2020 Graco 4Ever DLX Platinum All-in-One Review
You may already be familiar with the Graco 4Ever, a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat and a 2020 Editors’ Pick. It is the seat that rocked the car seat world a few years ago by delivering the first true all-in-one car seat that actually functioned well in every mode of use. Graco has now upped its game in the luxury car seat market with the Graco 4Ever DLX Platinum! Everything you loved about the 4Ever, now with premium fabric and features such as a seat belt lockoff for forward-facing and self-tightening lower LATCH connectors.
4Ever DLX Platinum Specs & Features:
- Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs. and child’s head must be 1″ from gray headrest adjuster handle
- Forward-facing (with harness): 22-65 lbs and 49″ or less
- Highback booster: 40-100 lbs. and 43-57″
- Backless booster: 40-120 lbs. and 43-57″
- No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
- Adjustable base with 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
- Easy-to-read bubble level indicator
- Steel reinforced frame
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Premium push-on lower LATCH connectors with Graco’s EZ Tight™ LATCH (LATCH limit: child weight of 45 lbs.)
- Lockoff for forward-facing seat belt installations
- Dual integrated cup holders (assembly required)
- RapidRemove cover
- ProtectPlus Engineered designation (tested for frontal, side & rear impact crashes)
- 10 year lifespan before expiration
- Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 6.5″
- Highest harness height: 17.5″
- Tallest booster height: 18.25″
- Internal rear-facing height: 26.25″ (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 27.25″)
- Crotch buckle positions: 5″ and 7″
- Seating depth: 12″
- Internal seat width: 13″
- Widest external seat width: 19.5″ (at cup holders)
Installation/Fit to Vehicle:
In general, the 4Ever is not difficult to install and tends to have good compatibility. I tried it in several seating positions in a 2015 Ford Expedition with the seatbelt and with LATCH. I was able to get a secure install in every position I tried (outboard 2nd row, center 2nd row, center 3rd row) both rear- and forward-facing.
The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded both on the seat and in the manual (blue for rear-facing, orange for forward-facing, green for booster).
Installation with LATCH:
The lower LATCH strap on this model features Graco’s EZ Tight™ LATCH, which at this time is exclusive to Graco’s “Platinum” models.
Graco has a demonstration of the EZ Tight™ installation here – And yes, in some vehicles like my Expedition, it really can be as easy as it looks in the demonstration. Although you still need to apply force to get it to tighten, in a best-case scenario there isn’t the usual pulling and tugging of the LATCH strap. For people like me with less than stellar joints in the hands, this can be a huge bonus. Unfortunately, the EZ Tight LATCH feature doesn’t work well in some vehicles or seating positions. Sometimes, you just can’t get an adequate LATCH installation no matter how much force you apply to the seat. Luckily, you always have the option to switch to a seatbelt installation if you can’t get the seat installed tightly with the LATCH strap. Reminder – when installed properly, the carseat shouldn’t move more than 1″ from side-to-side or from front-to-back when you test for tightness *at the beltpath*.
The 4Ever DLX Platinum has a single LATCH strap, which means it needs to be manually switched between the different beltpaths when you switch from rear-facing to forward-facing or vice versa. The process isn’t as complicated as it is on some seats, but not as easy as on some others (see video below). One thing I found frustrating was that the LATCH strap had to be moved not only when changing between rear- and forward-facing but also when changing from a LATCH to a seat belt install. If you are installing this model with seat belt, the LATCH strap and connectors must be stored in the other beltpath, to keep them out of each other’s way.
Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 45 pounds. For kids who weigh more than 45 lbs., install the 4Ever with seatbelt and tether.
Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing: Not allowed. Only use LATCH in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the lower LATCH anchor bars are spaced 11” apart when measured at their centers (i.e., standard lower anchor spacing).
Inflatable Seat Belts: This car seat CAN be installed with the inflatable seat belts found in some Ford/Lincoln vehicles; just route the seat belt over the closed lockoff when forward-facing. Other types of inflatable seat belts are still incompatible for use with the 4Ever DLX Platinum. There are no issues when using the seat as a belt-positioning booster, although watch to make sure the shoulder belt retracts properly through the belt guide.
Lockoff: All 4Ever DLX models (including this platinum model) have a lockoff for forward-facing installations using seatbelt. There is no lockoff for the rear-facing beltpath but that is less important because you can use the lower LATCH anchors all the way up to the 40 lbs. rear-facing weight limit.
In my vehicle, I had a very inconvenient placement of the convenience button (the plastic button on the seat belt which keeps the latchplate from sliding all the way down; your seat belt may have a loop of webbing instead) which prevented me from using the lock-off forward-facing; but I did not have any difficulty using my seat belt’s built in locking feature instead. FYI – all vehicles made after 1996 have seat belts that can lock in some way to hold a carseat tightly in place during routine driving. Most vehicles have switchable retractors but some vehicles or specific seating positions have locking latchplates instead. It’s important to know what your vehicle has and to understand how these features work before you install this carseat with a seat belt. See your vehicle’s owners manual for specific information on how to install a carseat in your vehicle using the seat belt. If you have questions, please visit our car-seat.org forum and we’ll be happy to help answer them.
The 4Ever DLX Platinum offers a total of six recline positions, and the recline is easily adjusted by pulling an adjuster on the front of the seat. However, there are rules regarding which recline positions you can and can’t use.
Recline angle – use recline positions 1, 2 or 3 to achieve an appropriate recline angle in your vehicle. A bubble level on the side of the seat shows the acceptable recline range. Make sure the bubble is in the acceptable zone!
You can use the lower LATCH anchors OR the seat belt to install the 4Ever DLX Platinum, but not both at the same time. Pick one installation method or the other. Do NOT use the tether strap when rear-facing. Make sure the tether hook is securely hooked in its storage spot.
Installation comments – the 3rd row of the 2015 Expedition is a challenge, especially for rear-facing seats, due to the short seat depth, limited room before hitting the 2nd row seats, and a very tight distance between the seat belt anchor points in the center position. It took me several tries to hit the “sweet spot” of having the seat reclined enough to keep the bubble in the right place and not so reclined that it hit the 2nd row seats, but I *was* able to accomplish it which is more than I can say for most seats.
I had a lot more space to work with in the 2nd row, which isn’t unusual for this vehicle. My bigger challenge here is room to buckle up another passenger or tilt the seat forward for 3rd row access. Although this isn’t a particularly narrow seat, I found the fit to the vehicle to be good enough that it didn’t hog a lot of excess space. This vehicle tends to offset center-installed car seats a little toward the driver’s side, so I tested the passenger side to ensure that position was still fully functional with the seat installed.
Based on the fit in the 3rd row of the Expedition and our previous review that checked the fit of the regular 4Ever model in a Civic and how it fared in our Rear-Facing Convertible Space Comparison, I would not hesitate to recommend the Graco 4Ever for tall parents who need a lot of legroom up front and/or vehicles with small backseats.
Recline positions – recline positions 4 or 5 MUST be used for children under 40 lbs. and position 6 MUST be used for children over 40 lbs. This could pose a challenge in some families especially with younger kids weighing more than 40 lbs. who may benefit from a bit more recline. In a very tight situation with a child under 40 lbs. (like a pickup with a very small back seat) there might not be enough room for a child’s legs in the reclined forward-facing positions, although the fact that position 5 is an option is an advantage over some other versions of the 4Ever which require recline 4 only for kids under 40 lbs. In some vehicles with protruding head restraints, not having any flexibility for which recline to choose for the best fit to vehicle may also pose a problem, although fortunately in my vehicle it didn’t cause any interference in any of the forward-facing recline settings (this is an issue I do run into from time to time with other seats in the Expedition). This is because the main shell of the seat is rather short, and the extendable headrest sits quite a bit forward of the shell itself, so it’s less likely to interfere than some other designs.
In booster mode, Graco does not allow any overhang of the seat, nor does it allow a gap behind the highback portion, so those are potential compatibility issues. In my vehicle, when I first set it on the vehicle seat I thought I was going to have a problem; but, once I wiggled and settled it into place, it was (barely) fine with no interference. In most cases these compatibility challenges, if they arise, should be solvable by converting the seat to backless booster mode.
It is worth noting that LATCH use is permitted in highback booster mode. (The LATCH connectors are incorporated into the back of the seat, so LATCH is not an option in backless mode.)
Another nice feature of the seat in general is that the base is nice and flat, so no need to worry about strange bumps or sharp edges poking into your vehicle upholstery.
Fit to Child:
When a car seat is rated for use from 4 lbs, it’s important that it actually fit a 4-lb child. I used a small baby doll and a Huggable Images newborn doll to check the fit with the infant insert, and it did work well, although there are some things you need to be careful of.
There is a little “bump” created by the insert that the baby’s bum needs to be on. A smaller newborn may have a tendency to slouch down towards the crotch buckle and settle in the space between that bump and the buckle. This will create both a positioning challenge (slouching babies are not a good thing) and a fit challenge (as the straps may end up above the shoulders). A rolled washcloth might be needed to keep a smaller-than-average newborn in the right position.
The nicely contoured infant body insert must be used if the child’s shoulders are below the bottom slots without it. It may only be used rear-facing. There is also an infant head pillow, which also can only be used rear-facing, and only when you’re also using the body support. (The head support slides into a strap on the back of the body pillow, so it wouldn’t make much sense to try to use it separately anyway.)
My youngest child is now 4.5 years old, 41 inches tall, and weighs 36 lbs. She normally rides forward-facing since her regular seat has a 40” height limit for rear-facing, but she has plenty of room to grow rear-facing in this seat.
The same child is also well within the height and weight range for forward-facing. Since my back seat is roomy, I have a choice between recline position #4 or #5 for her with no space considerations. I chose to test her fit in recline 5 position because that’s a change for this model and because I can. It still offers a comfy position with her but not so much recline as to feel like overkill.
It’s important to note that for all children over 40 lbs., whether in harness or booster mode, the #6 recline position (most upright) must be used.
I found it difficult to get the seat into the 6th recline position at first; it would not lock into place and kept sliding back to #5. With a LOT of persistence, taking it out of the car and setting it on a table to get a good angle on it, I was finally able to get it to lock into place. After about the 3rd time I successfully got it to lock, it started going into place more easily. I was unable to find anything that was hung up or blocking the mechanism, so I chalk it up to a new seat that needed the stiffness worked out of it.
My 4 year old is not yet tall enough or heavy enough to use this seat in booster mode, and putting a 4 year old in a booster isn’t a choice I’d make anyway if I could help it, but it still did a decent job of positioning the belt on her. I am not super comfortable with the fit, but it’s pretty close and that’s what I expect for a child that doesn’t meet the size minimums yet; by the time she is 43” tall and weighs at least 40 lbs. I would expect this booster to give her a nice comfortable belt fit.
On the other end of the size spectrum, the belt guide doesn’t go much higher than the top harness slot. That means that a child who outgrows the harness by height won’t have much more time before the high-back booster is also outgrown by height. My older daughter is almost 9 at 4’6” tall and a little under 80 lbs., and although she is well within the stated size range for the highback booster (up to 4’9″ and 100 lbs), she doesn’t physically fit with the back on (but this is typical; I think she’s outgrown almost all the highback boosters on the market today).
Right in the middle we have our 6 year old Huggable Images doll who gets a great belt fit with plenty of room to grow and adjust the head rest higher. So my impression is that there’s plenty of room for typically built kids to use the highback portion before converting to backless mode.
Both my daughter and the Huggable Images doll fit nicely in backless mode. I used the included shoulder belt adjuster for the HI doll to get the shoulder belt in the right place. It is TALL! My daughter will probably barely reach the stated height limit of 57” by the time her head is too high for the vehicle’s head restraint to protect her. This will of course vary by vehicle and could be an issue with some kids, even shorter ones, in vehicles that have shorter head restraints.
Our previous review of the regular 4Ever model shows a broader variety of kids in booster mode, and will give a better overall picture of fit. For the most part, I would say this booster will work well for most booster-age kids in most vehicles. The biggest things to watch out for, which have been mentioned above, are that there is no gap allowed behind the highback in booster mode, nor any overhang allowed (backless or not) in booster mode, and that there are no lower anchors available to use in backless booster mode.
Ease of Use:
Frankly, I found it all a little confusing at times. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t worked with a lot of Graco seats for whatever unknown reason. I would not call this a big drawback; I feel it’s inherent in any seat with as many features as the 4Ever has. You simply can’t fit 4 functions and all those bells and whistles into one seat and not expect a little complexity. Of course we always encourage EVERYONE to read the manual carefully with any car seat, but when doing a review I like to pretend I’m an “average parent” and see what I can figure out without cracking it open, then check the manual to see whether I guessed right. I found myself reaching for the manual quickly with this seat because there was a lot I could NOT figure out (like I had no idea how to move the LATCH strap from one beltpath to the other).
Also, I thought the stickers on the side of the seat left a lot to be desired. I got confused by them several times. For example, the sticker that is supposed to point to where the lower anchor connectors are stored when not in use is in the wrong place entirely; I had to consult the manual to find the actual location several inches lower than where the arrow on the sticker was pointing.
Another ease-of-use complaint I had was with using the harness, especially rear-facing. For some reason, the harness can be hard to tighten evenly and completely on Graco convertibles. It helps to make sure all slack is pulled up from the hip area first, then pull all the slack in the harness out the back of the seat (behind the shell) before pulling the adjuster strap to tighten the harness. Also, don’t buckle the chest clip until after the harness is tightened! That can make a bigger difference than one might imagine.
Some things I especially loved about the seat:
- You don’t need to remove the harness to use the seat in booster mode. You do need to tuck it out of the way in a cubby in the shell, but that’s no big deal. It would be nice if the cubby were just a bit bigger to accommodate the harness pads a bit more easily, but it all fit fine.
- The “RapidRemove” cover removes very easily. The cover comes off nicely in three parts, using some tabs and elastic loops/hooks, but mostly just pieces that contour over the seat. Getting it back on was just a tad trickier because you have to remember where the elastic loops hook but honestly that’s true of every seat. You can machine-wash the cover in cold water on the gentle cycle, then hang to dry.
- It converts to a backless easily. Disconnect the harness, pull back the cover, move the red tabs, and pull off the back. That’s it!
- New! It has the little “pockets” on the side that keep the harness out of the way when placing baby in the seat. I find this feature especially nice for newborns.
- New! Forward-facing seat belt lockoff – although it didn’t work for me in my vehicle because of the placement of the button on my seat belt webbing, this is a premium feature I really like to see on car seats.
- New! ProtectPlus Engineered designation means this seat has been tested to protect in frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes.
FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines/Inflatable Seatbelt Policy:
- The 4Ever is FAA approved for airline use *with the harness*
- 10-year lifespan before expiration
- Must be replaced after any crash
- CAN be installed with the inflatable seat belts found in some Ford Motor Company vehicles if your child is over the LATCH weight limit of 45 lbs. Route the seat belt over the closed lockoff and follow the instructions in your Ford or Lincoln owners manual to lock the retractor on the *lap belt portion* of the seatbelt (these inflatable seatbelts have 2 retractors which is very unusual).
Graco 4Ever DLX Platinum Advantages:
- 4 modes of use
- No-rethread harness with reasonable height limits
- Installs easily in most vehicles (although EZ Tight LATCH can be problematic in some vehicles)
- Has lockoff for forward-facing installations with seat belt
- Relatively compact for rear-facing
- Fits small babies well
- Can accommodate all children under 40 lbs. rear-facing (nearly impossible to outgrow RF by height)
- Converts easily to highback and backless booster mode
- Easy-to-remove cover
- Harness doesn’t need to be removed for booster use
- Can use LATCH in highback booster mode
- Can be installed with Ford/Lincoln inflatable seat belts
- 10-year lifespan before expiration
- Tested for frontal, side and rear impact crashes (ProtectPlus Engineered designation)
(These aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform consumers of specific 4Ever DLX Platinum issues)
- Sometimes tricky to tighten harness when rear-facing
- Somewhat twisty straps
- Installation with EZ Tight LATCH is hit or miss
- Cup holders are difficult to install but also mandatory (they require a lot of force to click securely into place)
- Compared to the regular 4Ever model, the padding is thicker and that may slightly reduce how long your child can use it before outgrowing it by height.
- The stickers on the side of the seat left a lot to be desired. I got confused by them several times.
- Made in China (although to be fair, so are a lot of other quality car seats)
So, does the Graco 4Ever do everything it claims to? Mostly, yes, and for this reason, it remains a 2019 CarseatBlog Editors’ Pick. Because of its height, it is one of the longest-lasting rear-facing seats on the market for tall kids who still weigh less than 40 lbs. Forward-facing, it has harness heights comparable to many forward-facing-only seats, and will easily get most children to an appropriate booster age.
The main shortcomings of this particular model occur in booster mode and with the EZ Tight LATCH feature, but even those aren’t horrible. You can always use the seatbelt to install the seat if you aren’t able to achieve a tight installation with the EZ Tight LATCH feature. And although the highback booster isn’t much taller than the harness, it will still get most kids to an age and size where a backless booster is acceptable. As a backless booster, it’s chunkier than most other boosters, but it can get the job done and some kids really like the extra height.
Will the 4Ever last “forever”? Is it the only seat a family will ever need? That depends, but for most families, it will do the job. It will fit most newborns well, and will certainly move with a child through most rear-facing, forward-facing, and boostering needs. It has a very generous 10-year lifespan, but time could be lost between when it’s manufactured and when it starts being used for the child. It’s also possible that the child may not pass the 5-Step Test before the seat expires. In that case, the 4Ever won’t technically last forEVER, but it’ll come awfully close. It might not be the best choice for people who enjoy getting new seats often (*coughcough*), but for parents who want to stick with one seat for a long time, the Graco 4Ever could be an excellent option.
Currently, the Graco 4Ever DLX retails for $349.99 but can often be found on sale at Amazon and other stores (currently for $239.99 at the time of this publication). It is relatively expensive upfront but represents a good value considering the 10 years before the seat expires.
Please visit Graco’s website for more information.
Thank you to Graco for providing the 4Ever DLX Platinum for our review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely those of CarseatBlog.