With the college football season starting up this weekend and the NFL campaign coming soon, both Kelley Blue Book and AAA unveiled their picks as the best vehicles for tailgating.
Contained within the list produced by KBB was a mix of 10 models ranging from smaller units such as the Kia Soul and Mini Countryman to luxury models from Land Rover and Lexus. A trio of domestic vehicles also made KBB’s cut, including its best overall choice — the 2011 Ram 1500.
“Forget the beach parties, and don't worry about the holidays just yet — it’s time for cold drinks and hot dogs before a stadium-sized event,” declared Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
“And to throw a proper tailgating party, you need a proper tailgating car,” Nerad continued. “We’ve ranked the top 10 new party-mobiles to assist anyone in planning their next parking-lot party.”
Ranked in order, KBB shared more details about why it selected each vehicle as a tailgating recommendation.
—2011 Ram 1500: “The ace up this Ram’s sleeve is the RamBox cargo management system: Locking bedside bins that can accommodate up to 240 12-ounce cans of your favorite before-game beverage,” KBB analysts pointed out. “And if that’s not enough storage, the interior can be outfitted with in-floor bins that can be filled with more cold stuff as well as rear under-seat compartments for any other party favors. Combined with a big bed for chairs, grills, canopies and everything else that goes into a deluxe pre-game party, the Ram 1500 is our top tailgater for 2011.”
—2011 GMC Terrain: “Whether it’s an EPL/MLS friendly or the U.S. team taking on Mexico, soccer games can get pretty crazy,” KBB acknowledged. “So what better way to get your pre-game party going than in the comfort (and protection) of the 2011 GMC Terrain? The Terrain has an incredibly spacious second row with eight inches of fore and aft movement, so even the tallest fans can find room for their knees. And the optional rear entertainment system has two screens — so you can relive Landon Donovan’s greatest hits with your best friend before the game.”
—2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee: “Whether you’re into Eagles, Tigers, Bulldogs or Panthers, the outdoorsy 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a first-class vehicle for showing up early and supporting your team,” KBB declared. “The Grand Cherokee offers seating for five fans, plus a wide-mouthed rear hatch and fold-flat second row for the cooler, chairs and barbecue. The option of turning your Jeep Grand Cherokee into a 10-speaker, 506-watt Alpine concert hall will also appeal, whether you are a Wildcat, Warrior or Lion.”
—2011 Honda Odyssey: “Attention Parrotheads: The 2011 Honda Odyssey is the hot ticket for the tailgate party at your next Jimmy Buffet concert,” KBB insisted. “The new Honda Odyssey carries you and six of your best coral reefer buds to the concert in V6 style, possibly to the cabin-wide rhythms of the available 12-speaker Premium Audio System with 5.1 Surround Sound Theater Mode. You just bring the sand and the margarita mix — there's plenty of room for both — the 2011 Honda Odyssey will take care of the rest.”
—2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: “One could argue that driving a Land Rover anywhere but far away from paved civilization is a waste of its abilities, but the slickly styled new Evoque will look right at home in the most modern downtown environs,” KBB stated. “The fancy badge and distinct look will foster conversation and camaraderie amongst fellow tailgaters — especially if you go with the two-tone treatment in your team's colors — and the compact dimensions will make it easier to beat the rush out of the parking lot after the big win/loss.”
—2011 Kia Soul: “Expect to draw fellow tailgaters like fireflies in the 2011 Kia Soul,” KBB projected. “Aside from having plenty of space for your lawn chairs and team-color body paint collection, the Kia Soul rocks a sound system with speaker lights that can pulse to the beat of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You.’ You’ll certainly be the life — and soul — of the pre-game festivities.”
—2011 Honda Ridgeline: “With clever storage solutions and an even cleverer tailgate, the 2011 Honda Ridgeline is the Swiss Army knife of tailgating cars,” KBB surmised. “The Ridgeline’s lockable, drainable in-bed trunk serves double duty as miscellaneous storage or a huge cooler, and the rear seats flip up to reveal a flat load floor ideal for hauling grills and other supplies. Let’s not forget the actual tailgate, though, which can swing out for access to the bed, or flip down for convenient seating.”
—2012 Mini Countryman: “The 2012 Mini Countryman’s diminutive but cargo-friendly dimensions make it the fighter-jet of tailgating vehicles,” KBB noted. “Small enough to squeeze into the smallest college stadium parking spaces, its wide-opening tailgate and folding rear seats make it a fun choice for a two-person tailgate with all the fixin’s. And if everything you need for a tailgate party can be picked up at the convenience store on the way to the game, there’s plenty of room for a four-man tailgating team.”
—2012 Lexus RX 350: “If your tailgating parties are more likely to involve wine and cheese than beer and bratwursts, the smooth-riding 2012 Lexus RX 350 is a fitting conveyance,” KBB explained. “Your home-team sportscasters will sound extra biased on the Mark Levinson sound system, real-time traffic data can help you find the quickest route into the stadium and your rear-seat passengers get their own reclining seats for the chardonnay-induced nap on the ride home.”
—2011 Ford Explorer: “If you’re going to party with thirty of your closest friends in the parking lot before kickoff, you could do worse than to bring along a nine-foot sub,” KBB acknowledged. “Not only does the Ford Explorer seat seven in cavernous comfort, but the 50/50 split-folding third row, 60/40 second row, and fully adjustable front passenger seat can accommodate any combination of sandwich and human cargo for your next tailgate extravaganza. And when you’re done eating, take a power nap in back or just sit and enjoy the optional premium HD Sony audio system as it pumps up your mobile party.”
AAA Unveils List of Top Vehicle Picks for Tailgating
AAA tapped a total of six units it believes are best for tailgating, going predominantly with domestic offerings
For those football fans seeking a more traditional vehicle, AAA Auto Buying experts have three top picks:
—Ford F-150 EcoBoost: For fans who like their tailgating vehicles to actually have a tailgate, AAA Auto Buying experts suggest the Ford F-150 EcoBoost.
“It’s a pickup truck with V-8 power and six-cylinder fuel economy,” AAA pointed out. “The extended and crew cabs make it easy to carry friends and family to the game in surprising comfort while the cargo box easily accommodates everything necessary for a great tailgating experience.
AAA mentioned the TrueCar national average selling price of the 2011 Ford F-150 SuperCab XLT is $32,245, 6.8 percent less than the MSRP.
—Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid: Fans seeking a slightly ‘greener’ vehicle for tailgating that still provides them with all the room they need for a good tailgating party, AAA said they should consider the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.
“The cavernous interior provides ample room to carry fans and supplies to the big game. But for those who want a deluxe tailgating experience, the Tahoe’s generous towing rating makes it easy to haul a separate trailer filled with the ultimate tailgating supplies,” AAA highlighted.
AAA noted the TrueCar national average selling price for the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is $46,073, which is 11.6 percent less than the MSRP.
—Chevrolet Avalanche: AAA thinks the Avalanche can allow fans to enjoy an actual tailgate at their tailgating party while also being able to securely lock away their supplies when they head inside the stadium.
“The Avalanche has a unique combination of a crew cab pickup truck passenger cabin with a cargo box that can be locked and kept weather-tight,” analysts surmised.
AAA mentioned the TrueCar national average selling price for the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche is $31,780, 14.7 percent less than MSRP
Furthermore, AAA Auto Buying experts recognized not all football fans may want a large truck or SUV for their everyday driving. Therefore, they also named three less traditional tailgating vehicles to the top picks list, as well.
—Ford Flex: For fans looking for tons of room without getting an SUV, AAA suggested the Flex.
“Its boxy styling delivers an exceptionally roomy interior that is perfect for passengers, coolers, grills and folding furniture,” AAA highlighted. “The EcoBoost engine, with its improved performance and better fuel economy (over the standard V-6), makes the Flex even more attractive as a spacious SUV alternative for tailgating.
AAA noted the TrueCar national average selling price of the 2011 Ford Flex with Ecoboost is $34,169, which is 9.8 percent less than the MSRP
—Subaru Forester: For diehard fans that tailgate in any weather — be it rain, sleet or snow — AAA believes they want a vehicle like the all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester that can get them through any conditions to the game.
“In addition to delivering exceptional value, this crossover utility vehicle offers lively engine response (in the turbo version), comfortable seating with room for four and above average ride and handling,” analysts explained. “In addition, the cargo area should be more than capable of handling the basic necessities for a good tailgating party.”
AAA said the TrueCar national average selling price of the 2011 Subaru Forrester is $20,537, 4.6 percent less than the MSRP.
—Nissan Cube: The most untraditional pick by AAA Auto Buying experts for tailgating is the Nissan Cube.
“Its stylings may appeal more to college student or recent graduates, but it still provides amazing amounts of room for party food and tailgating gear,” analysts insisted. “Additionally, the Cube has an exceptional turning radius and swing-out tailgate that will make maneuvering and setup in a crowded parking lot a breeze.”
AAA pointed out the TrueCar national average selling price of the 2011 Nissan Cube is $14,697, which is 5.2 percent less than the MSRP.
After revealing the list, John Nielsen, AAA national director of auto repair, buying services and consumer information, explained, “Tailgate parties are synonymous with football season. While some diehard fans will purchase an older vehicle and deck it out with their team colors and features specifically for tailgating, most fans head to the stadium in the vehicles they use every day.
“If you’re an avid tailgater and in the market for a new vehicle, AAA Auto Buying experts have compiled a list of vehicles you should check out before the big game,” Nielsen concluded.