We’re almost half way through football season, and tailgating is in full swing. The right combination of food, drink and friends makes for a memorable pre-game celebration, but it also helps to have a set of wheels that can properly accommodate the festivities in the stadium lot. Here are five vehicles — each very different — that will serve as great companions for you and your fellow fans. And you can expect to get a lot out of these picks during the off-season, too.
2017 Ford Flex
The 2017 Ford Flex is a uniquely designed crossover that offers impressive space and versatility. With three rows of seating, the Flex can accommodate six or seven tailgaters, while still providing an abundance of room for a grill, a cooler and whatever else you need for your pre-game experience. Inside, the Flex delivers a comfortable, well-crafted cabin offering a wide array of feature content, including the Ford SYNC infotainment system, which will keep you posted on traffic on your way to the game, as well as scores from around the league. To get you and your friends to the stadium, the Flex utilizes a 3.5-liter V6 producing 287 horsepower, or a more robust turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 making 365 hp, which is ideal for towing a trailer if you’re planning a full day of pre- and post-game extravaganza. Go big or go home. The 2017 Ford Flex has a base MSRP of $30,025.
2017 Honda Odyssey
You might be thinking, "a minivan for tailgating?" Yes, a minivan for tailgating. And there’s no minivan better designed and packaged than the 2017 Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey is defined by a well-balanced mix of drivability, practicality, comfort and features. Which means it’s an ideal game day companion, keeping your friends and family comfortable on the way to the stadium and providing all the space and accessibility for the perfect tailgating setup. And if someone in your group tailgates a little too hard, the Odyssey becomes the ideal refuge for rest and recovery thanks to its abundance of leg room, well-padded seats and tri-zone climate controls. To get back home, the Odyssey is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 engine tied to a 6-speed automatic transmission producing 266 hp. In driving, the Odyssey is smooth and quiet, which is just what everyone needs after a day of over-the-top cheering. The 2017 Honda Odyssey starts at $29,850.
2017 Jeep Cherokee
This American SUV embodies the spirit of adventure with its unmistakable styling and ruggedly civilized demeanor. Meaning, it’s just as comfortable in the wild as it is on city streets. The Cherokee is the vehicle you want if you live up north and don’t mind tailgating in cold, harsh weather. Designed to traverse off-road terrain, you can count on the Cherokee’s proven 4-wheel drive system to get you to your game in the middle of a January snow storm. And inside, there’s ample passenger room and cargo room for all your tailgating goodies. Under the hood, there’s a standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 184 hp or an optional 3.2-liter V6 outputting 271 hp. The base MSRP for the 2017 Jeep Cherokee is $23,695.
2017 Kia Soul
It’s by far the smallest of our tailgating picks, but Kia’s iconic urban passenger vehicle is the epitome of fun, funky and functional, which can equate to its own kind of pre-game experience. Its stylish and boxy shape makes it one of the most recognizable cars on the road today. And though it can’t accommodate a large group, the modern and refined cabin has more than enough space for you and three of your most rabid friends. When you get to your tailgating site, throw open the doors and crank up the stereo, complete with colorful pulsating speakers. And when it comes to cargo and storage capacity, the Soul’s cubic shape makes it as roomy as many larger utilities. The Soul’s concise footprint may be its greatest tailgating strength, allowing it to squeeze through traffic and weave through tight parking lots. The Kia Soul starts at $16,100.
2017 Ram 1500
You can’t have a list of tailgating vehicles without including a big pickup. The 2017 Ram 1500 is the half-ton truck for those wanting a durable work vehicle with plenty of off-road prowess, but it’s also perfect for those who play hard on the weekends. Not only does the bed of the Ram have all the room you would ever need for tailgating supplies, but this pickup could tow a large trailer or small RV if you wanted to do a multiple-day lounging session at a sporting event (like motorsports). But as rugged and tough as the Ram is on the outside, this truck’s cab is as comfortable as that of a premium SUV. Interior materials are high-quality, seats are supportive and there’s a huge roster of standard and available amenities. And the Ram offers a soft and easy ride in normal street driving, motivated by three strong engines: A 3.6-liter gasoline V6 rated at 305 hp; a 5.7-liter V8 making 395 horses; and a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 producing 240 hp. Available in three body configurations — Regular Cab, Quad Cab and Crew Cab — the 2017 Ram 1500 has a starting price of $26,495.