If it’s not an SUV, it won’t sell. That’s the message marketing experts and product planners are sending to senior auto industry execs around the globe. Sales of conventional three-box sedans are plummeting, with those of minivans and mainstream sports cars not far behind. Against this background, automakers have identified four- and five-door (hatchback) coupes as The Next Big Thing for consumers who don’t want to drive an SUV.
This time, however, they’re not only focusing on high-end models like Audi A7, BMW 6 Series GranCoupe, and Mercedes-Benz CLS, but affordable, mainstream models like the striking Hyundai i30 coupe concept set to be unveiled at the Paris Show. Others will follow: Volkswagen’s MkII Passat CC appears in 2017, Kia’s long-awaited five-door coupe GT is nearly ready, and BMW has a 2 Series GranCoupe coming.
Meanwhile, Audi has signed off a smaller Sportcoupe derived from the next A3. Inspired by the 2014 Paris Show car, the good-looking four-seater will be roomier than the concept, and should also be available in 400hp RS guise. Audi is also working on coupe based on the all-electric hardware previewed in the Q6 e-tron. Expect two different power packs, one rated at 95 (Sport) and the other at 105kWh (RS) and a launch date early in the next decade.
Daimler has also greenlit a number of four- and five-door coupes. The four-door Mercedes-AMG coupe, codenamed X290, will appear in 2018. X290 will not be based on AMG GT hardware, but will be built off the new E-class platform, and closely related to the forthcoming third-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door coupe. The five-door X290 features AMG’s new vertical bar grille, a long sexy roofline, and a chunky tail with trademark graphics. The next-gen CLS wagon has been axed to make room for the AMG five-door coupe.
Also killed off: The S-Class coupe and convertible, after just one generation. Why? The S-Class drop-drop is stealing sales from the more profitable SL, and the hardtop will be replaced by a four-door S-Class coupe, codenamed C227, in 2021. And as it puts the finishing touches on planning for the next-generation C-Class, codenamed W206, Mercedes is also working on a coupe/hatchback/wagon hybrid to be called the CLC. Said to be roomier than the Audi A5 and prettier than BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, the CLC arrives in 2022. It will be offered with efficient four-cylinder engines, and a plug-in hybrid version will be available.
Sadly, BMW’s sleek 2 Series five-door coupe won’t be rear drive. Instead, it will be based on the FWD/AWD platform used by Mini and for the BMW X1. Although there was a time when BMW was the performance leader of the German pack, the 280-hp 2 Series GranCoupe will face the 400-hp A3 Sportcoupe and the 408-hp CLA 45AMG.
Munich seems oddly out of step with its rivals in other ways. The next-generation 4series GranCoupe is due in 2021, but insiders are still debating whether to merge it with the confusingly similar 3 Series GT. Meanwhile, the 6 Series GranCoupe is due to bite the dust when the 6 Series two-doors are replaced by the more up-market 8 Series Coupe and Convertible. Ironically, the 8 Series twins, due 2019 and 2020, were supposed to make life more difficult for the two-door S-Class models, cars that are now supposedly going away to make room for…a four-door coupe.
The 6 Series GranCoupe designation will survive, but is to be transferred to the follow-up of the ho-hum 5 Series GT due late next year, sources say. And an 8 Series GranCoupe hasn’t been under consideration for fear it might cannibalize 7 Series sedan sales. Now that Mercedes has made its move, however, it will be interesting to see how long that line of thinking lasts in Munich.