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Captain chairs vs bench for families


jhu8

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I am curious to see what those of us with families and kids, what you prefer. I currently have a 17 limited with a bench and it does the job, seating wise. If one of the kids needs something, my wife can hop on back and sit in between the car seats and take care of any issues. However, as they grow, I wonder if captain chairs would be more ideal. Not to mention most ST trims seem to come in captain chairs. My kids are currently 3 years and 4 months old.

I like the bench because it offers an extra seat to hold 7 people in the vehicle, offers that quick go to seat for my wife to take of kids if crying(although as they age, should be less of an issue), and it's a nice barrier to keep my german shepherd in the back.

However, the captain chairs are obviously more luxurious and allow much much better access to the third row. Right now with two car seats, if I need someone to get into the third row, it's extremely difficult. Usually it just involves my wife climbing in through the trunk. Not ideal at all.

Anyway, just wanted to hear from other family explorer owners in what you recommend, captain chairs vs bench for family situations. Especially as kids age and what offers the most utility.
 


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Hammy1

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I am curious to see what those of us with families and kids, what you prefer. I currently have a 17 limited with a bench and it does the job, seating wise. If one of the kids needs something, my wife can hop on back and sit in between the car seats and take care of any issues. However, as they grow, I wonder if captain chairs would be more ideal. Not to mention most ST trims seem to come in captain chairs. My kids are currently 3 years and 4 months old.

I like the bench because it offers an extra seat to hold 7 people in the vehicle, offers that quick go to seat for my wife to take of kids if crying(although as they age, should be less of an issue), and it's a nice barrier to keep my german shepherd in the back.

However, the captain chairs are obviously more luxurious and allow much much better access to the third row. Right now with two car seats, if I need someone to get into the third row, it's extremely difficult. Usually it just involves my wife climbing in through the trunk. Not ideal at all.

Anyway, just wanted to hear from other family explorer owners in what you recommend, captain chairs vs bench for family situations. Especially as kids age and what offers the most utility.

Hey jhu8.

I originally ordered my ST with captain seats but I ended up opting for the bench later on. I had a couple of reasons for changing my mind.

Originally I thought the same; the access to the third row would be a bit easier with captain seats as both my kids are in forward facing child seats. They are ready for boosters but I’m going to keep them in the 5 point harness until the upper limits. I do have another baby on the way and that was the reason we were in the market for a new vehicle.

I started thinking about regular day to day driving and the “normal” contents of the vehicle. Typically we would have items from umbrellas to strollers to grocery and perhaps the odd time with home improvement items in the back. I thought what would happen to the kids in the back with nothing to protect them from cargo coming loose in the event of an accident. Essentially the bench would act as a barrier to some degree with regards to projectiles coming forward in a front end collision. The captain seats introduced a clear path for things to get dangerous (albeit this is just in myhead by still). I only plan on using the third row for about 6 months or so.

Another reason for the bench was if I needed to carry 5 passengers I was forced to use the third row. This isn’t really bad thing just a major inconvenience if we needed more trunk space. One of us would have to stay home with the kids and the child seats in the third row would have to be removed.

The final reason the bench won was if we needed to carry anything large. With the captain seats, if we put the third and second row down flat there would be a big hole in the middle of the second row. Where as with the bench and both rows flat it was like a giant trunk providing full support if needed.

I’m sure if we had bigger children who were out of car seats and were a family of 4, captain seats would be a perfect fit. In that situation the third row would be for the odd times friends and family would ride along.

I personally think if you have little children or a fair size dog the bench would be the better option. If you’re family is more mature or 90% of the time you’re carrying adolescents/adults then captain seats would be more suited.
 




Vash610

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We have 2 kids, a 2 year old and a 4 month old. We're done and wanted captain chairs. It feels so much roomier and can put a ton of stuff in that middle area.

My wife has a bench in her Murano. 2 car seats in and the middle seat becomes useless. My wife loves the captain chairs now and her next car has to have it.

We have a ton of family and friends all around us but everyone prefers to drive themselves so we don't take people often, so 3 row is always down which why we don't need the middle seat for that "7 passenger scenario."

Just telling you what I like but your case can differ.
 




themishmosh

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You can't get to the third row if you have a bench and child seats on both sides with a spot in the middle. That's specifically why we wanted Captain's chairs for the step over console to get to the third row. Only works if you have one of the two forward facing and ideally if you have only two smaller kids.
 




jhu8

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Hey jhu8.

I originally ordered my ST with captain seats but I ended up opting for the bench later on. I had a couple of reasons for changing my mind.

Originally I thought the same; the access to the third row would be a bit easier with captain seats as both my kids are in forward facing child seats. They are ready for boosters but I’m going to keep them in the 5 point harness until the upper limits. I do have another baby on the way and that was the reason we were in the market for a new vehicle.

I started thinking about regular day to day driving and the “normal” contents of the vehicle. Typically we would have items from umbrellas to strollers to grocery and perhaps the odd time with home improvement items in the back. I thought what would happen to the kids in the back with nothing to protect them from cargo coming loose in the event of an accident. Essentially the bench would act as a barrier to some degree with regards to projectiles coming forward in a front end collision. The captain seats introduced a clear path for things to get dangerous (albeit this is just in myhead by still). I only plan on using the third row for about 6 months or so.

Another reason for the bench was if I needed to carry 5 passengers I was forced to use the third row. This isn’t really bad thing just a major inconvenience if we needed more trunk space. One of us would have to stay home with the kids and the child seats in the third row would have to be removed.

The final reason the bench won was if we needed to carry anything large. With the captain seats, if we put the third and second row down flat there would be a big hole in the middle of the second row. Where as with the bench and both rows flat it was like a giant trunk providing full support if needed.

I’m sure if we had bigger children who were out of car seats and were a family of 4, captain seats would be a perfect fit. In that situation the third row would be for the odd times friends and family would ride along.

I personally think if you have little children or a fair size dog the bench would be the better option. If you’re family is more mature or 90% of the time you’re carrying adolescents/adults then captain seats would be more suited.

I appreciate the input! I do like the "barrier" aspect of it. Plus it keeps the dog hair in the trunk lol


We have 2 kids, a 2 year old and a 4 month old. We're done and wanted captain chairs. It feels so much roomier and can put a ton of stuff in that middle area.

My wife has a bench in her Murano. 2 car seats in and the middle seat becomes useless. My wife loves the captain chairs now and her next car has to have it.

We have a ton of family and friends all around us but everyone prefers to drive themselves so we don't take people often, so 3 row is always down which why we don't need the middle seat for that "7 passenger scenario."

Just telling you what I like but your case can differ.

What do you put in the middle area? Just curious. I feel like it would just be another area for my daughter, and eventually my son to throw their toys. But yeah, it's rare that I need the third row in my current explorer. But when I do, I feel its all of us packing in. For example last christmas I was able to fit my parents, my wife, kids, and mother in law in my explorer to go driving through a christmas light event. So there it was nice having max capacity. But again, that isn't the normal scenario.

You can't get to the third row if you have a bench and child seats on both sides with a spot in the middle. That's specifically why we wanted Captain's chairs for the step over console to get to the third row. Only works if you have one of the two forward facing and ideally if you have only two smaller kids.

You're right you can't. That's why it's usually me or my wife hopping in through the trunk. Not an easy situation at all but it is doable. I am more or less trying to think ahead and what will be more beneficial/practical as they age. But for the duration I will have this explorer(the ST that is), my kids will likely remain under 10. Oldest is turning 3 this month and assuming I kept it for 6-7 years. So teenagers will be transported in my upcoming ST.
 




Vash610

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What do you put in the middle area? Just curious. I feel like it would just be another area for my daughter, and eventually my son to throw their toys. But yeah, it's rare that I need the third row in my current explorer. But when I do, I feel its all of us packing in. For example last christmas I was able to fit my parents, my wife, kids, and mother in law in my explorer to go driving through a christmas light event. So there it was nice having max capacity. But again, that isn't the normal scenario.

What do I put in middle area? My wife and I overpack and bring our lives when we take our kids anywhere but specifically in the middle row I put the packnplay, bouncer, or carrier. On road trips that we've taken we fit a lot more without a middle seat as well. Just saying whenever I look at a bench seat again it feels so cramped in the back. The open middle area makes the car feel bigger and more breathable. Good luck choosing! That's if you can even find one with a bench seat, I think I've only seen one member mentioned they had a bench seat.
 




northvibe

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We have 2 kids, a 2 year old and a 4 month old. We're done and wanted captain chairs. It feels so much roomier and can put a ton of stuff in that middle area.

My wife has a bench in her Murano. 2 car seats in and the middle seat becomes useless. My wife loves the captain chairs now and her next car has to have it.

We have a ton of family and friends all around us but everyone prefers to drive themselves so we don't take people often, so 3 row is always down which why we don't need the middle seat for that "7 passenger scenario."

Just telling you what I like but your case can differ.

Same. We've used the 3rd row a couple times and it worked out great. But having the captain chairs for the 2 kids is nice and leaves a lot of room for the dog or gear in the middle.
 




jhu8

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What do I put in middle area? My wife and I overpack and bring our lives when we take our kids anywhere but specifically in the middle row I put the packnplay, bouncer, or carrier. On road trips that we've taken we fit a lot more without a middle seat as well. Just saying whenever I look at a bench seat again it feels so cramped in the back. The open middle area makes the car feel bigger and more breathable. Good luck choosing! That's if you can even find one with a bench seat, I think I've only seen one member mentioned they had a bench seat.

Yeah that makes sense. Definitely opens up the area for more storage. I also like the concept of whenever you buy large items that are particularly long, since the explorer doesn't have a 40/20/40 bench split, it becomes complicated when you have two car seats in place. Captain chairs would help out in that situation.

Same. We've used the 3rd row a couple times and it worked out great. But having the captain chairs for the 2 kids is nice and leaves a lot of room for the dog or gear in the middle.

Does the dog venture up into the space between the captain chairs? At least with a bench, it keeps the dog in a defined area. I'd be afraid my dog would wonder up towards the front of the car. I could definitely seem my daughter encouraging my dog to come up front lol
 




northvibe

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Yeah that makes sense. Definitely opens up the area for more storage. I also like the concept of whenever you buy large items that are particularly long, since the explorer doesn't have a 40/20/40 bench split, it becomes complicated when you have two car seats in place. Captain chairs would help out in that situation.



Does the dog venture up into the space between the captain chairs? At least with a bench, it keeps the dog in a defined area. I'd be afraid my dog would wonder up towards the front of the car. I could definitely seem my daughter encouraging my dog to come up front lol

Oh yeah he does. We put a packing blanket folded and put it on top of the middle console so he lays there with his head on the arm rest. Otherwise when are serious driving we have a seat belt harness for him. There are "gates" and such that can keep a dog in the rear cargo room. we just deal with it at the moment.
 




Lhymes

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I didn’t really like the bench in my 2016 Explorer as only the single-piece seat could position adjust back and forth while the larger, two-seat side was fixed in place. Also, the bench seats were pretty uncomfortable vs the captains I had in my 2012. I had sworn off a bench in my next ride till I checked it out in the new Explorer. Things have changed with the 2020 in my opinion. The wider area and 3 single split seats that make up the bench are quite comfortable. The side seats in particular are very similar to captains chairs with the versatility of a bench. Also, with the side chairs being able to forward-and-back adjust, I can give both my boys more room for their chairs. Lastly, I could see us dropping the middle seat and laying a towel over it to give our kids a picnic space for long rides. The bench seat in the 2020 is much better and I think its the better option if hauling 5 is a semi-common task.
 




jhu8

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Lastly, I could see us dropping the middle seat and laying a towel over it to give our kids a picnic space for long rides.

Wait a second, you can fold down just the middle seat? In my 2017 that I currently have, the middle seat is connected to one of the side seats and they only work together.
 




Lhymes

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Wait a second, you can fold down just the middle seat? In my 2017 that I currently have, the middle seat is connected to one of the side seats and they only work together.

Yes, the bench was changed in the 2020. It’s wider and made up of 3 separate-folding parts. It makes good use of the added 6” width of the vehicle.
 




jhu8

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Yes, the bench was changed in the 2020. It’s wider and made up of 3 separate-folding parts. It makes good use of the added 6” width of the vehicle.

Oh wow, that's great info. That is a great feature. Not to mention, that could make it possible to access the 3rd row by folding down the middle bench seat. Obviously not an ideal situation but certainly possible I would think to climb over the lowered seat.
 




peterk9

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Wait a second, you can fold down just the middle seat? In my 2017 that I currently have, the middle seat is connected to one of the side seats and they only work together.
The bench is now a 35/30/35 as opposed to the 60/40 in the 5th gen. It is a $495 option on all but the Base trim.

Peter
 




jhu8

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The bench is now a 35/30/35 as opposed to the 60/40 in the 5th gen. It is a $495 option on all but the Base trim.

Peter

yeah that's a wonderful improvement. I love the feature on my cx5.
 




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