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These vehicles are tops for tailgating

It’s tailgating time again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first regular season home game is Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Times files

It’s tailgating time again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first regular season home game is Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

It's time to dig out the camping chairs and foam fingers — football season is here, and that means it's time to tailgate. Veteran tailgaters can make do in whatever wheels are available, but having a car that's particularly suited for the event could make the difference between a good tailgate party and a great one. Cars.com checked out dozens of SUVs, pickups, hatchbacks and minivans and picked its Top 10 tailgaters. Business Wire

12008 Chrysler Town & Country The Town & Country has one fantastic feature after another — large storage compartments under the floor in the second row, a third-row seat that flips backward to face outside, and cargo space galore. Available swiveling second-row chairs with a prop-up table allow thin-skinned revelers to convene where it's warm, and a 1,200-song hard drive should keep them occupied until game time. Add to that stain-resistant seats, multiple power outlets, including a 115-volt one, and dual rear DVD screens, and this is one minivan a tailgater can be proud to own.

22008 Honda Element Its composite bumpers should resist dings from any parking-lot football games, and the stain-resistant seats and washable floor make for easy cleanup. Like the Lexus LX 570, the Element has a liftgate/tailgate combo; here it's rated to hold 440 pounds. The best feature, though, is probably the rear seats, which have enough clearance to recline flat.

32008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited It makes a fine warm-weather option; you can leave the convertible roof at home and blast music through the overhead speakers. With the Wrangler's available 4,500-song hard drive, you shouldn't have any problem finding a track to suit your team. Should the pregaming turn messy, don't sweat it: Stain-resistant seats and drainable, hose-down floors make cleanup easy.

42008 Dodge Caliber The Caliber ranks highly thanks in part to Dodge's MusicGate system. Part of an optional 458-watt stereo, the system has two flip-down liftgate speakers so you can blare your tunes. Add to that a removable, washable cargo floor, stain-resistant upholstery and a 115-volt power outlet, and the Caliber is a sleeper in this group.

5(tie) 2008 Honda Ridgeline No one has been able to replicate the Ridgeline's in-bed magic. This pickup's bed has a lockable trunk with 8.5 cubic feet of space, which is about two-thirds the size of a typical compact car's trunk. With a heavy-duty composite liner and a drain plug at the bottom, it's built for ice, drinks and food. If you need to throw a grill inside the cab, the rear seats fold up to reveal a long aisle.

5(tie) 2009 Dodge Journey Dodge has a few tricks Honda doesn't. There's hidden storage under the passenger seat where you can stash any gametime grub. There are also covered compartments with removable liners in the second row that can each hold 12 cans, plus ice. That's a nice feature if you're short on cooler space. Stain-resistant fabric, a hard drive to store songs and five power outlets, including a 115-volt one, round things out handily.

72008 Dodge Nitro Dodge's Load N' Go floor earns the Nitro a return spot this year. Load N' Go carries a lot of weight — 400 pounds — and extends it 18 inches rearward for a makeshift buffet table. Stain-resistant fabric means even major spills aren't a big deal, while the Nitro's 1,600-song hard drive will keep audiophiles happy. Should the need arise, two 12-volt outlets and a 115-volt outlet can power a modest number of electronics, too.

82008 GMC Acadia The Acadia makes its return to the tailgating list this year thanks to its available cargo-area stereo controls. With four 12-volt outlets plus a 115-volt outlet on board, you shouldn't have any problems plugging in.

92008 Ford Expedition EL The lengthened version of Ford's already-huge Expedition allows you to bring up to eight friends to the game. In back, there's 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space — that's as much space as three Honda Accord trunks — and the standard heavy-duty cargo organizer can function as a shelf or a vertical partition.

102008 Lexus LX 570 Lexus' rolling mansion offers a surprising number of tailgate-friendly features. For starters, there's a flip-down tailgate: It's rated to carry 400 pounds and has a power-operated soft-close feature. The split third row powers up to each side — guaranteed to impress whoever's helping load the car — and there's a 115-volt household outlet in the cargo area.

These vehicles are tops for tailgating 09/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 5:51pm]
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