  Britax responded to concerns from techs and parents not keen on having to rear-face tether, and this ARB removes that requirement. In Canada we may only tether Swedish-style (down to a fixed point forward of the seat, using the provided D-ring) if the vehicle manufacturer expressly permits it, and to my knowledge, none do. So Aussie-style it is, meaning straps in the way when loading and unloading, and potential incompatibilities if the tether anchor is too far away. Britax does make a tether extender but in the moment that doesn’t work for a lot of people, and the development of the ARB is a much better solution in my opinion, both as a tech and a parent.  Please note that these will not be shipped automatically to current owners.  You must contact Britax Canada at 1-888-427-4829 to request one free of charge.  Please be advised that supplies are limited and may be subject to shipping delays.

We hope to have more information soon on if/when the ARB may begin to ship with Canadian models or if Britax will approve the ARB for use on American G4 seats (Roundabout, Marathon, Boulevard, Pavilion, and Advocate) convertible carseats.

As my three year old would say…”two thumbs up wide” Britax, well done!

See a full tour including attaching and detaching it (easy!) here: