Britax Pinnacle 90 Review

When Britax announced their Click Tight technology, the CPST world was all ears.  Was it possible that almost all guesswork could be removed from car seat installation?  Could a new system make misuse nearly impossible?

We couldn’t wait to see, and many of us on the CSFTL team were quite pleased to find that the answers to those questions is YES!

It didn’t take long for many of us on the CSFTL team to become Britax Frontier owners.  The Click Tight System makes a secure installation a snap.

In addition to owning a Frontier, I have the lower-priced, less-featured, yet-still-excellent Pioneer in my collection of seats.  So I was thrilled to have the chance to review a Britax Pinnacle 90 and see how it stacks up to its lower-priced siblings: the entry model, Pioneer and the mid-range model, Frontier.  Stay tuned for a longer comparison post, but for now, the Pinnacle is the star of the show!

Britax Pinnacle

Britax Pinnacle

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • Forward facing weight limit: 25-90 lbs.
  • Forward facing height limit: 30-58″
  • High back booster weight limit: 40-120 lbs.
  • High back booster height limit: 45-62″
  • Highest harness position: 20.5″
  • Highest booster guide position: 23″
  • Expiration: 9 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 38 lbs.

Features

  • Two crotch strap positions
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • Click Tight seat belt installation
  • No re-thread harness
  • Recline setting
  • SICT
  • 2014 IIHS Best Bet for 2014 models

 

Harnessed Mode

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

Pinch these two slots on the Britax Pinnacle, then squeeze

The Click Tight System is as simple as it sounds.  Pinch the two slots in the back of the seat with two fingers.  The Click Tight system will open to expose the belt path.

Thread your vehicle’s seat belt through the belt path, remove most of the slack from the lap portion of the belt, then close the cover.  You’ll hear a click indicating that the installation is complete.

LATCH installation (for children 38 pounds or less) is the same process as the seat belt — just thread the lower anchors through the belt path instead and click them into the car’s anchor points.

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

Click Tight System on the Britax Pinnacle

That’s it.  No sweating or grunting, just firm pressure to close the panel.  Though, we learned the hard way that an errant red fish candy can interfere with installation so make sure that nothing is in the way of the seat belt.

The only issue we run into with the Click Tight system is our tendency to pull too much slack out of the seat belt before closing the panel.  This comes from many years installing more traditional seats and it’s a habit that’s hard to break.

Doing this doesn’t leave enough slack for the Click Tight to work properly so the only trick with installing seats with this system is to leave more slack than we normally would.

When it comes time to uninstall the Pinnacle, first, unbuckle the seat belt, then open the Click Tight panel.

My Mazda 5’s third row is a challenge for installing car seats and using boosters so I was eager to see how the Pinnacle performed in that spot.  I had to pull a little more slack out of the belt to get a solid install there but in the end, I was able to get the seat installed in my third row without issue, though the Pinnacle’s headrest extends higher than the ceiling in that position.

Fit to Child: Harness Mode

Britax Pinnacle installs like a dream in the Mazda 5's third row!

Britax Pinnacle installs like a dream in the Mazda 5’s third row!

In harness mode, the Pinnacle fits our model very well; she is 4 years old, 42 lbs and 41.5″.   The harness adjusts smoothly and the no-rethread feature makes adjusting the harness height simple.  It’s just another feature that makes using the Pinnacle properly pretty simple.

The 20.5″ top  harness position makes the Pinnacle and it’s cousin, the Frontier 90, the tallest harnessed seats on the market and two of a very small group with weight limits over 65 lbs. This makes it an excellent choice for bigger kids or special needs children that may need to use a 5 point harness longer. We also LOVE that Britax has set a 2 year, 25 lb minimum to use the Pinnacle, encouraging caregivers to follow best practice and keep kids under 2 rear facing.

EZ-Buckle System

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

Britax EZ Buckle System

The harness includes the EZ-Buckle System, which is basically a big piece of fabric with hard edges that covers the crotch buckle.  This retains the harness buckle in a forward position and prevents the child from sitting on the buckle when boarding.

The Britax Boulevard that my daughter just outgrew also had this feature  — it takes a lot of hassle out of loading her in into the seat.  The EZ Buckle is separately available for purchase and use with Britax seats so I bought one for use with the Pioneer as well.

Crotch Buckle Adjustment

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

The Britax Pinnacle’s crotch buckle moves easily between positions

Moving the crotch buckle between positions is yet another easy-to-use feature of the seat.  Simply turn the buckle to the side and slide it to the correct position.  There’s no wrestling to uninstall the buckle or re-install it.

Booster Mode

Switching between harnessed and booster mode is fairly simple.  Just lift the Click Tight panel, unhook the ends of the harness from the anchors on the side of the panel, then tuck the harness straps in to the side cushions by the shoulders. The EZ Buckle and crotch buckle fold flat under the seat cushion.  The harness stays attached to the seat so there’s no chance that the harness can get misplaced when not in use.

This video explains the process very well:

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

Britax Pinnacle in booster mode

My booster rider is extremely picky about how cushioned her boosters are.  She found the Pinnacle to be “cushy in parts, but not everywhere.”

Translation: There is foam under the seat pan and behind the headrest, but not behind her back.

Even with the headrest just above the shell of the seat, we found that the seatbelt didn’t retract very well.  Our model struggled with this: “when I bend down just a little, it won’t go back.”  This is a common issue with combination seats — the headrest has to be above the shell in order for the belt to retract easily.

From the front seat, the belt fit is great.  The lap portion fits nicely across her hips and the shoulder sits right in the middle of her shoulder.

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

2013 Britax Frontier lap belt guide

 

Older models of the Pinnacle had a smaller plastic piece on the lap belt portion of the booster belt guide.  This made for a less optimal (but still acceptable) lap belt fit.  Britax responded and 2014 Pinnacle has an extra piece that helps to provide an excellent belt fit.

Britax Pinnacle 90, combination seat, hbb, click tight, extended harness, Frontier 90

Britax Pinnacle Lap Belt Guide

This extra flat piece changes the lap belt fit for the better and makes buckling the child in a bit easier.

Side Impact Cushion Technology(SICT)

These big wings on the sides of the seat are energy-absorbing cushions.  They’re designed to reduce side impact crash energy by diverting crash forces before reaching your child and providing extra protection for the adjacent passenger.  Working with the True Side Impact Protection of the headwings and the deep side walls, the SICT cushions add a 3rd layer of protection to the child’s head and neck area.   Currently, there are no federal testing standards for this type of protection so while it’s a convenience feature, we can’t speak to specific benefits of this feature just yet.The SICT also adds some bulk to the shoulder area of the seat.  While it’s possible that you could install another car seat next to the Pinnacle, the SICT could make that a challenge.

FAA Approval

Initial versions of this trio of seats were  not approved for FAA use, but Britax was able to gain that approval in 2014.  At 26 lbs, the Pinnacle’s weight means isn’t the first seat I’d choose for airplane travel, but the Click Tight System would take a lot of the headaches out of using rental cars or other alternate transportation so it might be worth the tradeoff.  See more about travelling with a Click Tight combination seat in our article.  The airplane install doesn’t use the Click Tight system.

 

Base with SafeCell Technology

The Pinnacle’s base sits fairly flat and is designed to compress in a crash, significantly lowering the center of gravity.  This would reduce the forward movement of the car seat during a crash.

As a CSPT, I appreciate this safety feature.  As a parent, this translates to a seat that sits low enough that we don’t have to struggle to load my daughter in every time — her convertible seats sat much higher and made it hard for an independent little lady to get herself situated quickly.   Getting her into and out of the Pinnacle requires only a minimal amount of urging, so for us, that’s a big plus.

Pros:

  • Click tight clamp makes it extremely simple to install using the seat belt
  • Highest harness height capacity available
  • No re thread harness
  • EZ buckle holds the buckle forward when buckling/unbuckling
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • Easy remove harness
  • Can use LATCH in booster mode

Cons:

  • Seat is very large and heavy
  • High price

Overall Thoughts

The Pinnacle takes all of the best parts of the Pioneer and Frontier and adds a few additional features to this top-of-the-line model.  The end result is a seat that’s simple to install and use properly.

The one real drawback to having all of these features in one seat is that it’s a pretty heavy and bulky seat.  It’s not a great option for installing multiple seats in a row, nor is it lightweight enough to move comfortably between cars on a regular basis.

For caregivers who don’t anticipate moving seats around very often and need a seat that’s a piece of cake to install and use properly, the Pinnacle is an excellent option that’s packed with easy-to-use features.

Britax generously provided the seat used in this review but as always, the opinions expressed in this review are all ours!

Giveaway has ended, congrats to the winner, Joan E.! 

Would you like to win a Britax Pinnacle 90 for your Little? Britax is giving one away in celebration of Child Passenger Safety Week! Remember, your Little must be at least two years old to use the Pinnacle. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, contest is open to residents of the US, ages 18 & up.  Can’t wait for the giveaway?  Check out the Britax Pinnacle on Amazon.com!

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