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Cars.com Kicks Off Football Season With Automotive Advice for Tailgaters

Manufacturers Cater to Fans With Must-Have Features for Parking-Lot Parties

With football season about to kick off, the editors at Cars.com rate their picks for the top automotive features for a tailgate party.

"Automakers are catering to football fans with a wide variety of features and options that are every tailgater's dream," said Cars.com managing editor Patrick Olsen. "Manufacturers are trying to stand out and win over fans with features that make it easier than ever to carry the grill, entertain friends before the game and clean up your car when the game is over."

When looking for a car that's going to take center stage at the big game, Cars.com recommends that shoppers look for models with the following features that will help make any tailgate party a little easier to accomplish:

1. Storage areas under the floor
Car that does it best: 2007 Honda Odyssey
No need to worry about your game-day gear reaching critical mass. Most minivans and SUVs offer extra storage space under the load floor that can accommodate plenty of extra equipment. Contents in there will be reasonably protected from getting jostled en route - a crucial feature when you're hauling enough food and beverages to keep fans energized well into halftime. Minivans usually have the largest under-floor storage, which doubles in most models as the place to stow a fold-flat third row. Our favorite is the Honda Odyssey, whose Magic Seat incorporates one of the largest storage wells of its kind.

2. Two-pronged household power outlets
Car that does it best: 2007 Volkswagen Touareg
Unlike most cars' 12-volt cigarette lighters, household outlets can connect to traditional two-pronged plugs. That means you won't need a power inverter or generator to wire your hi-fi stereo or portable TV. The Volkswagen Touareg wins our vote for this feature, as it comes standard with a 115-volt household outlet in the cargo area, not to mention four other 12-volt plugs elsewhere. For any car that has this feature, it's wise to pack some jumper cables, as your battery will be hard-pressed to survive an entire afternoon's festivities.

3. Stain-resistant seats
Car that does it best: 2007 Honda Element
Stain-resistant fabrics add a layer of defense against spills, so feel free to chow down on that chili dog in the driver's seat. The upholstery is marketed under a range of names, from Honda's Fabric for Extreme Conditions to Chrysler's YES Essentials and Volvo's T-Tec. We like the stuff in the Honda Element SUV, which comes standard in most versions of that car. Any of these examples should prove an easier match for errant condiments than traditional seat fabric, which tends to stain just enough to ding your car's trade-in value down the road.

4. Load 'N Go storage floor
Car that does it best: 2007 Dodge Nitro
The Nitro's Load 'N Go cargo floor slides 18 inches backward, extending past the bumper to create a convenient shelf that sits waist-high. Once loaded, the shelf slides forward again into the cargo area behind the rear seats. It may not seem like much, but it should free you from some of the strain of loading and unloading gear, and your back will thank you later. In the parking lot, the shelf's 400-pound capacity makes a handy spot to set up a buffet.

5. Rear-flipping tailgate seat
Car that does it best: 2008 Chrysler Town & Country
Several minivans have offered tailgate seats for some time. The concept is simple: The third-row seat pivots onto its backside, allowing carousers to unwind facing out from the cargo area. Yes, you can do the same off an ordinary bumper, but the tailgate seat adds an upholstered backrest with the upright seat bottom. It's comfortable enough that anyone stuck there won't wish they'd placed dibs on the inflatable Barcalounger. The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country can motor back upright or be stowed with the push of a button.

6. Stereo controls in back
Car that does it best: 2007 GMC Acadia
Those who use their cars as mobile boomboxes will appreciate cargo-area stereo controls. They allow you to change tunes without climbing around to the driver's seat - a case of unintended exercise most tailgaters would just as well avoid. The buttons in the Acadia are situated just inches from where you'd set up your food and beverages.

7. Swing-out liftgate speakers
Car that does it best: 2007 Dodge Caliber
Car stereos are designed to deliver sound into the cabin, which doesn't bode well for tailgating parties, where the music needs to radiate out. Enter Chrysler's MusicGate system, which includes two dedicated speakers that swing outward from under an open liftgate. Now the revelers in back can hear your pre-game soundtrack loud and clear - and if you park your car at the right angle, those away fans in the opposite stall won't be able to hear anything else.

8. Swiveling seats
Car that does it best: 2008 Chrysler Town & Country
Genuine tailgaters will tough it through rain, sleet or snow, but it doesn't hurt to have a sheltered area for those who aren't game enough for the weather. That's where the Chrysler Town & Country's Swivel 'N Go seats come in. Swivel 'N Go includes second-row captain's chairs that rotate 180 degrees to face the third row. In addition, there's a removable table that installs between the swivel seats, so up to five tailgaters can dine in the minivan's climate-controlled quarters.

9. Water-friendly storage well
Car that does it best: 2007 Honda Ridgeline
It's about time a truck came with a built-in cooler. The one in the Ridgeline comes complete with a weatherproof lid, a drain plug and a water-resistant floor. It can accommodate plenty of ice and drinks, or up to 8.5 cubic feet of dry cargo - equivalent to two-thirds of the trunk in a typical compact car. To keep any sideliners from swiping a beverage when you head into the stadium, the lid is lockable.

10. Washable cargo floor
Car that does it best: 2007 Jeep Compass
Spill and scuff all you want - a washable cargo floor makes cleanup easy. Score one for the Jeep Compass, whose Ultra Floor has a non-skid vinyl service that can support up to 250 pounds. When you get home from the game, wipe it down with a sponge or rag. It's removable, too, so if your bash turns particularly messy, you can always use a garden hose.

For more information about tailgating features and the cars that have them, visit Cars.com.

About Cars.com

Partnered with more than 200 leading metro newspapers, television stations and their websites, Cars.com is the most comprehensive destination for those looking to buy or sell a new or used car. The site lists more than 2 million vehicles from 13,000 dealer customers, classified advertisers and private parties to offer consumers the best selection of new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to support their shopping experience. Cars.com combines powerful inventory search tools and new-car configuration with pricing information, photo galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial content and reviews to help millions of car shoppers connect with sellers each month.

Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).

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