Mark Twain said that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. In the case of the coupe’s declining sales health, less exaggeration is required.
This is particularly true in the affordable midsize slot. Ford and Chevy don’t build coupe versions of their midsize family sedans anymore. Toyota and Honda got out of the game more recently. For the sake of this piece, which is about coupes with a backseat that adults can sit in, I could find only one popularly priced midsize coupe — the Dodge Challenger. The rest of this endangered species persists largely in refuges at the high and low ends of the market.
The coupe, of course, always took a marketing backseat to the more practical sedan, but had a styling advantage that ingratiated it to its clientele. That edge was eroded, however, as sedans began to adopt the coupe’s prettier, sportier silhouette.
But the coupe remains an intrinsically attractive genre, and if you don’t have a steady stream of back benchers, it’s a nifty way to go.
We’ll leave out the really expensive iron, like the exquisite Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe I recently tested (base price: $61,400), and concentrate on more affordable rides — those ranging from the teens to the mid-30s. Here’s a sampling along with their base model prices:
The Teutonic trio (Audi, BMW, and Mercedes) all have offerings in this category, but the Audi A5, with a starting tag of $42,800, had to be left in the garage.
Both the qualifying coupes — the front-drive Mercedes CLA ($32,700) and the rear-drive BMW 230i ($34,800) — are comely, nicely equipped steeds powered by 2-liter turbos.
The Benz extracts 208 horsepower from its four-banger, and feeds it to the drive wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The EPA mileage ratings come in at a quite presentable 24 city and 37 highway.
The Bimmer gets 40 more horsepower from its engine — which is buttoned to an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual — but slightly less fuel economy (24 city and 35 highway).
Both cars handle, steer, and brake well, and ride firmly but not uncomfortably.
The Dodge Challenger SXT ($26,995) is all she wrote in this segment. The base SXT isn’t the 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat, but then it doesn’t cost $63,795 and need a fillup at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime.
Fact is, this good-looking rear-driver is more than adequately powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 that develops 305 horses and delivers respectable EPAs of 19 city and 30 highway via an eight-speed automatic.
Affordable sport coupes
The Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback ($25,585) and the Chevy Camaro LS ($25,905) are a snug adult fit in the backseat, but I think there’s enough legroom in these large compacts to qualify them for this roundup.
These are two eye-catching rides that handle as well as they look. True, these base models don’t have the grunt and exhaust note of their legendary (and more expensive) V-8 powered siblings. But their torque-rich, direct-injected turbos are still sprightly business.
The rear-drive Mustang derives 310 horsepower from its 2.3-liter four. The Camaro, also a rear-driver, exacts 275 horses from its 2-liter four. Both of these base cars are fitted with six-speed manuals. Oddly enough, the Mustang, despite the fact its engine is larger and more powerful, gets better EPAs (21 city and 31 highway vs. the Camaro’s 20 and 30).
The Honda Civic LX ($19,250) is a nicely realized, particularly handsome automobile. And while it isn’t as fast as the performance-minded Civic models, its 2-liter, 158-horsepower engine and six-speed manual team up for decent performance and nice EPAs of 28 city and 39 highway.