By Jason Notte
Tailgating NFL fans who are already shelling out for tickets and parking shouldn't skimp on the vehicle that's holding their drinks, grill and Sunday morning spread.
This season, NFL fans are paying an average of $78 for tickets to the game and $27 for parking.
That's kind of a steep price to pack five buddies into a midsize sedan, struggle to get the grill out of the trunk and then have only enough cargo space left over for a few burgers and dogs and maybe a six-pack of cans. A real, proud tailgater should place far more value on both the tailgate and storage space.
The folks at Cars.com certainly think so. They went through their site's listings and found 10 vehicles with not only enough space to get everybody to the game, but enough room and amenities left over to fit a kitchen's worth of food and a living room's worth of snacks and other distractions. If your football friends spend their winters wishing they were back at the house watching their flatscreens instead of nursing beers and brats by your utilitarianmobile, the following rides may be just the upgrade you looking for:
When tailgating competes with warm mornings home, DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket and Red Zone Channel, it takes a lot more than seven-layer dip to drag everyone out to the stadium. The folks at Chrysler seemed to realize how hard it is to dislodge football fans from the living room and brought it to them instead. Their latest take on the classic minivan includes more than 83 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats down, a flip-back option for that third row that turns it into a lot-facing couch, a Blu-ray/DVD system with second- and third-row screens for pre-game entertainment, and USB and auxiliary ports for hooking up audio and computers. Best of all, the Caravan's Available Web option not only allows folks with Sunday Ticket to stream other games through laptops, tablets and smartphones, but makes the minivan a mobile hotspot with a 150-foot radius for all your friends following their fantasy team more closely than the teams they're paying to see.
The Acadia doesn't have in-cabin screens or Wi-Fi access, but it does have space and lots of it. There's room for seven to eight passengers, fold-flat third-row seats that give it 68.9 cubic feet behind the second row and, yes, satellite radio for checking other scores.
It's minivan size with a crossover look that doesn't scream "youth soccer coach taking a Sunday off."
OK, who brought the subcompact to the tailgate party? Usually this would be an unexcusable faux pas, but the Fit's modular seating, under-seat storage, 57.3 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats down and 10 cupholders were built for game day. Granted, you'll need to downsize the full grill and smoker to a campstove set-up, but with all the money you'll save on gas you can fill the cooler with a spread that will leave your neighbors in the midsizes salivating.
You can't go wrong tailgating from a pickup truck, but few come with key perks as game-ready as the Ridgeline's. The truck's 1,500 pounds of payload capacity is great for hauling grills, chairs, coolers and anything else, but the 8.5 cubic-foot trunk under the pickup bed is basically a 225-quart cooler. Dump in some ice, drop in the cans and bottles of your choosing and pull up a seat. There's no use moving when you're already where the party's at.
Crank up the Britney and Timberlake, grab yourself a rhinestone-covered flip phone or a pair of sweatpants with "Juicy" written across the seat and open a box of gourmet cupcakes: It's a 2000s nostalgia party. The Xterra is one of the last throwbacks to the decade when SUVs ruled the roads and their drivers loved car seating plans resembling those of attack helicopters. The Xterra's modest 65.7 cubic feet with the second row folded flat is part of the reason that era is over, but its "Easy Clean" cargo floor and second-row seatbacks are worth revisiting if you need to hose out spills or splattered condiments after every trip to the stadium.