When I had my little one, I knew very little about car seats and the differences between them. I just knew you needed one in order to take your baby home from the hospital. Since I've started reviewing baby products on this blog, I've realized that not all car seats are created equal, and I've become very passionate about car seat safety. When RECARO contacted me about reviewing one of their seats, I didn't hesitate for a moment. Having been in the industry for over 100 years, RECARO is an international industry leader in seating safety, design, comfort and style. They are the pioneers of child seat side impact technology, and their seats are known for their superior side impact protection. I couldn't wait to install and review their RECARO Performance RIDE convertible car seat.
RECARO Performance RIDE in the gorgeous color Marine
This seat is a convertible, meaning it can covert from rear facing to forward facing when your child outgrows the rear-facing weight or height recommendations. The Performance RIDE accommodates children rear facing from 5-40 pounds and less than 49 inches and forward facing from 20-65 pounds and under 49 inches. I absolutely believe in extended rear facing for as long as possible, so the Performance RIDE was and is really attractive to me. This car seat comes with a removable infant insert (pictured in the photos above, removed in the photo on the right below).
You may be familiar with the fact that RECARO has a long history in the racing field. Over the decades they've developed and paved the way for side impact protection and have incorporated this into their car seats. The Performance RIDE offers amazing protection and it's specifically designed to protect the five vulnerable areas of a child in a side impact collision, including the head, neck, face, torso and pelvis. Another great safety feature on the RECARO Performance RIDE is the easily adjustable head restraint. Padded with real automotive "PUR" foam for comfort, the headrest can be lowered or raised with the simple turn of a knob. Unlike other car seats where there is a range of locking head restraint heights, the Performance RIDE's headrest is on a threaded post so the fit can be completely customizable for your child's comfort and safety. Adjusting the head restraint also automatically adjusts the five point safety harness. This is a NO re-thread system, which I LOVE. I can't say enough good things about no re-threading. The photos above show the head restraint at the lowest setting and at the highest setting. You can see there's a lot of room for growth here. The padding is plush and feels like it would be really comfortable for little ones.
The RECARO Performance RIDE has a great twist-resistant HERO harness system. It's a 5 point safety harness with built in shoulder pads. Unlike a lot of other car seats with removable shoulder pads that may slip down or bunch up, the Performance RIDE's pads are made to stay in place on the child's shoulders for ultimate protection in case of a crash. The harness system also features a wonderful Safety Stripe System. You can see in the photos that the outer edge of the harness straps are lined in white. This lets you know that the straps are twist free and properly aligned. This is a genius feature to me. I can't tell you how many times I've thought I had my son restrained only to see that the straps were super twisted at the very top behind his shoulder. The Safety Stripe feature has come in so handy and I can't imagine our lives without it now. This feature would also be really helpful for grandparents or other caregivers that may not be accustomed to using car seats very often. The Performance RIDE also has harness pockets right above the armrests where you can store the harness clip while you're putting your child in or taking them out of the seat. These little pockets are so much more user friendly than other loop systems on other brands of seats.
Earlier I mentioned that to adjust the harness height you simply turn the headrest adjustment knobs and that automatically raised or lowered the harness. To loosen and tighten the straps once you have them at the appropriate level, you'll just use the harness adjuster strap conveniently located at the front of the car seat, above the recline lever on the base. Speaking of reclining, the RECARO Performance RIDE has two positions.
Before I installed the seat, I put my little guy in it to adjust the headrest and harness height. He seemed pretty happy and had plenty of room. In these photos he's 20 months, 34 inches tall and 28 pounds.
The first thing I noticed about the Performance RIDE when I placed it in my compact SUV is that it's quite a bit taller than our last car seat. We'd been using a Graco Smart Seat and although I like the seat and the weight range (up to 100 pounds), it's HUMONGOUS. It's very wide, slightly impedes on the other seats next to it, and it was so big it pushed up against the two front seats when placed in the middle of the back seat (unless the seats were pushed more forward). I'm not sure we could have put it on either side of the back bench seat without having to push the front seats way forward. The RECARO Performance Ride fits perfectly in the middle of the bench seat and doesn't encroach on the surrounding seats. The photos below show the height difference that I'm describing.
Another thing I noticed when compared with our previous seat was that the Performance RIDE wasn't quite as heavy but still felt substantial and safe. The seat weighs in at just over 24 pounds. This is important information to keep in mind if you're using the LATCH system since requirements have just changed (your child + the seat should not weigh more than 65 pounds, if that's the case you'll need to use the seat belt instead).
Now, let's talk about the installation process itself. Since my SUV doesn't allow me to use the LATCH system in the middle of the backseat (the lower anchors are too far apart), I use the seat belt. The instruction manual is very clear and easy to understand, and I had the seat installed within a few minutes. As suggested by the manual, I did have to use a rolled towel to ensure proper alignment. Now, I've installed quite a few car seats so this was not my first rodeo, but I felt like something was off with my installation. The seat titled to the passenger side due to a separation in the rear bench seat that allows the seats to fold forward so you have a larger cargo area when needed. I immediately made an appointment with my Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) to have it checked, and I'm so glad I did. It turns out I actually pulled belt too tight (who knew?!) and it was pushing the seat over a bit. That paired with the seat separation made the seat lean pretty significantly.
Once we got the okay from the CPST, we decided to give this car seat a pretty big test. We set out on a 3 hour car ride to visit relatives. My little guy seemed very comfortable in this seat and he was able to see a lot more of his surroundings which kept him calm and quiet on this long trip. He rarely ever falls asleep in the car, but he actually dosed off on our trip. I took that as a good sign! I believe in extended rear-facing and plan to keep my little guy rear-facing until he at least 2 years old (and hopefully much longer). I know a lot of people worry about the leg room with extended rear-facing, but as you can see in the photos above, the wubba has plenty of room. He generally sits with his legs folded anyway, so I don't think he's bothered at all with his feet being able to touch the back seat. Another feature of this seat that my little seems to enjoy is the (removable) cup holder. It's well within his reach and he spends quite a bit of time placing his sippy in the cup holder and taking it out. With our last car seat, the cup holder was beyond his reach, and he put up quite a protest when he couldn't reach his water or snack cup.
Overall, we're really happy with the RECARO Performance RIDE convertible car seat. It's really user friendly and has a lot of great features for your child's comfort and safety. As someone who has researched and used many different car seats, I'm aware that all seats need to meet certain requirements before they reach the market. RECARO has certainly gone above and beyond these requirements and created a fantastic convertible car seat that's well worth the $299 price tag in my opinion.
Buy it: The RECARO Performance RIDE Convertible Car Seat does not appear to be sold on Amazon any longer, but check out the RECARO ProRIDE.
ALSO, be sure to check out my other car seat safety posts: Benefits of Extended Rear-Facing, Convertible Car Seats - What's an Anti-Rebound Bar and Why Do I Need One?, Common Car Seat Mistakes you might be making, and 5 things to consider when buying a car seat.
Disclosure: I received this car seat at no cost to facilitate this post. All thoughts expressed are my own and may differ from yours. Amazon links are affiliate links.