What’s the Difference between Coupes and Sedans?
As with everything in the car industry, terms and definitions change over time as we evolve our vehicles. The most recent example of this is the difference between a coupe and a sedan. Up to this point, most people said a sedan has four doors and a coupe has only two. But recently, car manufacturers have started using the phrase, “four-door coupe” and it seems like this new naming convention is changing the rules with good reason.
While the names, “four-door coupe” or “two-door sedan” sound like contradictions there is a genuine claim that these are correct, but where do they fit in and what cars deserve these names?
By and large, we assume a coupe is a sporty two-door with a fixed roof. A coupe usually has only front seats but it is also possible for it to have rear seating for just two, instead of the standard three like you’d find in a sedan. The rear seats need to be extra small though because technically a coupe must have less than 33 cubic feet in the rear space.
So it’s no surprise that most people assume a coupe has only two doors because there are few people who could fit in a rear interior space less than 33 cubic feet, so there is no need for four doors (generally). On the other hand, there certainly are two-door vehicles with way more than 33 cubic feet in the rear and while their manufacturers might try to pass them off as coupes they are, by definition, two-door sedans.
A few examples of confused two-door sedans are the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Mercedes CL-Class, and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Historically, we associate sedans with larger, four-door, fixed-roof cars that can easily seat up to five people. An easy way to spot the difference here is to look for the B-pillar between the front and rear windows – if it has one, it’s a sedan. We can use that 33 cubic feet measure here too, but in this case, it’s a sedan if it has more than 33 cubic feet of rear interior volume.
There’s plenty of space for seating in the back, most commonly with three seats making the four doors supremely convenient, if not necessary. In theory, there could be a two-seater sedan but what would happen to all that space in the rear interior?
Basically, if you want a sports car that has rear seating, you’re looking at a coupe. But if you want something to take road trips with, go for the sedan. The colloquial naming conventions work out best because the alternate versions of these cars are so rare. But buyer, beware: they do exist and you might do well to research your car before you get sold on something you don’t want.