It's fall, so fans across the country are eagerly immersing themselves in America's favorite sport: tailgating. If you've never had the pleasure, tailgating means friends and family eating and drinking from the back of a parked vehicle before or after a game — sometimes both.
10 Best Vehicles for Tailgating
You'll usually find tailgate parties in football stadium parking lots, but they also pop up at other sporting events as well as concerts, horse races, car races and, who knows, maybe even spelling bees.
In addition to food, drink and music, a proper tailgate party requires the right car, truck or SUV. Anything with four wheels will do in a pinch, but the ideal chuck wagon will have some special features that will make the party fun and easier to manage.
This might logically include an actual tailgate, which can serve as a bench seat, table, food-prep counter, bar and buffet. But other useful features include a roomy cabin, a decent sound system, plenty of storage for equipment, such as coolers, grills, charcoal, tables, folding chairs and large foam fingers. And, for the real diehards, such items as televisions, espresso makers and pizza ovens are not out of the question.
The ten 2017 models shown below in alphabetical order, are our picks for the season's best tailgating vehicles.
If you can afford the $200,000+ price tag, Bentley's first SUV takes tailgating to new levels of comfort and prestige. Standard Wi-Fi and a 1,950-watt audio system with 20 speakers will help keep your party entertained as you wait for the game to start. You can get comfortable on the optional slide-out leather "Event Seat." Also optional — but why wouldn't you? — is a hamper system: three removable storage boxes, one loaded with crystal and fine china, another with a compact, powered cooler and a third with extra storage space and a cashmere picnic rug.
With three rows of seats, Chrysler's new minivan has plenty of room for party-goers, and with the third row folded, there's an extra 47.5 cubic feet of room available for tailgating supplies. The standard six-speaker sound system can do the job well enough, but upgrading to the optional 13-speaker Harman Kardon system will kick the jams out that much further. You can equip the Pacifica with hands-free power sliding doors and liftgate that make loading a snap. The optional built-in vacuum will help with cleanup.
Pickup trucks can be great tailgating vehicles, and Ford's top-selling F-150 fills the bill with plenty of storage space and, in SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations, enough room for up to six passengers. An optional Sony 700-watt audio system features a CD player and 10 speakers plus a subwoofer, and Ford's Sync 3 connectivity provides useful smartphone integration. You can power up televisions, radios and other devices from an inverter that offers up to 400 watts at 110 volts. And the hidden tailgate step makes it easy to hop up into the bed for a quick after-barbeque nap before the big game starts.
Ford's large wagon can accommodate up to seven tailgaters, although folding the third-row seat doubles the space for all-important gear. And once the gear is unloaded, the third seat flips around to face backward. For power, there's a standard 12-volt outlet in the rear cargo area, and you also can get a 110-volt inverter. To keep the party going, an optional second-row refrigerated console holds seven cans of your favorite beverages.
The redesigned Odyssey minivan's cavernous interior ensures that space won't be a problem, whether the tailgate party entails a lot of people (up to eight) or a lot of stuff. Even with the third-row seat in place, the Odyssey has a generous 38.4 cubic feet of room for party supplies. A removable center console includes a pop-up trash-bag holder, and a powered "cool box" helps keep refreshments ready to drink. The EX trim level comes standard with power sliding doors and tailgate, while the optional Ultrawide rear entertainment system allows multi-sport viewing. When it's time to clean up, reach for the optional Hondavac.
With its relatively small pickup bed, the Ridgeline might not be ideal for chores around the ranch, but it's the perfect size for tailgating, with more than enough comfort for five passengers and room for all the supplies that make for a memorable pre-game party. The Ridgeline can be had with a 540-watt premium sound system with eight speakers. But what makes the Ridgeline a super tailgater are these: six stereo speakers in the cargo area, the availability of 110-volt power inverter and a 7.3-cubic-foot cooler — with drain — under the pickup bed.
The venerable Cherokee offers a useful blend of creature comforts, off-road capability (in case the tailgating area is a bit bumpy) and carrying capacity. The Jeep Cargo Management System is designed to make the most of the SUV's rear storage space. You can kit it out with such accessories as a collapsible cooler, a pet kennel for Frisbee-catching dogs and an easy-clean liner. The Cherokee can be had with an Alpine premium audio system, featuring a 506-watt amplifier and nine speakers to entertain the fans. A rear power outlet will help keep the juice flowing.
Like the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500 maintains the tailgate tradition with Crew Cab and Quad Cab models that can transport up to six passengers while still leaving room for huge amounts of cargo. If you outfit the Ram 1500 with bins under the rear floor, you get additional storage capacity. The optional Ram Box cargo management system features convenient lockable, watertight storage compartments with drains. These are just begging to be used as coolers. Play your favorite music and school fight songs through the optional nine-speaker Alpine premium audio system with subwoofer.
If you don't feel the need to carry the entire kitchen and patio to the game, the Forester provides a reasonable compromise between tailgating vehicle and everyday all-wheel-drive transportation. Subaru's compact crossover has room for five passengers as well as 34 cubic feet of storage with the rear seat up. That's enough for a cooler, lawn chairs and a small grill. Only two fans to carry? Fold down the rear seat, and cargo volume jumps to 74 cubic feet. You can opt for a 110-volt power outlet for entertainment devices, as well as an optional eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system.
Was this midsize sport ute designed specifically for tailgating? It seems that way. You can have the 4Runner with a 440-pound capacity sliding rear cargo deck that rolls out to provide extra table space. A rear 12-volt auxiliary power outlet is standard, as is a 120-volt outlet in the cargo area to power televisions, radios or small appliances. Opting for the 4Runner Limited trim level adds a 15-speaker JBL sound system, as well as the Entune App Suite, which brings mobile apps and data to the party.