It's easy to take the party to the tarmac with this amenable assortment of models that are both fuel-efficient and packed with tailgate-minded features
Tailgating has become a sport of its own at stadium and racecourse parking lots across America, with participants going to extreme lengths to both indulge and connect with friends and fellow travelers before and after the big event. According to self-proclaimed "commissioner of tailgating" Joe Cahn, who has made it his business to travel the country as a professional tailgater, "Tailgating is the last great American neighborhood."
While the most dedicated revelers may still prefer to party out of mammoth motorhomes and fancifully customized big rigs, this can be an expensive proposition at today's gas prices. Thus, we dug deep into spec sheets and features lists to come up with a capable selection of vehicles that not only feature usable cargo holds and assorted tailgate-friendly features (including, of course, a tailgate) but are among the most fuel-efficient models in their respective classes.
Here are our picks for 'greener,' but no less utilitarian, tailgating vehicles for the 2012-2013 football season that won't break the bank at the gas pump:
• Ford C-Max Hybrid (47-city/47-highway mpg). This curvaceous compact gas/electric-powered wagon has a tall roofline that maximizes interior room. It features a standard 115-volt outlet and an optional power tailgate that's operated by simply waving one's foot under the rear bumper, which can come in especially handy when your arms are full with grocery bags or gear.
• Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen (30/42 mpg). This spacious station wagon packs a frugal 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that boasts a range of more than 600 miles so revelers can get to a distant game without having to stop for a fill-up. A 115-volt AC outlet is standard, as is a 10-speaker sound system with Bluetooth phone and iPod connectivity and Sirius/XM satellite radio.
• Kia Soul (29/36 mpg). The compact Soul's oddly angular shape and styling remains eye-catching in a crowded parking lot, and it helps maximize headroom and cargo space. Available entertaining amenities include Kia's "UVO" voice-activated multimedia system and a 350-watt seven-speaker Infinity audio system with throbbing multicolor lights embedded in the front speakers that help add a disco-like experience.
• MINI Cooper Countryman (27/35 mpg). It may be one of the smaller wagons on the lot, but the Countryman can nimbly weave its way around gargantuan RVs and SUVs and zip past gas stations after the game. A climate-controlled glovebox can keep beverages chilled for the ride to the stadium, and three 12-volt power points are included.
• Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain (22/32 mpg). This pair of mechanically identical midsize crossover SUVs can help keep revelers entertained with an available rear-seat, dual-player DVD entertainment system and an optional 250-watt Pioneer audio array. A power liftgate opens at either of two heights, and a remote start feature automatically warms the vehicle and switches on the heated seats in cold weather.
• Dodge Journey (19/26 mpg). This seven-passenger crossover SUV features two removable rear-seat bins in the floor that can hold a dozen 12-ounce cans plus ice. Second-row seats can be fitted with integrated booster seats for the kids, and a 115-volt inverter is optional for powering AC-operated gear.
• Ford Flex (18/25 mpg). Always ready to party, this spacious seven-passenger crossover SUV features an optional second-row refrigerator that can keep up to seven 12-ounce cans or four half-liter bottles chilled. It's outfitted with a power liftgate and a power third-row seat that folds and tumbles with the touch of a button.
• Ram 1500 (18/25). This redesigned full-size pickup truck gets surprisingly good fuel economy from its standard V6 engine. It also offers a full assortment of entertaining features that include optional lockable and drainable storage bins built into the cargo-bed rails that can double as rolling coolers. Crew Cab versions feature "store in the floor" bins with removable liners that are likewise large enough to store beverages and ice. An optional air suspension allows a driver to lower the truck for easy tailgate access at the touch of a button
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