Could A Two Door Model Pull a Coup D’Etat on Boring Crossovers?

Topshot 18

History does tend to repeat itself, in the most improbably ways. I never thought we would see root beer brown or orange cars reappear, but here we are again like it’s the early seventies. It’s really just a quest for something different, even if it was done before.

We do indeed need something different. One undeniable fact is that there are a lot of four door crossovers out there. Looking out the window now, this type of car fills virtually every space at my office.

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source: The Bishop

What is worse is that it is increasingly difficult to tell a Maserati crossover from an Alfa crossover from a Genesis from even less expensive examples. At some point, if a manufacturer offered something that stood out, it might be at least a minor success.

Let’s take a look at coupes. Here’s a body style that was everywhere in the seventies, particularly ‘personal luxury’ coupes like Cutlasses and Monte Carlos. These were just run-of-the-mill sedans with two less doors and slightly flashier styling, but they sold like crazy. Practicality was compromised a bit with the longer doors, but not horribly so.

1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Exterior 006 Gateway Classics Red And White Driver Profile 720x340

source: Mecum, Consumer Guide, GM Authority

Eventually with changing tastes the market for two doors slowly evaporated until it was almost gone by around the year 2000. If you’re driving a new closed coupe today, it’s likely a luxury brand:

1366x477 Continental Gt 21my Continental Gt Mulliner Static Front

source: Bentley and Car & Driver

Could this body style pick up on some of those brand’s glamor by adding a ‘halo’ vehicle to a more pedestrian car model? It could be worth a shot.

The fact is that many buyers rarely use the back seat of their car. This is especially true if you don’t have a family to cart around, or if said family has a separate SUV at home. Forty years ago, a four door sedan (or wagon, which is really what crossovers are) would be considered a mom-and-the-kids car and not something an even halfway hip single person or young couple would mess with. I mean, if coupes aren’t cool, then why did so many manufacturers create these rather unconvincing ‘fake coupes’ with the ‘hidden’ rear door handles? Nobody is fooled! The proportions are laughably off.

2021 Honda Hr V 4dr Suv Sport Fq Oem 1 815

source: Edmunds and Toyota

Both manufacturers and buyers used to like closed coupes since, unlike convertibles, they really didn’t cost much more to build or purchase than a sedan; flash for little extra cash.

How could this work? Here’s an example. Let’s take a popular current crossover, the Mazda CX-9.

Mar22 Blog03 Bouchermazdaracine A O 1

source: Mazda

We’ll make it a two door.  If any manufacturer had the guts to do this they would likely go with fixed rear quarter windows but for fun I did go full-on old school fabulous with a pillarless configuration.

Other than missing one set of doors, a slightly thicker C pillar, and a reduction of the rear window frame-and-duck-bill-spoiler to give the impression of more of a fastback, this thing is identical to the original four door (again, the hatch is the same just a different window surround). But roll down all four windows, open the panoramic sunroof and let the sun shine on the leather seats and you have something that seems ready for the country club, not Chuck E Cheese’s.

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source: Mazda and The Bishop

With crossovers, a few have tried convertibles other than Range Rover and the much-derided Murano, but they look rather silly, kind of like people sitting in a big ride-on toy. Not many manufacturers have tried coupes, other than the ‘coupe’ name being used for the crossovers with a low roof or fastback, and still four doors, so it really isn’t a coupe at all.

[Editor’s Note: I’m wondering how two-door SUVs in the past fit into the concept of a crossover coupé? Like, would the two-door variants of, say, Jeep Cherokees be considered coupé versions of the four-door ones?

Cherokee2doors

Those long windows do feel divergent enough from the four-door design that I’d think these were, essentially coupé SUVs. Just thinking. – JT]

Could the two-door coupe make a comeback, but in the form of a crossovers? Is it a quick path to creating something new from an old idea, or something that should stay relegated to the disco days?

 

 

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44 Responses

    1. clever- I agree with you. Every time I look at a new Bronco (at least the open top ones) I think they look like they just have too many doors.

      Those pics that DT posted of Cherokees really drive home the point. Once you see the two door, the four doors just look like something someone under fifty and/or with no kids would not be seen in.

  1. The only way this would work would to make it an ultra-lux version of the 4-door and market it to wealthy-ish empty nesters.

    That said, I personally would love this. At 6’2″ with a backbone that is about as flexible as a glass rod, an extra 6″ in door length would ease entry and exit tremendously. I constantly hit the b-pillar door jamb getting out of my sedan.

    1. Chickentimer- that is true. However, I believe that the Evoque was absolutely identical in two and four door forms (just different door cuts and number of visible handles). I am only suggesting a coupe if it offer at least slightly different styling.

    2. This is clearly wrong since there are many small two door cars sold outside the US. And since they’re available for sale and people are driving them it means that the development and the tooling and the supply chains are all handled and paid for. Many of them are sufficiently safe (SAFER if you consider the people outside of the vehicle) and clean to sell here too.

      If only it weren’t unnecessarily impossible for anybody but the original manufacturer to certify a car for the US market….

      The reason we don’t have two door versions and non-xUV options is because the law is designed to enable market manipulation. Why undercut yourself by bringing your hatchback to the US market if you can simply choose not to and sell Americans the “SUV” version (which in some cases is the same car with some cladding and stupid wheels) for a lot more money?

  2. I have long been a fan of two door cars, but loading two generations worth of car seats into the back of cars has made me aware of the advantages of four doors. Additionally, I have a relatively narrow garage and appreciate that fact that four door cars have shorter doors than two door cars.

  3. Yes please! I don’t mind the shape of these things too much, but not everyone needs 4 doors. And I love the pillarless hardtop look, though I worry if it could be done in a way to satisfy the safety nannies.

    Oooh – two doors and two seats! Then you can run a stiffener/bulkhead behind the seats, have more cargo room, and four opening windows!

    They’d sell… dozens. Rats. Ok, maybe not.

    1. One of my favorite cars ever was my 6th-gen Civic, a 2000 CX hatchback. Two doors plus a nearly-vertical hatch, call it three doors, whatever. I *always* drove it with the rear seat folded down. Update that to 2023 standards with 200 HP, three pedals and a six-speed stick, an Acura-quality soft-touch interior and power seats with four-way lumbar support, and that is my ideal new car. Yes, they would sell *dozens*.

    1. Cheap Bastard- I do know what you are saying, and I fully agree that coupes aren’t for everyone. But they could be for some…we just don’t have a choice now.

      It’s much about image. I don’t believe that everyone that buys pickups (or Jeeps) really needs them, but they compromise what they really need because they like the image.

      The rear doors also help on the truck since there is no standard ‘trunk’ and you throw a lot in the back seat

      1. Don’t forget that businesses in a lot of locations have shrunk the sizes of their parking spaces. There are several places that I frequent that have narrower spaces than they did 30 years ago. Things are pretty tight with my Flex doors at times. I would hate to think about how tight it would be with a two door version.

        I do like the look of a true coupe, and no you silly Germans, calling a 4 door a gran coupe does not make it a coupe, and now that my son is on the verge of fledging and leaving the nest, my next car may be some form of coupe such as a Challenger.

        1. Brooks- If Toyota did one of these they could implement that hinge they used on the SC300/400 that allowed the door to open more at the front (they might still be using this on the LC..if not they should).

  4. It is surprising to me how unpopular 2-door cars have become. I personally love them and have only owned 2-doors, but few others in my life feel the same way.

    Right when I graduated college, I was surprised to see that all of my peers were buying what I called “default sedans”. These were cars that weren’t particularly exciting — just “some car” — Altimas and Malibus, and Sonatas, and Accords and such. With everyone being childless and most single, the rear doors rarely saw any use, but sedans were still the default. Then, as they started families, everyone seemed to trade up to an SUV or crossover… y’know… because they needed “something bigger” to fit a child seat, even though child seats have been fitting in sedans for decades.

    At the other end of the age spectrum, I see retirees buying SUVs not because they need the space for passengers or cargo but because they’re so much easier to get in and out of [you know]. The back doors are still rarely used, but this demographic goes for the SUV body style because nobody makes anything that’s both tall and small. Your SUV coupe would be ideal for a driver in this situation.

    1. I disagree. Car seats have not been fitting in sedans for decades. When my second child was about to be born (7 yrs ago) I needed a vehicle that could fit a car seat in the back that was rear-facing behind the passenger seats (vs having one seat placed in the back center sticking between the front seats). To shop, I went the to local Carmax to view multiples cars without being pestered about buying one. I took the carseat out of my truck and brought it into the dealership and proceeded to try it in everything. To test the fit, I adjusted the passenger seat of each car with my knees against the deash (6′ 0″), knowing my wife being shorter than me would have enough room to be comfortable. Then checked the fit of my kid’s carseat. No Camry, Forester, Accord, Sonata (there wasn’t a ford or dodge to test) would fit without the seats riding on each other. That is a deal breaker with kids throwing a tantrum at times in a carseat. The only car that had clearance was a Chevy Impala.

      True, my wife may be taller than most women, but this was my experience.

  5. Didn’t Mini try this with the Paceman? And I recall it didn’t sell well at all. Maybe it was just the wrong time and market position or whatever. But it would be interesting to see the return of the “personal luxury coupe” in the form of an SUV or crossover. I still wouldn’t buy one, but it would be an interesting way of history repeating itself.

  6. if they were to make a fully open hardtop like that it might happen, but roll down rear windows never happened on a Challenger and that thing is as retro as it gets. probably some rollover roof strength issue I imagine

  7. Mr. Bishop:
    Not sure how to offer suggestions for quirky design studies, so I thought I’d share mine here. Seems to me like it could be fun (but maybe merely miserable?)
    Question: If Chrysler were still making the PT Cruiser, what would it look like? (I may save you some work: the snide & lazy response is, “It would look exactly like the 2010 model!” Har, har!)
    Seriously: everything these days is a crossover, and everything has an angry face. (And everything is only available in some shade of gray.)
    But what would Chrysler’s designers do to produce a grumpy, aggressive crossover when saddled with the PT’s legacy of retro-ness?
    (Confessions: I own two of ’em, and will soon attempt a DIY front suspension service in an attempt to keep my DD on the road.)

  8. I don’t see it. Not many people buy crossovers for the prestige or cool-factor, they buy them because they do a decent job at all the things people want a car to do, one of which is hauling people and stuff. Making them less practical would limit the appeal, and again who really buys a crossover for the sex appeal?

    Now, in the luxury market we do see crossovers trying to look sexy. The whole “coupe SUV” concept is basically just a crossover with a swoopier roof. You’ll note though that nobody actually deletes the rear doors, because that would make the car less usable. Nobody really cares about the four-door look anyway, just the silhouette.

  9. One of these days the team behind the Renault Avantime will be vindicated! For that matter, words need to be had with Land Rover for giving up on the 2 door Range Rover concept from a few years ago.

    That said, I think the market is pretty content for now with the fake coupe (four door with a stupid roofline) crossover.

  10. I do miss the huge doors of two-door coupes, but in no way enough to actually buy something that has a back seat large enough for adults.

    Modern CAD and sheet metal forming has already solved the problem in a much better way.

    Rear doors integrated into the rear quarter panel is the solution that will almost always be worth the effort and almost fully negates the desire for a two door SUV.

  11. Totally. Your recent coupe rendering of an alt reality Ford Torino looked very much like what a current real reality Ford Puma would look like as a coupe. And it was damn fine.

    But if we can’t have coupe crossovers, I find just lowering the overall height a little makes a world of difference for me. Squashing the crossover as it were.

    Crossovers still largely have SUV proportions and while I hear all the time “it’s great to sit up high”, I don’t think that’s the big reason why they sell…I think it’s the space and ease of using it. A squashed crossover gives most of that with a vastly more appealing silhouette.

    Good piece of evidence is the Chinese-market Ford Evos. Not as low as a sedan but not as tall as a crossover (that white space thing Ford keeps talking about). The more I look at it, the more I like it – come on Ford, Fusion Active it already!!

  12. Well as the original owner of a 2001 Isuzu Vehicross that was strictly 2 door, and prior to that an Isuzu Amigo another 2 door SUV, I agree they look better. The Amigo didn’t come with back seats and I removed the Vehicross rear seats for cargo space and they were never sat on. Now Vehicross is a brilliant yellow the Amigo a cool medium blue.

  13. I don’t know that SUVs in general need 2 door versions. I find the rear doors on my CX-5 to be handy for cargo handling and access.

    Now let’s talk about smaller cars and their goofy tiny four doors. I think once you get down to a certain size 2 doors are much more useful, better visibility and better design looks. Would be curious to see what the smaller SUVs would look like as coupes, like the former CX-3.

  14. Bishop, I think your rendering looks fantastic but feel the coupe “Halo” Crossover would work better on a smaller model. Perhaps the soon to be released CX60 on the rear drive platform with mild hybrid straight 6 turbo goodness could work?

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