The Britax Frontier 85 is a worthwhile investment, reviewers say. The harness-to-booster seat has a long lifespan, with some of the highest weight and height limits on the market. The seat is an especially good pick for taller or wider kids, experts note. While the Frontier 85 does offer LATCH installation, reviewers say seat-belt installation is tricky. Others say the fabric often comes unclipped from the seat base.
Loads of safety features. The Britax Frontier 85 offers a five-point harness in harness mode, side-impact head protection, a chest clip, seat tether, chest pads, energy-absorbing foam and base, and LATCH connectors that Britax says can be used regardless of a child's weight. It converts to a belt-positioning booster that uses a vehicle's safety belts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names it a best bet for proper belt fit, but the seat receives average reviews in a separate round of expert safety testing after complicated seat-belt routing didn't provide a completely secure installation.
LATCH is easy; seat belts are not. Reviewers say the Britax Frontier 85 is easy to install using the LATCH system. Owners and experts are less complimentary of the seat-belt installation, saying it can be tricky to get a tight enough fit to the seat. The seat features a quick adjust no-rethread harness, though one expert notes that parents still must adjust the harness from the back of the seat, unlike the easier front adjustment featured on Britax convertible seats. In ease-of-use ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the seat receives 3 stars out of 5 in booster mode and 4 out of 5 in harness mode. The ratings cite a complicated conversion to booster mode and say safety labels could be clearer and more explicit.
Fabric issues for some. The Britax Frontier 85 converts from a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness to a high-back booster. It features armrests and two integrated cup holders that can accommodate 20-ounce bottles. Parents say the seat seems plush and comfy, and they like that the head wings keep their kids' heads from slumping during naps. However, many say the fabric on the bottom seat cover can easily become unclipped from the base, while others say it is hard to remove and reinstall the seat fabric, which is machine washable. Harness mode can be used for children 25 to 85 pounds and 30 to 57 inches; booster mode can be used for children 40 to 120 pounds and 42 to 65 inches.
Good customer service from Britax. The Britax Frontier 85 has a limited one-year warranty and a good reputation for customer service. The seat expires nine years from its date of manufacture.
Review Credibility: Excellent The Britax Frontier 85 is one of CarSeatBlog.com's picks for best combination booster seats. The seat's high harness slots and weight limit means older, taller kids can stay safer in a five-point harness, they say. They also like the no-rethread height adjustment, integrated cup holders and three buckle positions. However, the head restraint must be removed before the seat becomes a booster, belt-path installation can be tricky and the harness only adjusts from the back, they note.
Review: Recommended Carseats, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, September 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent The IIHS evaluates booster seats on how well they make a safety belt fit an average 6 year old. The Britax Frontier 85 is rated a best bet, meaning the lap belt was flat or nearly flat on the thighs, and the shoulder belt was correctly positioned at or very near the mid-shoulder.
Review: Booster Evaluations for 2012, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Not dated
Review Credibility: Excellent The NHTSA rates car seats on a 5-star scale for ease of use, label content and clarity, instruction content and clarity, ease of installation and ease of securing a child. The Britax Frontier 85 receives 3 stars in booster mode and 4 in harness mode, taking heat for the complicated conversion to booster mode and unclear or incomplete labeling.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Not dated
4. Baby Bargains
Review Credibility: Excellent Denise and Alan Fields review baby gear and common baby brands. The authors review popular car seats based on expert testing and parents' reviews, as well as information from manufacturers and retailers. Their website offers up-to-date information, additional reviews, recall information and forums for parents to discuss baby products.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, Tenth Edition, 2013
Review Credibility: Excellent Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 13 combination and 33 belt-positioning booster seats, including high-back and backless models. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' highs and lows for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat. However, there are a couple of discontinued models listed, and it's unclear when the tests were performed.
Review: Toddler Booster Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good Car-seat experts from TheCarSeatLady.com pick the Britax Frontier 85 as one of the best seats for taller kids, wider kids and kids with long legs. The seat is also one of the best models that transitions from a full-fledged car seat to a booster, they say. Picks are based on those thought to be "the most versatile for the widest range of children and vehicles," they note. However, there is no in-depth review of the seat.
Review: Our Best Picks for Boosters, Editors of TheCarSeatLady.com, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good Parents' booster-seat roundup features 10 seats drawn from the IIHS best bets. A short review praises the Britax Frontier 85 for its versatility, side-impact cushioning and easily adjustable head restraint and harness. It does not note any cons or compare seats.
Review: Best Booster Seats, Erin Smith, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good The Britax Frontier 85 is one of Bestcovery.com's picks for best booster seat overall. Puryear gives the seat 4.75 out of 5 stars, praising its high 120-pound booster weight limit and ability to keep children in a harness until 85 pounds. She also says it's easy for children to get in and out of, and the cup holders can accommodate 20-ounce water bottles. However, the price will be a turn-off for some, she notes, so it's best to buy the seat early to get the most use out of it.
Review: Best Booster Seat, Natasha Puryear, Jan. 3, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good The Britax Frontier 85 receives 4.6 out of 5 stars in more than 750 reviews on Amazon.com. Reviewers say the seat offers top-notch safety and appreciate that it grows with their children. They also like the cup holders, arm rests and recline. Many also say the side wings keep kids' heads still during naps. However, several reviewers say the bottom cover can come unclipped and get twisted, while others say they couldn't get a tight enough install using seat belts. Others say the straps twist easily, and it's hard to get the fabric off for washing.
Review: Britax Frontier 85 Combination Booster Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2013