The Nuna EXEC has a pretty unique claim to fame — it’s one of the most expensive car seats on the market today. (Sometimes we see a limited-edition leather version of an existing seat, those tend to come in at a slightly higher price point than the EXEC, but that’s it!!). We’re ready to tackle the question: is the EXEC worth the cost?
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds
- Rear facing height: up to 49 inches tall
- Forward facing weight range: 25-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: up to 49 inches tall
- High back booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds
- High back booster mode height range : 38-57 inches tall
- Lower anchor weight limit: rear facing 35 pounds, forward facing 40 pounds
- Lowest harness slot: 7.5 inches with insert
- Highest harness slot: 17 inches
- Highest booster shoulder belt guide: 18.5 inches
- Expiration: 10 years
- Infant insert: 5-11 pounds
- Harness covers required in rear facing mode
- Lower anchors can be used in booster mode
- Top tether cannot be used in booster mode
- Head insert is optional at any weight/mode
- Width at widest point: 17 inches wide at the side impact protection pods
- Width at narrowest point: 11 inches
- Seat pan depth w/leg rest: 17 inches fully retracted, 19 inches fully extended
- Seat pan depth w/o leg rest: 10.5 inches
- Crotch buckle positions: with infant insert 2.5 inches from the back of the seat pan, without infant insert, 4 and 5.5 inches from the back of the seat pan
- Seat weight: 27 pounds
- Front-to-back: (note: this unofficial measurement is taken by placing the seat up against a wall, then measuring the air just above the seat) 31 inches with the seat in the most reclined rear facing position. This number will vary (usually shrink) when the seat is installed.
- Fully adjustable leg rest that serves as an anti-rebound bar in rear facing mode and a leg rest in both forward facing and booster modes
- True Tension door makes seat belt installation easier (vehicle seat belt must be locked)
Our EXEC arrived with much fanfare — foster dog Kamo was quick to greet the giant box in our living room by rolling a ball right to it, then waiting for me to throw it. (Spoiler: I did not throw this ball for him, I was too busy opening the box!)
Fresh out of the box, the EXEC has a lot going on. The manual is front and center, it’s very hard to miss! There’s also a quick installation guide and a handy tab tucked into the cover that shows the key steps for installation. I found this presentation really helpful — the most relevant items were right in front of me, I had to acknowledge them by removing them from the seat before I could get started.
It sort of vaguely reminded me of the old days, when Britax attached the manual to the seat via a too-short stretchy cord. The sentiment was right on (having that manual RIGHT THERE) but the execution meant doing contortions to read the instructions. That wasn’t the case with the EXEC, the parts that were attached to the seat were easily removed, then transferred into my hot little hands.
But I digress.
The EXEC also includes a soft bag that holds an optional slipcover (the manual splits this one word into two, but I just cannot do that). This slipcover is easily removed and washed. I was lucky enough to work on this review with two members of the CSFTL team who are using their EXECs on a regular basis. They both reported that the slipcover is very handy — especially because it covers the footrest and keeps their kiddos’ muddy shoes from touching the car seat or the vehicle seat!
Note: this slipcover is shipped with the EXEC and is not intended for use with any other type of car seat. It’s also all black and sort of hiding under our model’s legs here.
Magnetic Buckle Tongue Holders
If you’ve ever attempted to fish crotch buckle tongues out from underneath a squirmy toddler, you’ll appreciate EXEC’s buckle tongue holders — they do a nice job of keeping the harness out of the way!
Please pause for a moment to admire the adorableness of our tiny model’s little hand (and note that no, we were not taking said child for a ride without the harness being buckled).
Infant Wedge and Extra Padding
The EXEC’s infant padding is in two pieces — a larger piece and a wedge. Both are clearly marked with the weight limits, that’s a great thing! These inserts attach to the seat via some easy-to-use snaps. This is the first time I can recall seeing snaps for infant inserts and I think it’s kind of genius.
The infant insert has two pieces. The manual states: “The infant insert MUST be used for a child weighing between 5–11 lb and must NOT be used otherwise. The insert can improve the harness fit and recline angle for smaller infants.” We took that to mean that the larger insert is required when the child weighs between 5-11 pounds and that the wedge is optional for tinier infants. We will reach out to Nuna to clarify this. We’d definitely like to see the manual provide a little more clarity.
We continue to share our request that all car seat manufacturers take the labelling one step further by adding the seat’s name to the inserts. That way, caregivers can locate the right insert for their seats later on. The Exec does include a handy storage bag for the slipcover and the extra set of padding that is included with the seat, that’s quite handy.
Or, caregivers can stuff them all into a plastic tub, throw it in the garage, and hope for the best later. I’ve tried that method with mixed results. I had pretty good luck with buckling the bag into the seat when I wasn’t using the seat.
Speaking of clear labelling, I’d like to give a shout out to Nuna for the labels on the EXEC. For example: this little beauty shows how to fit the harness — at or below the shoulders for rear facing, at or above for forward facing. Every label on the seat has this level of simplicity and clarity — we salute that.
The seat includes a pretty robust set of shoulder, hip, and crotch buckle pads. It also includes a second set of these pads. These pads must be used when the seat is rear facing. We found that using them with our infant model was problematic because they got in the way a bit and, when he was quite small, introduced more slack in the harness than we’d prefer to see.
Note: we removed the harness pads for this picture. The harness pads ARE REQUIRED. Our friends at Nuna assured us that the slack was acceptable.
Anti-rebound Bar/Forward Facing Footrest
The EXEC has a unique feature that’s pretty darn handy: a panel that serves as an anti-rebound bar when the seat is rear facing, then becomes a footrest when the seat is installed forward facing.
As a bonus, it also acts as a storage spot for the manual!
It also extends out from the seat in forward facing mode only.
Our human model didn’t know this was a thing but he definitely likes riding in the EXEC.
This can add to the leg support, our oldest model found this feature pretty awesome. Our doll seemed to have no opinion but I was impressed!
Our human model was pretty wowed by the footrest. He liked the leg support quite a bit — “this is awesome!” is an actual quote.
The EXEC has 4 recline positions with a few different uses:
- The blue positions 1–4 are for rear facing use with children weighing between 5–50 pounds
- The red and purple positions 1–4 are for forward facing use with children who weigh between 25–65 pounds and for booster use with children who weigh between 40–120 pounds
The recline position must be set prior to installing the seat.
Installation: Rear Facing
The EXEC has easy-to-access belt paths that are reinforced with smooth plastic — these belt paths won’t cut your hands the way some others have been known to! To access the true tension door, raise the headrest and unsnap the cover to expose the belt path.
Note: though the EXEC has a tensioning door, you must also lock the vehicle seat belt in addition to using the door. The True Tension door is not a traditional lockoff.
When I first opened the True Tension door, I was almost smacked in the face by a warning that using the seat belt is preferred. This card was tucked right into the compartment, there was no way I could miss seeing it. I adore that kind of clear labelling! Here’s a short summary of how to use the door.
1 – Raise the headrest to the highest position, unsnap the seat cover, then fold it toward the front of the seat.
2 – Lift the door release button for the appropriate True Tension™ door ( in this case, rear facing).
3 – Open the True Tension door and route the belt through the belt path.
4 – Close the True Tension door by pressing down firmly until it latches in place.
Replace the seat cover and inserts (if used) (p.24).
Vehicle Seat Belt
To install the EXEC rear facing, we’ll start with the vehicle seat belt since that’s the recommended method. The first thing is to set the EXEC on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the back of the vehicle. Then, raise the headrest to the highest position and unsnap the seat cover.
Pull the seat cover down to expose the belt paths. At this point, the magic of the True Tension door is exposed. The rear facing door has blue labels and is in the bottom portion of the seat. Release the door by pulling up on the door release, then thread the vehicle seat belt through the belt path and the inside of the True Tension door. Remove the slack from the vehicle seat belt, then close the door to secure the seat belt.
Final step: lock the vehicle seat belt.
Reminder: the manufacturer recommends installing the EXEC with the vehicle seat belt.
The first thing is to set the EXEC on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the back of the vehicle. Then, raise the headrest to the highest position and unsnap the seat cover. Pull the seat cover down to expose the belt paths. At this point, the magic of the True Tension door is exposed. Lift the release to open the door — the lower anchor connectors are stored in this area.
Remove the webbing from the True Tension compartment, then route the connectors through the rear facing belt path (marked in blue), threading them under the cupholder. The webbing must be routed underneath the True Tension door. Press down on the gray button and pull the tail of the webbing to extend the webbing’s length until it’s long enough to reach across the car seat and connect to both lower anchors in the vehicle. Remove the slack from the webbing by pulling the loop at the end of the webbing, then close the True Tension door.
Check your Work
Once it’s installed, give the EXEC a firm handshake at the belt path, make sure that it moves less than an inch in any direction.
Fit to Child
I feel like a broken record for saying this, but the pandemic continues so we’ll do this portion of the review with some help from the CSFTL team and our Huggable Images dolls.
Our newborn Huggable Images doll is weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. Since the doll weighs less than 11 pounds, we’ve used the infant inserts. The harness covers are required at all times for rear facing use so those are on as well.
2.5 Months Old
Our infant model is 2.5 months old. He’s right at 11 pounds here, and is 21 inches tall. The required padding is in place, and the harness covers. Since our little model is right around that 11 pound mark, we wanted to show how he fits both with and without the padding. He’s looking kind of stuffed into the seat with all this padding in place. Good thing he’s just large enough to remove the padding.
He seems a lot less squished without the padding.
8 Months Old
Our model has grown a bit, he’s now 8 months old, weighs 19 pounds, and is 26 inches tall. All of the infant padding has come out (though the harness covers stay on) and he’s got a ton of room to grow in rear facing mode.
16 Month Old Doll
Our 16 month old doll is 31 inches tall and weighs next to nothing since it is made of stuffing. Our doll has plenty of harness height left and quite a bit of legroom.
Here’s a less artsy picture for you. It’s safe to assume that a human child might bend their legs in the seat.
3 Year Old Doll
Our 3 year old doll is 39 inches tall and also almost weightless. I continued to struggle with getting the doll safely out to the car since foster dog Kamo remains VERY interested in my car seat training doll collection.
The doll has some room to grow yet, but remained silent about the overall comfort of the seat. Lucky for us, our human models have said, very consistently, that they find the EXEC quite comfy, especially in rear facing mode.
Three Year Old
Our 3 year old human model enjoys laughing and modelling car seats. She weighs 30 pounds and is 37 inches tall. She’s got a bit of room to grow and seems to also find the EXEC comfortable.
The CSFTL team includes a family who also has an EXEC, plus two awesome kiddos who are 3 and 5 years old. Both of these kiddos ride comfortably rear facing in the EXEC — the older kiddo makes it VERY clear that the EXEC is extra comfy in rear facing mode.
Installation: Forward Facing
To install the EXEC forward facing, we’ll start with the vehicle seat belt since that’s the recommended method. The first thing is to set the EXEC on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the front of the vehicle. Then, raise the headrest to the highest position and unsnap the seat cover. Pull the seat cover down to expose the belt paths. At this point, the magic of the True Tension door is exposed. The forward facing door has red labels and is in the top portion of the seat, behind where the child’s back would be.
Release the door by pulling up on the door release, then thread the vehicle seat belt through the forward facing belt path and the inside of the True Tension door. Remove the slack from the vehicle seat belt, then close the door to secure the seat belt.
Final step: lock the vehicle seat belt.
Fit to Child
Three Years Old
Our three year old model is closing in on her 4th birthday. She weighs 30 pounds and is 37 inches tall. She’s on the tall side and while she’s got some room to grow in the EXEC, we’re guessing that it’s unlikely to have enough height for her to continue using it when she’s ready for booster mode.
She does find the EXEC quite comfortable.
Three Year Old Doll
Our doll remains a pretend 3 years old and a real measurement of 39 inches tall. The doll seems a little squished at the shoulders but has some vertical room to grow yet. We tend to think the EXEC is great for children who are of a slender build — it may be a tough sell for children who are a little heavier because they could be a bit cramped around the shoulders.
Four Years Old
Our 4 year old model is moments away from his 5th birthday so he rides in a harnessed car seat. He weighs 50 pounds and is 47 inches tall. He’s at the top end of the seat’s harness height but finds the seat fairly comfortable.
Reminder: the manufacturer recommends installing the EXEC with the vehicle seat belt. We’re just providing this section because installing with the lower anchors is an option, it’s just not the recommended option.
The first thing is to VERY LOOSELY connect the top tether to the tether anchor in the vehicle (tightening the top tether is the final step). Then, set the EXEC on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the front of the vehicle. Then, raise the headrest to the highest position and unsnap the seat cover. Pull the seat cover down to expose the belt paths. At this point, the magic of the True Tension door is exposed. Lift the release to open the door. If the webbing is in the rear facing belt path, move it to the forward facing belt path by sliding it along the inside of the belt path, then thread the webbing outside the seat, through the red forward facing belt path. Route the lower anchor webbing under the True Tension door, connect the lower anchor connectors to the lower anchors in the vehicle, then remove the slack from the webbing and close the True Tension door. Pull the top tether tight, then…
Check your Work
Once it’s installed, give the EXEC a firm handshake at the belt path, make sure that it moves less than an inch in any direction.
Converting to Booster Mode
To use the EXEC as a booster seat, the harness must be stored. Conveniently, it stores nicely on the seat itself and only takes a moment to convert from harness mode to booster mode. First, loosen the harness all the way, open the chest clip and crotch buckle. Raise the headrest to the tallest position and unsnap the seat covers to expose the belt path. Slide each harness strap under the harness storage compartment cover, taking care to not force or bend the compartment cover during the process.
The chest clip and buckle tongues store inside the harness storage compartment. Slide the crotch buckle through the slot in the rear facing True Tension door and store the harness buckle in the lower anchor storage compartment. Finally, re-attach the seat cover, select a purple recline position, and the EXEC is ready to go in booster mode!
A Word About the Shoulder Belt Guides
Okay, it’s like 3 words: they’re really nice. There’s a little lever that keeps the belt in place, it won’t slide out of the belt guide the way some booster seats do! But, for as nice and easy to use as this shoulder belt guide is, it’s also pretty darn short-lived, topping out at 18.5 inches. That’s not terribly out of line for other multimode car seats but it’s on the short side for a booster seat. Considering the EXEC’s price tag, we’d like to see a top shoulder belt position that’s at least an inch taller.
(Not Quite) Five Years Old
Our booster model is prepping for his 5th birthday, which is in about a month. He’s NOT ready to ride in a booster seat but we wanted to show the fit on him. He weighs 50 pounds and is 47 inches tall. That puts him near the top of the growth chart for his age (but doesn’t make him mature enough to ride in a booster seat!
We were disappointed to see that our fairly tall almost-five year old needs the highest setting on the headrest in booster mode. That means he’s likely to outgrow the EXEC by height before he’s old enough to use it in booster mode.
The EXEC’s widest point is 17 inches across, which makes it a good candidate to fit well in some tight spots! We tried our EXEC with a Cosco Scenera and the Baby Jogger City Turn. I was pleased to discover that 3 across was possible with those seats. (That’s the EXEC tucked away in the other outboard seating position.)
Important Information: Where to Find
Date of Manufacture: this label is located on the back of the seat’s shell. The seat expires 10 years after it was made, this information is located on that label and in the manual.
FAA Approval: the EXEC is approved for use on aircraft when it’s in harness mode. It cannot be used on an aircraft in booster mode. Because the seat weighs quite a bit, we wouldn’t consider it as a first choice for travel seats, but because it’s so easy to install, some families may find that tradeoff worth the effort.
Manual Storage: the manual stores in a handy compartment on underside of the anti-rebound bar/footrest.
The EXEC is easy to like. It’s quite plush, it’s easy to install, and the harness is pretty darn smooth. Not only that, it’s quite long-lasting in rear facing mode. The booster mode is fairly short lived and though this is typical of multimode car seats, at this price point we might have liked a little more height there.
However, I have a very hard time finding any significant drawbacks to the EXEC (short-lived booster mode, which is very common among multimode car seats, and the seat’s weight are the only two that come to mind!). All of our models who could talk are big fans of the seat, we consider that a big win!