CARS.COM — I recently test-drove a luxurious, comfortable car that got decent gas mileage and came standard with a roomy third row. However, there was a problem: My son had to vault over the second row to get to his car seat in the third row. Because I had my girls’ child-safety seats installed in the second-row outboard positions, this car’s slick one-touch flip-and-fold feature was rendered useless.
For better or worse, my son’s vault training didn’t start with this car. Many cars and SUVs on the market require athletic skills to access the third row once you have car seats installed in the second row. This is definitely something to consider if you — like me — have more than a couple of children in car seats and need a three-row vehicle.
A minivan is an obvious solution, but there are other options. One of the best ways to avoid this third-row-access debacle is to opt for captain’s chairs in the second row instead of a bench seat, creating a little pathway to the third row bench seat. Several savvy automakers offer this option. While this may knock your second-row seating capacity down a notch, it also increases your possibility of getting children and even adult passengers into the third row without resorting to vaulting – or crawling through the rear cargo space.
Consider the Dodge Durango SUV (photo above): It’s long been popular for families, but it lacked practicality for those of us with three or more children because of the crossover’s bench-only second row. For the 2013 model year, the Durango will offer second-row captain’s chairs for the first time.
This option came about because customers wanted more seating choices in their SUVs, particularly with smaller children in the car, said Bob Broderdorf, product marketing manager for the Durango.
“Two crucial needs are the ability to access the third row with child seats installed in the second row and luxurious second-row seating for adults,” Broderdorf said. The Durango’s optional captain’s chairs make “third-row access possible in any situation,” he said. Captain’s chairs are available on all Durango models and cost $795.