A Sedan, Based off of a Coupe, Based off of a Sedan

Here’s the thing,

Four doors are the new two. Don’t believe me? All you have to do is look at the market and you’ll see that almost every brand is pushing at least one “four-door coupe”. Some of them are true to the idea that term conjures in the minds of consumers, others simply found a way to market poor rear seat headroom by tacking on an extra set of doors. I’m sure there will be people who agree, and those who disagree with me, but I think the separation of the winners and losers in this class comes down to two factors: accessibility and dynamics.

I know what you’re thinking, haven’t all these cars enhanced their accessibility adding the extra doors? The difference is I’m talking about the cargo area. For a long time the market was dominated by liftbacks, with a great number of coupe-shaped vehicles on the road actually having a full hatch instead of a simple and constricting trunk lid. A few of these four door coupes have picked up that aspect, prime examples being the BMW Gran Coupe line and the Audi A/S/RS7. The Tesla Model S goes a step further and even uses that design to squeeze in a rear-facing third row!

Don’t think this is important? Look at four-door coupe inspired models that don’t make the same commitment. The prime suspect being the first car to go fully mainstream with the design: The Hyundai Sonata. With a sloping roofline, but a traditional trunk setup, the Sonata was a storage dynamics nightmare for a lot of owners. The roofline was easy to hit your head on, but at least the trunk was small and hard to load! The proof of concept left a lot to be desired, and actually ended up getting beat in the market by it’s more traditionally proportioned cousin: the Kia Optima.

A close second to accessibility and design is driving dynamics. To many traditional coupe owners, the car is a statement. And that statement is “The driver’s seat is my throne, and the road my kingdom”. That should be no less true in a four-door coupe. Even though it falls in the trunked end of the design pool, the Volkswagen CC it the definition of a four-door coupe with dynamics done right. If the normal Passat is the President of school council, the CC is his brother that also happens to be the starting quarterback under the Friday night lights. It’s a good enough formula to have lasted for 7 years with very little changes to the model in that time.

Don’t believe me? Consider the Accord and Solara coupes. The Accord coupe exists almost solely as a niche vehicle, and is considered by 95% of market buyers to simply be a less practical version of the Accord. The Solara? Well they don’t even make it anymore. Because of very plebian driving dynamics, these 2 cars have traditionally only been purchased by mid-life crisis victims or people looking to prove they’re able to make mature decisions without wanting to feel old. Not a great way to make a name for yourself in the space of the market that coupes, of any door count, play in.

So is the four door coupe here to stay, or destined to go the way of parachute pants and disco? The long and short answer is that it depends on what the manufacturers are willing to do with their models. I can easily see intelligently engineered models with stand-out aesthetics and competent dynamics completely taking the place of their two-door counterparts. However, traditional three-box models that have adapted the design to try and gain a leg up in the market will undoubtedly evolve into whatever the next trend is to come along. In that sense, the remaining members of the breed will truly be their own special models.

And that, that’s the thing.

-Shawn

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