With football season in full swing, tailgating takes over parking lots and fields near stadiums all across America. The pregame ritual is a sight to see, as fans build miniature cities on weekend mornings featuring numerous food and beverage sources, entertainment and camaraderie.
At the heart of party, there is always a vehicle of some sort. It can be a car, truck, crossover or van, but in some cases people go all-out and bring RVs or buses to serve as their tailgate headquarters. It really depends on how big you want to go when it comes to picking your next tailgating vehicle.
If you keep things simple with a small grill, cooler and a few chairs and tables, a wagon will do the trick. For those who want to bring a whole spread including a big grill, flat-screen TV in back, numerous chairs, a few tables and a cornhole board, a bigger SUV is the best foundation for your tailgate oasis.
Here are five of the best new cars you can buy to take tailgating.
Roadshow pro tips
- Power outlets at the rear of the vehicle add convenience to run TVs and other electronics.
- A powerful audio system is a must to pump out tunes.
- Have enough room to haul your crew, a grill, cooler, food, chairs and tables.
- A generator is a smart investment for an additional power source.
- Assign a designated driver to get everyone home safely.
Honda's second-generation Ridgeline pickup has the trick features that set the previous truck apart. The dual-action tailgate is back, helping with easier loading and unloading of gear, while the in-bed trunk can serve as an ice chest to hold drinks and keep food cold until grilling time.
An available truck-bed power outlet lets you plug in TVs to watch pregame shows, and to keep up on the latest scores from around the league, while an optional in-bed audio system is a new Ridgeline trick to help set the mood with tunes.
Land Rover Range Rover
For the people who want to tailgate in style, the Land Rover Range Rover is just the ticket, offering the option of both a standard or long wheelbase if a little more room is needed. A power clamshell tailgate provides access to the rear cargo area, with the lower door folding down to double as a prep surface for food or a spot for friends to sit while enjoying a cold one.
Crisp sounding music can be belted out through the Range Rover's standard 380-watt, 13-speaker Meridian audio system, unless you get the high-zoot Autobiography model, which gets a thumping 1,700-watt premium setup. For power, there are 12-volt sockets in the front, second-row and trunk area to run small electronics or juice up phones.
With a reputation for being an off-road terror, it turns out that the Toyota 4Runner can also be quite a parking-lot party animal, too. A Party Mode switch for the JBL sound system diverts power to the rear tailgate speakers so you can blast out music or clearly listen to the play-by-play radio broadcasts of other games happening to keep tabs on your fantasy football players.
An optional sliding rear cargo deck makes packing up and unloading the 4Runner easier, while also providing an additional surface area to set things on when pulled out. There's also a 120-volt outlet in the rear cargo area to power various electronics.
Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
Tailgating out of a big SUV isn't the only way to go. If you keep your tailgate spread simple with a table top grille, medium-size cooler and a couple of chairs, a vehicle like the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen will do the trick. There's a generous 30.4 cubic feet of interior cargo space with the rear seats folded up, which grows to 66.5 cubic-feet with the rear seats folded down. If the rear seats are needed to carry human cargo, then a standard roof rack can hold any items that can't quite make it into the cabin.
On SE and SEL models, a 400-watt Fender premium audio system is standard to easily handle all your tailgate audio needs.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Practically any SUV will be an ideal base of operations for a tailgate, with good size cargo areas to carry equipment and spacious backseats to shuttle the crew in. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT has those things in addition to offering a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a 10-inch subwoofer for crisp sounds. Like many SUVs, the Grand Cherokee offers numerous power sources including 12-volt outlets, a 115-volt plug and USB charging ports throughout the cabin.
What the Grand Cherokee SRT has over other SUVs is a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine with 475 horsepower, and an exhaust note that can provide a slightly different type of music for everyone in the parking lot to enjoy. That power may come in handy to make a quick escape and beat the crowds after what is hopefully a home-team victory.