A coupé, or coupe in North America (from the French past participle coupé, of the infinitive couper, to cut), is a car with a fixed-roof body style that is shorter than a sedan or saloon (British and Irish English) of the same model. The precise definition of the term varies between manufacturers and over time, but often, a coupé will only seat two people and have two doors; though it may have rear seating and rear doors for additional passengers. The term was first applied to 19th-century carriages, where the rear-facing seats had been eliminated, or cut out.
/kuːˈpeɪ/ koo-PAY, the anglicized version of the French spelling of coupé. The American company Chevrolet, in an effort to lend a touch of class to its two-door hardtops during the 1950s to early 1970s, marketed them with the "Sport Coupé" moniker, using the original French pronunciation.
/kuːp/ KOOP, derived from spelling the word without the acute accent and pronounce it as one syllable. This change occurred gradually and before World War II. This pronunciation is more common in the United States,  for example the hot rodders' term Deuce Coupe (DEWSS KOOP) used to refer to a 1932 Ford; this pronunciation is used in the Beach Boys' 1963 hit song, "Little Deuce Coupe".
The origin of the coupé body style come from the berline horse-drawn carriage. In the 18th century, the coupé version of the berline was introduced, which was a shortened ("cut") version with no rear-facing seat. Normally, a coupé had a fixed glass window in the front of the passenger compartment.
The term "berline coupé" was later shortened to "coupé". The coupé was considered to be an ideal vehicle for women to use to go shopping or to make social visits.
The earliest coupé automobiles had the same form as the coupé carriage, with the driver in the open at the front and an enclosure behind him for two passengers on one bench seat. By the 1910s, the term had evolved to denote a two-door car with the driver and up to two passengers in an enclosure with a single bench seat. The coupé de ville, or coupé chauffeur, was an exception, retaining the open driver's section at front.
A coupé is often considered to be a two-door car (with a sedan considered to be a four-door car), however several other definitions also exist.
In 1977, International Standard ISO 3833-1977 defined a coupé as having a closed body, usually with limited rear volume, a fixed roof of which a portion may be openable, at least two seats in at least one row, two side doors and possibly a rear opening, and at least two side windows.
During the 20th century, the term coupé was applied to various close-coupled cars (where the rear seat that is located further forward than usual and the front seat further back than usual).
Manufacturers have used the term coupé in several varieties, including:
A coupé with a larger rear seat, which would today be called a two-door saloon.
A coupe with no rear seat or a removable rear seat intended for traveling salespeople and other vendors who would be carrying their wares with them.
A coupé de-ville with a high roofed passenger compartment such that the owners could be driven to the opera without the need to remove their large hats. These often had occasional seats that folded for use by children or extra passengers, and allowed easy passage to the rear seats. These cars most closely approximated a motorized version of the original horse-drawn coupé. Often, they would have solid rear-quarter panels, with small, circular windows, to enable the occupants to see out without being seen. These opera windows were revived on many U.S. automobiles during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Sports coupé or berlinetta
A body with a sloping roof, sometimes sloping downward gradually in the rear in the manner known as fastback.
A luxury sedan with classic coupé-like proportions. The low roof design reduces back seat passenger access and headroom. The designation was first applied to a low-roof model of the Rover P5 from 1962 until 1973, but was revived by the 1985 Toyota Carina ED, the 1992 Infiniti J30 and finally by the first model 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS, which stands in Mercedes hierarchy between the E and S class, and has the appearance of a classic coupé and sedan.
The term was also used partly from marketing reasons. German press accepted the concept of a four-door coupé and applied it to similar models from other manufacturers such as the 2009 Jaguar XJ. Also, other manufacturers accepted it, producing recent competing models like Volkswagen Passat CC, BMW F06 and even five-door coupé, Audi A7. The organization ADAC on its website also adopted this concept. In Germany, the definition of the coupé was finally divided into the classic coupé and 4-door coupé. This definition and concept of four-door coupé (instead of saloon) are evident in Germany, but they are not widely known in the rest of the world.
Quad coupé is a marketing name for cars with one or two small rear doors with no B pillar.
Today coupé has become more of a marketing term for automotive manufacturers, than a fact of the vehicle's design and technical makeup. The term has been ascribed to vehicles with two, three, or four doors, for their perceived luxury or sporting appeal. This is because coupés in general are seen as more streamlined and sportier overall lines than those of comparable four-door sedans. Hence, a coupé would be marketed as a sportier vehicle than a two-door sedan.
While previous coupés were "simply line-extenders two-door variants of family sedans", some coupés have different sheet metal and styling than their four-door counterparts. The AMC Matador coupé (1974-1978), had a distinct design and styling, sharing almost nothing with the 4-door versions. Similarly, the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus coupés and sedans (late-1990 through 2000s), had little in common except their names, with the coupés engineered by Mitsubishi and built in Illinois, while the sedans were developed by Chrysler and built in Michigan.
Even two-door cars with a backseat are now being referred to as "sedans" in which the terms "coupé" and "sedan" are used interchangeably. Two-door sedans with front bench seating have phased out with the 1995-99 Chevrolet Monte Carlo being the last model to offer it.
However, two-door cars in general have fallen in popularity, with the popular exception of convertibles and two-seat roadsters. Sedans, pickup trucks and SUVs/station wagons have had fewer two-door models (especially ones with backseats) in recent years since the cost of four-door cars has gone down along with engineering to ease access to the back seat area.
^Technical Committee ISO/TC22, Road vehicles (1976), written at Geneva, Switzerland, ISO 3833-1977: Road vehicles – Types – Terms and definitions (ISO International Standard) (Second ed.), Switzerland: International Organization for Standardization (published 1977-12-01), Clause 22.214.171.124
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