Yes, it is official: Britax has announced a new seat aimed at the 5-point harness, older toddler market: the Frontier.

While we were signing books at Great Beginnings in MD this weekend, the Britax reps there had a Frontier prototype to show off—yes, the first time the Frontier has been spotted out in the wild.

Is Britax feeling the Graco Nautilus heat? Take a look at the Frontier’s specs:

  • Forward-facing seat 25 lbs to 80 lbs. Belt-positioning booster to 100 lbs.
  • Designed for kids at least two years and 25 pounds—standing height 30"-53" for the harness, 42" to 60" in height for the belt-positioning booster
  • Side impact protection.
  • Nine (wow!) harness slots, with the top slot at 18.25 inches (we measured it on the prototype). Three crotch strap positions.
  • Four fashions (two-toned with black as the base: tan, grey, red, pink).
  • Available: mid May.

So, what’s not to love? Well, the price is (are you sitting down?) $280. Yes, you can almost buy TWO Graco Nautiluses for the price of one Britax Frontier.

But, the Britax does have the side impact protection missing in the Nautilus. And Britax’s five-point harness works to 80 pounds (the Nautilus only to 65 pounds).

Here’s our take: while we do like the five-point harness for older toddlers, the difference between 65 lbs and 80 lbs is meaningless. Why? Let’s look at when the average kid hits 65 pounds: for "average" kids that is age NINE. When do kids hit 80 pounds in weight? Age 11.

Now folks, we seriously doubt many nine year old kids (third graders) will be willing to riding in a Britax Frontier "baby seat" with a five-point harness. Ditto for 11 year olds (fifth graders).

That doesn’t mean the five-point harness is without merit—we LOVE the five-point harness for older toddlers, especially those three, four and five year olds who have outgrown their convertible seats . . . but who may not be mature enough to sit in a belt-positioning booster. BUT,  the difference between 65 pounds and 80 pounds is mostly hype, since most kids will have long graduated to the belt-positioning booster before you hit those weights.

Given that factor and the Britax’s huge price tag, we think the Graco Nautilus is a better bet.