2011 Toyota Sienna vs. Britax Frontier 85
I had an opportunity today to participate in a Toyota sponsored test drive event at a local shopping mall. Fortunately for me, it was cold and windy so the turnout wasn't too high when they started this morning. That meant I could spend some time installing a [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Britax-Frontier-Combination-Booster-Rushmore/dp/B0038W0JI0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=baby-products&qid=1269800012&sr=8-1"]Britax Frontier 85[/ame] without affecting other potential customers at the event. Thank you to Toyota and to SandComProMo for all their time and help! It really was a great hands-on event with both a test drive and a couple vans available to peruse the interior. The staff was exceptional and offered a ton of information, too.
The event was primarily to compare the 2011 Toyota Sienna to the 2010 Honda Odyssey. I have to say that the new Sienna is very sharp overall, though the short test drive really wasn't enough to compare. I don't want to steal Heather's thunder, so stay tuned to www.carseatblog.com where she will have a full review of the new 2011 Sienna with a mom's perspective on safety, family and carseats within the next month or so!
In the mean time, as some of you already know, I have to note that the 2011 Sienna isn't as family friendly as the 2004-2010 Sienna, that was one of the most family friendly vehicles on the road. The 2011 Sienna even appears to be slightly behind the current Odyssey in this regard. It seems Toyota has gone to a Honda Odyssey type of smaller 8th seat in the center of the 2nd row, rather than having the option of a larger captain's chair that could move part way up into the front row. Overall, there are only three LATCH seating positions, down from a generous five in the 8-passenger 2010 Sienna (or four in the 7-passenger version). No optional top tether anchors are available for the outboard positions in the third row, either.
What does that mean? The Frontier 85 does fit nicely using the long belt path in the outboard passenger side of the 3rd row and is even narrow enough to allow the "60" section to fold down. Unfortunately, there is no top tether available in this position, limiting the Frontier 85 to a 65 pound child in that spot. So, your choice for a bigger kid using a 5-point harness will either be in the second row captain's chair or the center of the third row if you want to use a top tether to allow use of the Frontier 85 up to 85 pounds (according to Britax instructions).
Fortunately, the long belt path also install works very well in both the second row and the center of the third row! I got a rock solid intallation without too much difficulty. In the second row, the seatbelts are mounted at the top of the vehicle seat back, while in the center of the third row it is a ceiling mounted seatbelt that stows away when not in use. I did not try a LATCH installation due to time constaints. I did try the short belt path in the center of the third row and it resulted in a barely adequate installation, so the long belt path is preferable there. The Frontier does take up some room in the center of the third row and may affect the folding of the "40" section. It also doesn't leave much room in the driver's side outboard seat for another carseat or adult passenger.
Another option might be the narrower Radian 80 series for both the center and passenger side of the third row seat (as it can be used without a top tether to a higher weight according to the manufacturer). I did not have one on hand to try, so I cannot confirm a good installation at this time.
03-28-2010 01:05 PM