Car WTFs

BMW Attempting To Literally Redefine ‘Coupe’ With Four-Door Gran Coupe? Well, Not Exactly

Car WTFs

John is a full-time automotive blogger who digs cars, but also spends a disturbing amount of time watching and reading about movies. His first car was a maroon 1993 Buick Skylark which, after a solid seven-year run, was laid to rest in August of 2013.

When the all-new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe first made its debut, it caused quite the clusterfuck. Especially here in the states. Allow me to explain. The Gran Coupe—which has four doors, mind you—is the “coupe” variation of the BMW 3 Series—which also has four doors. Makes a whole lot of sense, right? Well, it actually does, but before we get deeper into it, I’ll have to confuse you just a bit more.

Let’s take a look at the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of coupe:

coupe (\kü-ˈpā, 2 often ˈküp\) n. 1. a four-wheeled closed horse-drawn carriage for two persons inside with an outside seat for the driver in front. 2. usually coupe: a 2-door automobile often seating only two persons; also: one with a tight-spaced rear seat.

As you can see, there is absolutely no mention of four doors. The definition clearly states that a coupe is a vehicle with two doors. If that’s the case, why then does the coupe designation of the four door BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe make sense? The answer is actually quite simple.

The German automaker does not use the Merriam Webster dictionary definition.

Crack open the French dictionary that you likely don’t own and find the meaning of the word coupe. The first thing you’ll notice is the acute accent over the e. Not only is the word defined differently, it’s also pronounced differently. While us lazy Americans say “coop” the French variation of the word sounds more like “toupee.” Once you master that and move onto the actual definition, you will find that there is zero mention of doors or horse-drawn carriages. Instead you will find a single word: cut.

That’s right. The coupe designation has nothing to do with amount of doors. Instead, it reiterates the fact that the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a sleeker, more cut version of the 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series Sedan vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe


The difference isn’t significant, but it is there if you look close enough.

The Gran Coupe is longer and wider by a fraction of an inch in both directions, it’s shorter than the 3 Series that it’s based on, and it also has a lower, more athletic stance. Also, lending to its coupe-like silhouette is a longer roofline that slopes down at a sharper angle than the roof of the 3. While seemingly subtle on their own, when combined, the design elements of the Gran Coupe seem to be enough to qualify the four-door as a more cut version of the 3 Series.

Beyond the slight change in appearance, however, there isn’t much of a difference between the 3 Series Sedan and the Gran Coupe model of the 4 Series. The powertrain options are identical and the prices are nearly the same, save for a couple thousand dollars. For that reason it doesn’t really seem that the “sleeker, more cut version” of the 3 Series is really necessary, but in all honesty, with the two side by side, I’d take the Gran Coupe anyday. The differences between the two models are not major, but the exterior changes are enough to give the Gran Coupe more of a commanding presence than the 3 Series Sedan.

In my typical fashion, I was about ready to bash BMW when I discovered that they were literally trying to redefine the coupe, but it turns out that I was in the wrong. It’s really not much of a surprise that a foreign automaker is using something other than the English definition of the word, but it would have been nice if BMW threw out a disclaimer or something of the sort. Especially for all of our stubborn and uncompromising American minds.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected so much from the automaker that has an insanely-extensive track record of confusion. Let’s just be thankful that “convertible” has the same definition in France that it does in the states.

View Comments (2)


  1. Richard Nygaard

    May 30, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Nice writing, something fairly mundane made humorous and interesting. First stop here, I’ll be back (no accent, Austrian or otherwise).

  2. Nope

    Dec 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    It’s not a coupe. I don’t care what any dictionary definition is, the automotive definition is not a four door car. A slight difference in dimensions does not a coupe make. They are not trying to “redefine” anything, they are just using a word which has a perfectly well understood use as a mere marketing term. It’s not a coupe, it’s a sedan.

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