With gridirons around the country opening for business, we huddled up and figured out the six most fuel-efficient tailgaters for this football season. Why focus on fuel economy? Because that's what car shoppers want these days. Sure, you can still get 12 miles per gallon in a Suburban if you insist, but more and more football fans would rather enjoy the best possible fuel economy, even when they're going tailgating. So check out these six candidates for the job. They have all the features that tailgaters are used to, with one exception: They won't guzzle fuel like their owners guzzle pregame libations in the parking lot.
Audi Q7 TDI (28 mpg)
The upscale Q7 crossover may seem a little hoity-toity for football duty, but think about how much money people spend on high-end pickups these days, right? Starting at about $53,000, which is barely more than a Ford F-150 SuperCrew Platinum costs, the all-wheel-drive Q7 TDI packs a turbodiesel V6 that returns 19 mpg city and a remarkable 28 mpg highway. As for its tailgating bona fides, the Q7 comes standard with three rows of seats, and its power lift gate is bound to impress passers-by.
Chevrolet Equinox 2.4 (32 mpg)
The reasonably priced, family-friendly Equinox is one of our favorite vehicles from GM. It's got a palatial back seat, so fans of all sizes can cruise to the game in comfort. Then there's the 31 cu ft of cargo space behind those rear seats, more than enough to accommodate your tailgating supplies. But here's the kicker: Despite all that versatility, the front-wheel-drive 4-cylinder Equinox racks up a sedan-like 32 mpg on the highway, making it the most fuel-efficient tailgater on our list.
Dodge Journey V6 (25 mpg)
When the Journey first came out in 2009, we bemoaned its el cheapo interior and lackluster performance -- but how times have changed. Thanks to a comprehensive overhaul, the affordable Journey now has one of the nicer interiors in its class, including the excellent 8.4-inch uConnect touchscreen with its iPad-like icons. And under the hood, there's an available 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 290 horsepower and still manages up to 25 mpg on the highway. Gameday highlights include a Chill Zone refrigerated glovebox, numerous storage compartments and three rows of seats.
Ford Flex (25 mpg)
Matching the smaller Journey at up to 25 mpg highway, the funkadelic Flex is an easy choice if you can stretch your budget beyond the Dodge. With three rows of adult-friendly seats plus an available power hatch, the Flex is a tailgater's dream, and there's also a kickin' Sony sound system to get the party started. Oh, and get this: The Flex can be outfitted with a rear console box that doubles as a refrigerator. So if you run out of room in the cooler, just throw a few cold ones in the console box, and the Flex will keep them that way.
RAM 1500 V6 (25+ mpg)
With all the excellent trucks to choose from, why'd we go with the RAM? Simple: the RamBox storage system is perhaps the ultimate tailgating feature, and fuel economy is excellent thanks to two appealing V6 options. Let's talk about the RamBox system first. It gives you a lockable clamshell lid on each side of the bed that flips up to reveal a huge hollow storage space. There's drainage built in, so you can even throw ice in there and have dual mobile coolers for the party. As for what's under the hood, the base gas-powered V6 returns up to 25 mpg highway. That's not all -- the new RAM 1500 EcoDiesel is about to drop, and Chrysler promises more than 25 mpg from that model's turbodiesel V6.
Tesla Model S (90 mpg equivalent)
We said the Equinox had the best fuel economy on this list, but the Model S is in a whole different category, because it doesn't need fuel at all. Fully electric, the 4-door Tesla charges up just like your cell phone, and then it's good for up to 265 miles until the next charge. That's only if you get the top-of-the-line Performance model, of course, which will run you six figures. If you've got the dough, there's nothing like a 3-row electric sedan that teleports to 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds. Yes, we said three rows. Just like an old Mercedes wagon, the Model S has rear-facing jump seats underneath its hatchback lift gate, so you can leave those folding chairs at home and party from your Tesla's trunk.
Fuel economy is up across the board this year, so this is hardly an exhaustive list. We've given you our favorites, but check our latest new car reviews and come up with your own.