By on June 15, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainVehicle 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, 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.2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe & SUV - Images: Mercedes-BenzAs 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.2017 German Luxury SUV Coupe collage - Images: Mercedes-Benz & BMWIt’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]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

57 Comments on “QOTD: What Do We Call SUV Coupes If They’re Not Coupes?...”

  • avatar

    4-door sedan, or a 4-door hatchback.
    If the rear window is vertical or nearly so, and there is no trunk it’s a station wagon.
    It’s not so complicated. A bar of soap, when slightly melted, is still a bar of soap.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      You can call your product whatever you want, it does not make it either right or true. It is just obfuscation.

    • 0 avatar

      This is like the current gender “identification” challenges that seem to keep coming up. A man that gender identifies as a woman is still a man. A four door ugly sedan might have the soul of a coupe, but it’s still an ugly sedan.
      Why even have words if we’re going to change the meanings? Maybe today seven is feeling more like 43. Let’s just let seven have this one, it won’t matter. None of this matters.

  • avatar

    Foolish? Ugly? Pointless?

    A rose by any other name…

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

    Despite any varying definition of the English word “coupe”, this is horsesh*t. F**k you hypnomarketsales liar. Die in a fire.

    Btw, both list an automobile definition as a “two door”:

  • avatar


    Also “blorb.”

  • avatar

    Liftback CUV vs the “normal” wagon CUV.

    • 0 avatar


      While I personally agree with derikson’s definition, as well as “less useful”, “ugly” and “blorb”, the origin of “coupe” in automobiles says otherwise.

      As per Wikipedia:

      Borrowing from French coupé (an elliptical form of carosse coupé (“cut carriage”)), the past participle of couper (“to cut”).”

      Coupe literally refers to a cut-down version of a traditional automobile style. Which the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe is.

      Also, all wagons, shooting brakes, sportbaks, SUV’s, CUV’s, crossovers, Sports Activity Coupes, vans, minivans, liftbacks and fastbacks (with a few exceptions: Suzuki X90, I’m looking at you!) are slightly different styles of hatchback. Get over it America! You like hatchbacks!

      • 0 avatar

        This is actually a good point.

        You can also point to the fact that many companies used to offer 2 door coupes and 2 door sedans, and the coupes were the “lower roofline” option. Coupe didn’t define it as a 2 door model specifically ,but as the lower roofline.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Liftback is a term people don’t seem to use enough. I explained to my best friend that his ’17 Volt is a liftback, since it has a wedge shape and a rear hatch, not a sedan.

  • avatar

    Supposition of suppository.

    • 0 avatar

      Suppositories: if you use ’em, you don’t want to sit in the back seat of a 4-door “coupe”. The squatting posture required is just asking for trouble.

  • avatar

    How about “the vehicle type that shall not be named” or ” TVTTSNBN” for short.

    • 0 avatar

      Let’s simplify that. How about Death Watch Vehicle, DWV, since their sales are tanking? Just don’t call them sedans, sport or otherwise, since they’re basically vehicles that can only accommodate 2-adults in bucket seats in front. The rear seat is for pre-pubescent kids or an adult or two you want to torment.

  • avatar

    SUV Coupe = Soupe?

  • avatar

    I call them “something I have no interest in.”

  • avatar

    Lifted liftbacks?

  • avatar

    Squishhatch waggette.

  • avatar

    There was a four-door Rover P6 Coupé as early as 1962. That was a four-door sedan with a more sloped roof and narrower pillars. If that’s okay, so are the GLE Coupé and BMW’s even-numbered X-thing Coupés.

    Otherwise, they’re all hatchbacks. (Well, not the Rover.)

  • avatar

    Call them what they are: Hunchbacks. Sorry, misshapen, misbegotten, sad hunchbacks.

  • avatar

    “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.’”

    What garbage.

    What do I call it? Mercedes-Benz’s attempts to fill every niche, and to appeal to everyone.

  • avatar

    I’d call them “stupid” but everyone else should just call them SUVs. They’re SUVs, simple as that.

  • avatar
    John R

    Call them what they are. They’re SUVs or CUVs.

    If your marketing department feels compelled to call it anything but what it is then the segment’s turned the corner into mundanity. Congrats. Feel free to finally take your seat next to the minivan and wagon – which is what you were slowly evolving into anyway…

  • avatar

    Fastback? So in this case, fastback SUVs. There’s also the BMW Gran Turismo models, which are fastback sedans.

  • avatar

    “QOTD: What Do We Call SUV Coupes If They’re Not Coupes?”

    Abominations. Simply because for the sake of some style guru, they are sacrificing utility, and for my money, practicality.

    You know what? They’ll sell, too, but I’m not buying.

  • avatar

    “BMW refers to the X4 and X6 as Sports Activity Coupes.”


    That sort of goes with the meme that BMW drivers are cocks (to use a term from Jeremy Clarkson).

    Some cock in a SAC cut me off on the way to work!

  • avatar


    We call them ugly.

  • avatar

    If the SUV self-identifies as a coupe, who are we to question it?

  • avatar

    SAC = Sports Activity Coupe because it weighs almost as much and has the same awkward proportions as a SAC B-52.

  • avatar

    Demonstrations of the effectiveness of marketing? Literally every single adjacent market segment to these things accomplishes something better.

    Roofline of a fastback coupe on a jacked up sedan/wagon. Compromised handling, compromised space, compromised utility. Aside from wanting whatever bs image these cars are marketed as, any other reason for buying one of these is better accomplished by shopping another market segment.

    But i do try to temper my vitriol towards the things because more choice on the market is a good thing. And even though i think these are the epitome of pointless vehicles, perhaps the next created market segment will speak to me.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I’m sure there’s a word in other language we can borrow. For example, “kombi”.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s taken for wagons (and dual-purpose windowed commercial vans) in Germany. They are Kombinationskraftwagen: combined vehicles, as in suited to carrying both/either passengers and/or cargo.

      Also, rear-engined Volkswagen vans in Australia: “Travelin’ in a fried out Kombi on a hippie trail head full of zombies.”

  • avatar

    There is only one correct answer: they should be called Trars.

    Back in the day, a Trar was made by putting a car body on a truck frame. These sorts of vehicles are really unibody Trars if you think about it.

  • avatar

    Coupé meant chopped roofline in its original intent.

    These and the MB CLS are true coupé cars if you follow the original usage of the term. Back in the Old World in the pre-war years, coachbuilders–nay, “carrosseries” would make these specials and sell them to customers seeking exclusivity and a fastback appearance.

    Yes, we eventually grew to associate “Coupe” with 2-door, but technically the manufacturers are not wrong to use the word for these cars.

    One word I would also use to describe these SUV Coupes: Ugly.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

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

    Read as “GM should start making a two-door Tahoe again.”


  • avatar

    Abomination before God?

  • avatar

    The AMG Spirit

  • avatar

    How about an SUV without the utility?

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I only hope that these powerful AWD cars gradually morph into what they should be: Powerful AWD wagons.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Since many models once offered several styles I’ll use the 68 Impala as a example of coupe vs fastback. The formal roof 2 door was the Custom Coupe. The fastback was the Sport Coupe.

  • avatar

    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”

  • avatar

    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.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • EBFlex: “According to a T-shirt I saw a young man wearing on June 19th at church celebrating the 4th of July...
  • EBFlex: “His keyboard doesn’t have spell- or IQ-check.” “Certainly no IQ check. But probably an...
  • Inside Looking Out: Happy July 4th to all!
  • DenverMike: It’s not just the parking thing. Most Americans simply can’t drive something that big, scared...
  • DenverMike: Unless you were already struggling to feed the beast, yeah a few small changes and you’re good. Yet...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber