Thanks to everyone for your prompt input and feedback. I think these communities are a tremendous resource.
I looked at the information you provided (including Tango's Edmund's review of X3 and Britax great find!) and this is where we landed:
No more Graco Snugride heard very positive things about it, friends with small SUVs (and more petite passengers) have them and, more importantly, it's the lightest baby seat we found (7.5 lbs) which is important due to a back issue in our family, but they do seem to take a bit more space than brands like Chicco and Britax (maybe 3 to 5 inches, which makes a big difference the difference between "reasonably usable" front seat and "unusable")
No Britax B-Safe (apparently, the successor product to the "Britax Companion" product featured in the Edmunds review supplied by Tango) for us apparently, Britax and the stroller we spent a long time researching and testing Uppa Baby are not compatible (there is no adaptor in the market for snapping the Britax baby seat onto our stroller). The Britax model is smaller than the Snugride, however, and but for this issue, it would have been in the running
Chicco Keyfit 30 the answer for us (for this baby, anyway). 3 to 5 inches shorter than the Snugride (and otherwise similar high marks for safety, etc), which means we can now use our front seats if we place the baby seat behind them (still, we can no longer slide our seats all the way back with the reckless abandon of our pre-baby days, but front seat leg room wouldn't be the first area we'll have to scale back to transition into parenthood)
Also, please note that my BMW service advisor was incorrect when he stated that placing the baby seat in the middle rear seat would create the same problems for both front riders as placing the seat behind the driver's or passenger's seat. There does appear to be more room for the front folks when the baby seat is placed in the middle. So, until the next kiddo comes, we're using Chicco Keyfit 30, middle rear seat. If we are blessed with a second (and a third?), we might consider a larger vehicle (we didn't this time around because my wife wanted to "ease into" the world of SUVs after several years in a coupe and didn't want a "tank" right away).
Your posts got me thinking too when I was a kid, I didn't have half of these safety measures (heck, SUVs and minivans didn't even exist) and things turned out alright
In case someone else finds this useful, here's a list of specs I compiled based on information on manufacturer's websites (and sometimes retailer websites, when manufacturer did not have the specs); key measurement is "Depth:"
24" H x 17" W x 22" D / 9 lbs. inches - Chicco Keyfit 30
24H x 16.5W x 27D / 7.5 lbs Graco Snugride
25.3H x 18.3W x 30D / 10 lbs Britax B-Safe
28.5H x 17.5W x 30.9D inches Maxi Cosi
28H x 18W x 31.2D inches Evenflo
25.8H x 17.2W x 25.8D inches Peg Perego
Last edited by M&A QB; 10-28-2012 at 06:18 PM.