Your 5 Best Cars for Tailgate Parties

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- With football season in full swing, here's a look at five vehicles that score big touchdowns when it comes to using them for tailgate parties.

"These models all have something special and unique that makes them great for tailgating," says Patrick Olsen of Cars.com, which recently named the models as 2013's Top Tailgaters.

For those of you who aren't football fans, tailgating is a time-honored tradition that involves holding a barbecue or picnic in a football stadium's parking lot before the big game.

Fans historically took their pickup trucks to the stadium and dropped the tailgates down to serve as bases for barbecue grills -- hence the term "tailgate party."

Olsen and other Cars.com editors picked this year's best tailgaters by analyzing all models with enough room for five or more fans to see which ones had amenities particularly handy for tailgate parties.

The winners boast everything from built-in cooler space to on-board vacuum cleaners for post-party cleanups.

"All of the models at the top of our list all bring something unique to tailgating," Olsen says. "They all have some feature or features that raise them above the crowd."

Click below to check out this year's Top Tailgater, plus four vehicles that Cars.com named as runners-up (listed in order of price). All dollar figures refer to manufacturers' suggested retail prices for each vehicle's base version.

Runner-up: 2013 Chrysler Town & Country
Base price:
$30,620

It's little surprise that the Town & Country gets Cars.com's endorsement for tailgating, as this seven-passenger minivan's third-row seats feature what Chrysler actually calls a "tailgate mode."

You simply press a button when the Town & Country's rear hatch is open and the seats will flip 180 degrees so that they face backward instead of forward, making them perfect for tailgate parties.

"You get to sit on a comfortable seat instead of an uncomfortable tailgate," Olsen says. "That's pretty cool." (Click here to see a demonstration.)

Olsen says the Town & Country also made Cars.com's list because the van's available rear-seat entertainment system boasts not one but two flip-down video screens, each large enough to see from outside the car.

Runner-up: 2014 Honda Odyssey
Base price:
$28,825

Face it, you're going to have to clean your car once your tailgating party is over. That's where the Odyssey's available built-in vacuum cleaner comes in handy.

"For us, the coolest feature in all of the winning cars is the Odyssey's vacuum cleaner in back," Olsen says. "We tested it and it works pretty well."

Cars.com editors also like the Odyssey's optional rear-seat entertainment system, which plays content from Blu-ray discs, Netflix ( NFLX) and other sources on a video screen big enough to see from outside the minivan.

Lastly, Olsen says the Odyssey -- which Honda ( HMC) significantly refreshed for 2014 -- also has plenty of room for football fans and cargo. Some versions of the minivan can hold eight people.

Runner-up: 2013 Honda Ridgeline
Base price:
$29,575

The Ridgeline takes the game ball when it comes to tailgating because the pickup truck offers tons of space for drinks, snacks and even a barbecue grill.

Olsen says Cars.com editors particularly like an 8.5-cubic-foot trunk that's hidden below the Ridgeline's truck bed, providing lots of storage without cutting down how much room tailgaters have to sit.

If that's not enough cargo space for you, the model's second-row seats also fold up easily to create even more storage capacity.

"The Ridgeline is very flexible and utilitarian," Olsen says.

Runner-up: 2014 Chevrolet Suburban 1500
Base price:
$45,065

The Suburban boasts more heft than the average defensive line, with room for nine passengers and 45 cubic feet of cargo. (That's about three times as much stuff as the average sedan's trunk can hold).

"Size really does matter when it comes to the Suburban," Olsen says.

Cars.com also gives the Suburban extra points for sentimental reasons, as the model has been shuttling fans to football games ever since General Motors ( GM) rolled the first Suburbans out in the 1930s.

"The Suburban is really very iconic in terms of being a tailgating vehicle of old," Olsen says.

2013's Top Tailgater: 2013 Ram 1500
Base price:
$23,100

The Ram 1500, which Chrysler updated significantly for 2013, wins the Lombardi Trophy for tailgating thanks to a bevy of party-friendly features.

Olsen says tailgaters will especially appreciate a pair of lockable "RamBox" storage containers built into either side of the Ram's truck bed. Chrysler designed the RamBoxes to hold 140 12-ounce cans each, so there's little risk of your party guests running out of drinks.

Another tailgate-friendly feature: a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot you can rent access to for a day for just $10 -- perfect for going online during your party to check out your fantasy-football picks.

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