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Packard Model 733 Standard Eight as a three-window coupé (1930)
Delahaye Type 135 Coupé by Pourtout (1946)
Mercedes-Benz W 111 , Coupé in classic design
Many coupés have frameless side windows like here on the Infiniti Q60

The coupé ( French for “cut” or “cut off”) is, in the classic sense, a closed two-door car with a sporty and elegant appearance. The name is much older than the motor vehicle and was already used in the construction of carriages . Compared to the sedan , this body shape has a shortened, "cut off" or sharply sloping roof, which is often supported by only two pairs of pillars. Originally, coupés were two-seater, in today's sense four or five-seater are also included, but the rear is less comfortable than the seats for the driver and front passenger (2 + 2-seater).

Coupés can be independent vehicles, such as the Audi TT , others were or are derived from a sedan by shortening and changing the roof or the side line. There is a corresponding convertible for many coupes .

Ferrari traditionally differentiates between coupé and berlinetta ( Italian diminutive of "Berlina"; German roughly: small sedan). All Ferrari Berlinettas are two-seaters with a closed cockpit.

There is further conceptual overlap with Gran Turismo , Personal Luxury Cars and Coach .

After the spelling reform in 1996 there was also the Germanized spelling Kupee for “Coupé” , but this was abolished again in 2011.

Concept development

Historic Lancia Flaminia Coupé , despite the B-pillar a coupé
Goggomobil Coupé - the term Coupé was also used for less sporty vehicles
Renault Laguna Coupe with hatchback

The name Coupé comes from a four-wheeled carriage model with two seats in the cabin, with the driver sitting far in front and outside. Viewed from the side, this vehicle resembled a four-seater carriage, in which the part that normally contained the front seats was cut off ( French: coupé ).

In the case of motor vehicles, too, the term coupé was initially used to describe vehicles that, in contrast to a sedan, were not completely closed. In these, the chauffeur sat in the front of the vehicle without a roof in the open air, while the passengers found space in the back in a closed compartment. One example of this is the Bugatti Royale Coupé "Napoleon" .

In the 1950s, the term coupé was used for particularly sporty or exclusive sedans with two doors, but also for sports cars . Coupés often only had two seats at this time. Since the 1960s and 1970s, the term coupé has been used increasingly for sporty, two-door sedans, which are often equipped with a gently sloping hatchback .

While the local manufacturers therefore often represented a coupé as a body variant of well-known sedans, where the front section was mostly the same and the overall appearance showed strong similarities to the directly related model types, it was in Italy and partly in France in the 1960s, 1970s and partly as well In the 1980s it was common to create completely independent bodies for the coupé variants. As a rule, these even had their own interiors and often only shared a few technical modules with their siblings. This applied to eccentric small manufacturers such as Lancia as well as to the two large manufacturers Fiat and Alfa Romeo and is evidently due to the tradition of the many body and design companies in Italy and France that was preserved from the early days of the automobile. The vehicles of this somewhat broader coupé definition usually have more than two seats, but the space on the rear bench is usually very cramped and not very comfortable. This is due to the fact that the wheelbase is shortened compared to the four-door variant.

Some models are offered as two- or three-door and are therefore cheaper than the sedan and also as an exclusive coupé, for example the Ford Taunus 20M P7 , or more recently the Opel Astra G : The car was manufactured by Opel as a two-door variant and as a Coupé in small series from Bertone .

The Renault Avantime is a curiosity . Although the car meets the criteria of a coupé and was no less exclusive, the high center of gravity and the large interior make the car unique in the “Van-Coupé” category.

Extensions of the term

The positive image of the exclusive, elegant coupé has led to the term being projected onto simple three-door models or even sporty sedans.

Sports coupe

The first projection was the sports coupe . These were simpler, sporty two- / three-door models such as the Opel Manta or the Ford Capri .

In the 1990s, the three-door Citroën Xsara was marketed as a coupe. The three-door variant of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was also marketed as a coupé, which has nothing in common with the original understanding of the term “coupé”.

Four-door coupe

LaFayette Model 134 Four Door Coupe (1921).
The first mass-production vehicle specifically marketed as a four-door coupé: the Rover P5 from 1958
Regarded in the press as the founder of the four-door coupé segment: the 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS

Four-door coupes are not coupes in the classic sense. They combine individual construction and design features of coupés with those of a sedan. Later interpretations usually show a roof that is lowered compared to conventional sedans, usually a flat or flowing roof line in the area of ​​the C-pillar and mostly frameless side windows. In technical terms, the four-door coupés today are mostly derived from sedans, which, as high-volume models, are intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers. In contrast, four-door coupés should cover higher-priced market niches.

The concept of the four-door coupé has its origins in product marketing . It is initially assumed that the prestige value of a coupé is higher than that of a sedan. The phrase “four-door coupé” deliberately combines two features which, according to conventional understanding, are mutually exclusive. This gives the impression that a completely new body concept has been developed.

The term has been demonstrable since the early 1920s, when shortened inner handlebars with an integrated trunk were sometimes called that. A very early depiction can be found in an advertisement for the LaFayette Motors Company from 1921. The vehicle shown was designed by LeBaron for LaFayette and produced in small numbers at Seaman in Milwaukee . At least in the USA, the names Brougham , Club Sedan or Sport Sedan were more common than 4-Door Coupé . After two-door hardtops replaced the Club Coupé at the end of the 1940s - coupes without a B-pillar but with a flattened roof and frameless side windows - this concept was expanded to include four-door models from the mid-1950s, which were offered alongside conventional sedans. They fulfilled the task of the four-door coupé not in name but in purpose.

From the late 1950s, four-door vehicles were increasingly marketed under the term coupe. This includes the Rover P5 , which came on the market in 1958 and was marketed as a coupe in a version with a flattened roof. In the decades that followed, vehicles were repeatedly offered that met one or more of the aforementioned criteria for a four-door coupé. These include the Nissan Cefiro , which was presented in 1988 and was reserved for the Asian market and was expressly referred to in the press as a four-door coupé.

Mercedes-Benz was the first to take up this concept again with the Mercedes-Benz CLS, which was introduced in autumn 2004, and established it in the luxury class. In spring 2013, the concept was implemented again in the compact class with the CLA .

The press often sees Mercedes-Benz as the “founder of the four-door coupé segment” and has also adopted the term for other models of similar construction. In view of this success, other manufacturers followed suit and presented vehicles for their part - such as the VW Passat CC in 2008 .

In some cases, vehicles such as the Porsche Panamera , the Audi A7 , the Kia Stinger or the Citroën DS4 are also included; the Aston Martin Rapide and the Lamborghini Estoque can also be described as four-door coupé. However, the conceptual differentiation to the conventional hatchback sedan is not clear.

SUV coupe

The SsangYong Actyon is considered to be one of the founders of the SUV coupés
Frameless side windows like those on the Audi Q8 are often used as a reminiscence of the classic coupés

Since the introduction of the BMW X6 based on the BMW X5 in 2008, the term SUV coupé has spread. These are often vehicles with a hatchback shape based on a normal SUV, which can be sold at a higher price, since the focus is on the emotional benefit for the customer. A major contribution to the development of this vehicle class lies in China, where customers prefer an expressive and dominant design style to demonstrate their individual social advancement. For example, Mazda has been selling the CX-4 based on the CX-5 since 2016 , Škoda has been selling the Kodiaq GT based on the Kodiaq since 2018 and Volkswagen has only been selling the Teramont X based on the Teramont in China since 2019 . Like the four-door coupés, the SUV coupés are not coupés in the classic sense.

Even before the X6 was presented at the IAA 2007, the SsangYong Actyon was known as the Sport-Utility-Coupé (SUC) in 2006. It wasn't until 2011 that another vehicle came onto the market with the Range Rover Evoque , which was available in a coupé variant. In contrast to most other models, this coupe actually only has two doors. In 2014, BMW introduced another model, the X4, one class lower. Mercedes-Benz followed in 2015 with the GLE Coupé and in 2016 with the GLC Coupé . Porsche introduced the Cayenne Coupé in 2019 . Another feature that SUV coupés often take over from classic coupés are frameless windows, such as the Maserati Levante or the Audi Q8 .

Chinese automobile manufacturers also refer to some of their models as coupes. These include the Changan CS85 , the Geely Xingyue , the Haval H6 Coupé , the Haval F7x or the Zotye T600 Coupé .

In the case of the SUV coupés, the distinction to the conventional SUV is blurred. Sometimes models such as the Toyota C-HR , the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or the Tesla Model X are also referred to as SUV coupé.

Special forms

There are closed vehicles that largely correspond to the definition of a coupe, but have fewer than two doors. This includes the Nova from Nova Cars with a front-hinged roof that can be opened for getting in and out. The Nova is referred to in the literature as a coupé. The same goes for the bond bug .

There are also closed microcars with just one door. Since they only have one row of seats, they cannot be limousines. One source calls the Peel P50 a coupe.

Former designs

Opera coupe

The Opera Coupé (in Europe also: Coupé Opéra ) is one of the oldest variants of the Coupé with four seats, two of which are on a bench in the rear. Next to the driver there is only one jump seat to facilitate access to the back seat. After the First World War, coupés with a slightly larger interior, four to five seats and wider doors were named that way. They often had a round or oval window in the back of the roof, sometimes with a leather-covered roof and / or storm bars. There is therefore overlap with the Five-Window Coupé , the Sport Coupé and the Club Coupé ; The latter replaced the Opera Coupé at the end of the 1920s.

Business coupe

Chevrolet Master Series GB Business Coupé (1937, with five windows)

The business coupe was widespread in the United States from the early 1920s to around the mid-1950s. It had a trunk that was extended to the front and accessible from the outside instead of rear seats. From the outside, these vehicles can hardly be distinguished from other coupés. The Business Coupé was often the cheapest variant of a model series. It was popular with business travelers who could leave their sample suitcases in the lockable trunk, which was not visible from the outside, and did not have to take them into the hotel room. By the mid-1950s, the business coupé had been replaced by the more practical station wagon with three or five doors.

Three-Window Coupé

Packard Twelve Model 1507 as a three-window coupé (Karr. # 1037; 1937)

Three-Window Coupé is a term commonly used in the USA for a coupé with side windows in the doors, but not in the rear part of the roof. The name refers to the side and rear windows; the windshield is taken for granted. As a rule, there was a bench seat for three people, some versions also had a two-seater bench or a single seat in the rear that was mounted across the direction of travel. The Sport Coupé (see below) is derived from it. The three-window coupe went out of fashion in the 1940s.

Five-Window Coupé

Perfectly restored Ford Model A Deluxe Coupé with five windows (1930)

The five-window version differed from the three-window coupé in that it had additional windows in the rear roof section. The name refers to the two side and two rear windows. Versions without a passenger compartment in the rear are the exception. The five-window coupé was built longer than the three-window variant.

Sport coupe

The roof of the sports coupe (not to be confused with the above-mentioned sports coupe ) is covered with leather, faux leather or textile material to the impression of a convertible to awaken. This impression was often reinforced by decorative parts on the roof end, which imitated the storm bars of real convertibles. Sport Coupés were a bit more luxurious than normal versions. The style quickly went out of fashion after 1930.

Rumble Seat Coupe

Ford Model A Standard Rumble Seat Coupe (1928). The padded backrest in the flap and chrome-plated handles are clearly visible; on the opposite side there is a step on the fender.

A sub-form of the 3/5-window coupé and the sport coupé. Under the "trunk lid" there is an emergency seat , popularly known as the "mother-in-law seat ". The inside of the back opening lid is padded. The seat compartment is usually entered via the footboard and a step on the fender. More expensive versions sometimes have a side door.

Sedanca Coupe

Bentley Mark VI Sedanca (1948)

The luxurious Sedanca coupe has a removable front or openable roof part, making it a forerunner of the coupe with targa roof . This design, also known as Sedanca , should not be confused with the Sedanca de Ville (a partially closed representative vehicle ) or with the Sedanca Three Position Drophead Coupé , a convertible with three different roof positions.

Club coupe

First generation Lincoln Continental as a Club Coupé (1948)

In the USA from the early 1920s to the early 1950s, the Club Coupé was a common hybrid of a coupé and a two-door sedan . The successor to the Club Coupé was the Hardtop Coupé on the one hand and the Club Sedan (two-door, with B-pillar and longer roof) on the other.

Hardtop Coupé

The Packard Executive (1956) is a typical representative of the US hardtop coupés with six full-size seats. In Europe, this design was also known as a faux cabriolet .

A few hand-made one-offs are known from the pre-war period, but the Cadillac Coupé DeVille is considered the first hardtop coupé to be mass-produced . The vehicles were usually built on the chassis of a convertible, which was already reinforced. This was necessary because the roof could not add to the rigidity of the construction without a B-pillar .

Faux cabriolet

The Faux Cabriolet is a closed vehicle with a roof made of oilcloth or synthetic leather, which gives the impression that it is a convertible, although the roof cannot be opened. The name was common in Europe for the Sport Coupé and was revived with the advent of the Hardtop Coupé .

Other forms

  • Coupé Fiacre (also as Cabriolet): The lines were modeled on the Fiaker . The Coupé Fiacre can therefore be described as one of the first automobiles in retro style .
  • Goutte d'Eau ("drops of water", also as a convertible): a very extravagant body with strongly rounded, sweeping shapes. This style was developed by the French coachbuilder Figoni & Falaschi .
  • Coupé de Ville : This design has little to do with the coupé as it is defined in this article. The Coupé de Ville is a chauffeur-driven limousine with an open driver's compartment.

Historic coupés: picture gallery

Individual evidence

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  33. George Nicholas Georgano (Ed.): The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile . Volume 2: G-O . Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, Chicago 2001, ISBN 1-57958-293-1 , pp. 1123 (English).
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  36. Terminology
  37. Lentinello / McGean: The Hemmings Collector-Car Encyclopedia (2011) p.90
  38. Terminology
  39. Lentinello / McGean: The Hemmings Collector-Car Encyclopedia (2011) p. 92
  40. Lentinello / McGean: The Hemmings Collector-Car Encyclopedia (2011) p. 92
  41. Terminology
  42. Lentinello / McGean: The Hemmings Collector-Car Encyclopedia (2011) p.99
  43. Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith HJMulliner Sedanca de Ville (1949)
  44. Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental J. Gurney Nutting Drophead Sedanca Coupe (1934)
  45. Terminology
  46. ^ Automobile Revue annual catalogs; z. B. 1956 (Packard) or 1959 (European and US hardtops in general)


  • Lentinello, Richard and McGean, Terry (Eds.): The Hemmings Collector-Car Encyclopedia (2011); Hemmings Motor News, Bennington VT, ISBN 978-0-615-55029-9 (English)

Web links

Wiktionary: Coupé  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations