QOTD: What Do We Call SUV Coupes If They're Not Coupes?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Vehicle classifications are important. They enable governments to better regulate. They allow uninformed buyers to get a grip on the market. They foster competition. They clarify conversation.

The passenger car sector is subdivided in countless ways, and not just by size. In the car realm, there are hatchbacks and liftbacks, convertibles and roadsters, station wagons and shooting brakes, sedans and coupes.

Yet when it comes to utility vehicles, besides differentiating (or attempting to differentiate, if there’s even any point) between SUVs and crossovers, much of the classification conversation revolves purely around size, from the subcompact Honda HR-V to the full-size Chevrolet Suburban.

So what’s this? I’m driving a Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe this week. But we all know it’s not a coupe, which is traditionally known as a car with two doors and a fixed roof. Sometimes the coupe’s definition is even narrower. Yet never has the traditional coupe definition allowed for vehicles such as the GLC, BMW X4, BMW X6, or Mercedes-Benz’s GLE Coupe to be called coupes.

Still, we need to call them something.

BMW refers to the X4 and X6 as Sports Activity Coupes. Check out BMW USA’s X4 home page and you’ll read the word “coupe” six times. Coupe-like roofline. Coupe performance. Sports coupe inspiration. On and on.

Of the Mercedes-Benz GLE, MBUSA.com says there’s “pure sports coupe response,” along with, “a true coupe soul.” Mercedes-Benz goes so far as to say that the GLE offers the most carpeted luggage space “of any coupe in the world.”

GM should start calling the Suburban a coupe so Chevrolet can make that claim.

As for this Mercedes-Benz GLC, “You don’t add up the doors to define a Mercedes-Benz coupe,” Mercedes-Benz says. “It’s the soul that counts.”

Indeed, Mercedes-Benz stopped counting the doors of its coupe when the CLS sedan appeared in 2004.

They’re not coupes. But we do need a word to distinguish vehicles like the GLE Coupe and GLC Coupe from the regular GLE and GLC. They’re different.

It’s easy at BMW — they’re given different numbers. But other automakers are going to start following the German trend. Automakers love following the premium Germans. A friend is going to tell you he bought a new coupe, but when he brings it round the house to show you, your expectation that he purchased a two-door Honda Civic Si will be thrown to the curb. It’ll be a Jeep Grand Cherokee Coupe, a Grand Cherokee with less cargo volume and awkward rear proportions and four passenger doors.

At least, that’ll be the case unless we come up with a better designation.

What are these vehicles?

[Images: © Timothy Cain, Mercedes-Benz, BMW]

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • Turf3 Turf3 on Jun 16, 2017

    It's a fastback. There are fastback 4 door sedans. Look at, say, a 1949 Chevy. There are also fastback 2 door sedans. To me (and to everyone in the US till the marketeers decided to misuse the language to improve sales) a "coupe" is a short roof 2 door car. A long roof 2 door car (not made any more) is a 2 door sedan. Please look at pictures of cars from the late 20s and you will see many 2 door sedans and 2 door coupes. There is not now, nor has there ever been, an automobile with four doors that is a "coupe". Period. To close, I would like to quote a poster above who expressed my sentiments so well I just can't improve on what he(she?) wrote: "Despite any varying definition of the English word “coupe”, this is horsesh*t. F**k you hypnomarketsales liar. Die in a fire." --"28 cars later"

  • Phila_DLJ Phila_DLJ on Jun 16, 2017

    Vehicles automakers call a "coupe" are typically a lower-roofed or "faster"-roofed version of another vehicle they don't call a "coupe." This is consistent with the etymology of the word "coupe", which as we all know is French for "to cut." The roof is what has been cut. But besides that fact, "coupe" is a marketing term, not an international unit of measure. A coupe can be whatever the automaker wants a coupe to be.

  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.
  • El scotto Chip it, NOS it, Wrap it, go buy hipster jeans.
  • El scotto Bah to the lot of you! Now 8500$ is way too much; 5000$ would be much more reasonable. You see, every once in a while GM does something right. The two Saturns I owned were slow, I mean bog slow, poorly maintained VW bug slow. Then some GM engineers ran some sort of tippy-top secret project and put a supercharger on a 4-cylinder. Will this redline beat a Porsche? Please. Would this be worth thrashing on your daily commute? Of course. Imagine racing the GTI guys for lattes or IPAs. Those kind roll that way.