Don’t call them wagons and certainly avoid the faux pas of thinking of them as hatchbacks. Four-door coupes are created by delicately moving the c-pillar from directly behind a sedan’s rear doors and draping it back, virtually eliminating the deck lid and creating a sporty silhouette like that of a two-door sports coupe. It should come as no surprise that this niche, but increasingly popular, segment was created by and is still exclusively the domain of German automakers, a group traditionally known for precise engineering standards and classic styling cues.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS debuted in 2004 as a 2005 model year vehicle, with the automotive press and buying public responding positively to the vehicle’s sleek silhouette and graceful Teutonic aesthetic. The CLS was designed around the E-Class platform but eschewed the traditional three-box body style of the sedan, pioneering a new segment of automobiles, the four-door coupe. Mercedes was able to charge a premium for the CLS model’s sensual curves, and the vehicle’s success caused competitors to follow suit. The CLS received a redesign for the 2011 model year, adding a bit more muscle to the first iteration’s uncluttered lines and signifying that the model has become more than just a niche vehicle. The CLS pioneered what would become a full market segment, and for that it deserves a special place in modern automotive history.
Volkswagen dubbed its entry into the four-door coupe segment the CC, denoting the concept of a “comfort coupe.” The vehicle hit showroom floors in 2008, signifying that the success of the Mercedes CLS was more than just a fluke. Volkswagen used its Passat as the basis for the CC and the model showed the brand’s commitment to democratizing German luxury ideals while reaffirming the fact that the company has a firm pulse on the marketplace. The CC was a refreshing model that showed the consumer that they don’t have to drive a “beige” three-box sedan if their needs dictate a practical family car. Volkswagen brought much-needed sex appeal to the mass-market mid-size sedan segment.
Porsche started producing its entry into the four-door coupe segment in 2009, when it began producing the 2010 Panamera. The vehicle marked Porsche’s first foray into the sedan market, but the four-door coupe body style allowed Porsche to retain a facsimile of the classic 911 profile, albeit an elongated one. Sales numbers show that the Panamera is doing wonders for Porsche’s bottom line and has done more to ensure the financial success of the storied company than any vehicle since the introduction of the Cayenne SUV in 2002.
Audi, the German maker known for its cutting-edge tech and youthful demographic, witnessed the positive effects that the CLS had on Mercedes’ brand and design perception. The Audi A7 debuted in Paris in 2010, with production models hitting American showrooms in 2011 as 2012 models. The A6-based A7 showed off some of Audi’s most memorable styling cues and the minimalist shape of the vehicle was a natural fit for the German automaker’s design language that carries through the entire model line.
BMW Gran Coupe
BMW released the 5-Series Gran Turismo as a middle ground between the traditional three-box style of its 5-Series sedan and the practicality of its wagons, which rarely hit American shores. The Gran Turismo model was too bulbous and lacked the sleek fastback styling of others in the segment, but BMW was not going to let the emerging segment slip form its showrooms. Enter the Gran Coupe, which provides one of the sexiest bodies to ever hail from Germany, and that is saying something, isn’t it? The Gran Coupe is based on the 6-Series but adds an extra set of doors, while retaining that sexy rear-window slope and minimal deck lid structure from the two-door coupe. This is truly the ultimate driving machine for families.
While Audi and BMW joined Mercedes in the four-door coupe segment, all of those offerings leaned toward the pricier end of the brands’ lineups. Mercedes created a new entry-level model, and instead of offering consumers a hatchback or some other model that screams price-point product, the brand developed a four-door coupe that offers automotive sex appeal at a new, lower price point. The CLA is set to hit showrooms during the summer of 2013, changing the way car buyers view entry-level luxury models. Who said cutting-edge style has to cost a fortune?
The contributor really enjoys seeing how these car companies have started thinking outside the box when it comes to designing sedans for the marketplace.
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