Coupes are an endangered species. Nowadays they seem only relegated to fun, enthusiast models. Cars like the Subaru BRZ, Toyota Supra and Porsche 911 luckily continue to exist because people like us buy them.
It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, there were coupes that existed across the automotive spectrum. From personal luxury coupes, to entry level coupes, to coupes based on family sedans, there used to be something for everyone. Let’s take a moment to reflect on a few of these models that, depending on how old you are, you may have forgotten existed or didn’t know existed at all.
Those that are familiar with the Chevy Monte Carlo may fondly remember the fourth-gen Monte Carlo SS from the 1980s, or the V8 powered, NASCAR-styled front-wheel drive sixth-gen Monte Carlo from the 2000s. One generation that’s less remembered is the fourth generation.
Only on sale for four years, this generation of Monte Carlo debuted for the 1995 model year. It was heavily based on the Lumina sedan, which is to say that it was essentially a Lumina coupe (which is why it was introduced for 1995, the same year the Lumina sedan received a redesign). It had clean lines, but it was boring. It only came in two trims with two engine options: the base LS with its 160 horsepower, 3.1-liter V6, or the “performance” oriented Z34. The Z34 came with a 3.4-liter, 215 hp V6; 1998 saw the 3800 V6 with 200 hp replace the 3.4.
Toyota Camry Solara
Born during the days when family sedans had coupe versions, the Camry Coupe became the Camry Solara for the 1998 model year. Toyota wanted to appeal to people who wanted the practical spaciousness of the Camry but also wanted something more fun to drive. A redesign came in 2003 that gave it more distinctive, sportier styling to further set it apart from the Camry. Power came from either a base 2.4-liter I4 or a 3.3 V6. Surprisingly, both a manual and convertible were offered on both generations before it was axed in 2009 due to falling sales.
Ford Escort ZX2
There had always been an Escort two-door or three-door hatchback. However, 1997 rolled around, and Ford found itself wanting to appeal to younger buyers. So the brand introduced a new Escort coupe called the Escort ZX2. It was a peppy little coupe meant to replace the Escort GT and appeal to young Gen X buyers. Power came from Ford’s 2.0-liter, 130-hp Ztech engine that could be had with a five-speed manual or four-speed auto.
Buyers wanting a little more performance could go for the Escort ZX2 S/R. Meant to compete with the likes of the Dodge Neon ACR and Honda Civic Si, the S/R was a $1,500 performance package that got you some serious goodies like a sport tuned suspension, a Roush intake and a stronger clutch. It was rare, too, with only 2,110 ever made. The ZX2 itself was discontinued in 2003 when it was replaced by the Focus. Speaking of which...
Second-Generation Ford Focus Coupe
Ford did things with the second generation Focus that made no sense. The first generation — which replaced the Escort/ZX2 — was meant to be a true world car and stop Ford from favoring Europe with products that were better than ones in its home country. Ford undid all of that with the second generation Focus, which did the very thing Ford wanted to do away with on the first gen: it gave Europe a superior vehicle.
While Europe gained an all-new Focus (with premium models like the first Focus RS and a folding metal hardtop Focus cabriolet), North America had to make do with a terribly restyled Focus that was just a reskinned first gen. It did away with the three- and five-door hatch and wagon body styles for a sedan and awkwardly styled coupe. This generation was replaced in 2010 when Ford decided to offer a single Focus for the entire world yet again.
Mini has always been successful at selling different variants of the iconic Cooper. There have been a few low points with the brand, though. One of them was the Mini Coupe. Debuting in 2011 for the 2012 model year, Mini designers went with a curved low slung roof for the Coupe resulting in... awkward looking styling. Viewed from the rear, the Coupe still had the standard Cooper’s squared-off rear deck, emphasizing the awkwardness of the styling even more. That roof also came at the expense of interior head room and space; the Coupe was the first and only two seater Mini. Unsurprisingly, not many were sold and both it and its Roadster sibling were dropped in 2015 after less than 8,000 sales.
Hyundai Elantra Coupe
One of the few instances of Hyundai trying things out with different variants of its Elantra compact sedan, the automaker introduced an Elantra Coupe for the 2013 model year. The coupes introduction coincided with a refresh of the fifth generation Elantra, so the coupe gained “sportier” styling vs. its sedan brother. While it certainly looked sporty enough, its performance was lacking. You could have the Elantra Coupe with a six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed auto was optional), but the only engine choice was a 2.0-liter, 148-hp I4. The Elantra Coupe was on sale just two years before it was dropped in 2014 due to low sales.
Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
The Dodge Daytona was a typical late 1980s sports coupe made by the Chrysler Corporation. When it was introduced in 1984 it replaced the Mitsubishi based Challenger. While it was a capable performer with its turbocharged Chrysler K- Series engine in Turbo Z trims, the Daytona you really wanted was the rare IROC R/T.
The IROC R/T was a true performer. Dodge took its 2.2-liter Turbo III engine to Lotus, who designed the engine’s cylinder heads and ignition system resulting in 224 hp. You also got a five-speed manual transmission, and aero bodywork. Less than 500 were ever made before it, and the rest of the Daytona lineup were dropped and replaced by the Avenger in 1995.
Nissan Altima Coupe
Another model from the era of family sedan-based coupes, the Altima Coupe debuted in 2006 for the ‘07 model year. While the front fascia was all fourth-gen Altima, the rear and side styling of the car wore sporty, almost Infiniti-like styling. Nissan did the Altima Coupe a bit of a solid with performance. Base Altima Coupes came with the 2.5-liter I4. If you wanted a bit more driving fun, you could also have the 3.5-liter, 270-hp V6, a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential as an option. Unfortunately if you didn’t spring for the V6, you were stuck with a CVT.
The Altima Coupe was dropped in 2013 when the sedan received a redesign.
Cadillac ATS Coupe
The ATS took Cadillac even closer to legitimately taking on the BMW 3 Series as a luxury sports competitor. But the segment had variants like coupes, convertibles and wagons. So Cadillac introduced the ATS Coupe for the 2015 model year. A tiny bit longer and wider than the ATS sedan, every panel aside from the hood was unique to the coupe.
Cadillac had enthusiasts in mind with the ATS Coupe, and it showed in its engine choices and standard equipment. While the base ATS sedan was powered by a 2.5-liter I4 that had no business being in a luxury sedan, the ATS Coupe was powered by a 2.0-liter, 272-hp turbo I4 or the optional 321-hp, 3.6-liter V6. You could also got things like standard Brembo brakes, or unique options like all wheel drive (which could be had with each engine) or a six-speed manual (which was only available with the base engine).
The one you really wanted was the ATS-V Coupe which shared the 3.6-liter 488 hp twin-turbo V6 with the ATS-V sedan. The only major downside to the ATS coupe was a near useless backseat that somehow had less rear legroom than competitors. The ATS Coupe was dropped in 2020 when the ATS was replaced by the CT4.
Oldsmobile Alero Coupe
A replacement for the Achieva, which itself was a replacement for the Cutlass Calias, the Alero was Oldsmobile’s entry level car going into the 21st century. While it got unique styling, underneath it was just a GM N-Body, which meant nearly all of its mechanical parts could be found in the Pontiac Grand Am.
While it was also sold as a sedan, there was nothing special about the Alero Coupe. Performance was a snooze-fest too. Buyers could choose between two 2.2-liter Ecotech I4s with either 140- or 150-hp or a 3.4-liter, 170-hp V6 on upper trims. The Alero was discontinued when Oldsmobile was phased out in 2004.
Kia Forte Koup
The Forte Koup (yes that’s how Kia spelled it) was interesting in that it was on the market years before and after its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Elantra Coupe, came and went. The Forte Koup was introduced in 2009 for the 2010 model year. It had a resemblance to the Forte sedan, but it wore more aggressive, sportier styling. The Koup was only available in two trims, base EX and sportier SX. The SX got you body color trim, dual exhaust outlets and 17-inch wheels.
The Koup’s main claim to fame was that it was more powerful and roomier inside than competitors at the time, like the Scion tC, Chevy Cobalt Coupe and Honda Civic Coupe. EX trims got a 2.0-liter I4 with 156 hp that could be paired with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic; SXs came with a 2.4-liter I4 with 173 hp and could be had with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with manual shift mode. The Forte Koup lasted until 2019 when it was dropped when the Forte sedan received its most recent redesign.
In a bid to win over buyers who wanted something that was a bit sportier and better looking than your basic small car, Toyota gave us the Paseo in 1991. It was essentially a better looking Tercel Coupe. That came with a downside for performance as its mechanicals were all Tercel. Power came from a 1.5-liter I4 with just 100 hp; this was reduced by five horsepower for the second generation in 1995. The Paseo continued on until 1999, when it was discontinued.
The Beretta was introduced in 1987 as a sportier, coupe version of the Corsica family sedan (the same thing Chevy would do years later with the Lumina sedan/Monte Carlo coupe). Over its near decade of production, the Beretta was available with a wide range of engines and performance options. Initially, the base engine was a 2.2-liter I4 shared with the Cavalier, or an optional 2.8-liter V6 on GT trims. As the years went on, a 3.1-liter V6 became an option on the GT along with a Z51 suspension package that got you Goodyear Eagle GT tires.
Chevy couldn’t quite figure out what it wanted the Beretta’s performance trim to be, though. For a time, GTU was the ultimate trim of the Beretta until it was replaced by GTZ. The GTZ was the only time Chevrolet saw application of Oldsmobile’s Quad 4 engine with 180 hp. The GTZ also came with a performance tuned suspension and Getrag five-speed manual transmission. The GTZ was replaced with the Z26 in 1994. A 3.1-liter, 160-hp V6 replaced the Quad 4, the only option was a four-speed automatic and it gained sportier exterior body work. The Beretta was discontinued in 1996 after years of declining sales.
Yes, I know the Scirocco left our shores over 30 years ago now. But for this list, we’re focusing on the third-gen Scirocco that was introduced in 2008, the one the U.S. didn’t get. This Scirocco shared a platform with the Mk5 and MK6 Golf, which included engines and transmissions. While the Scirocco could be had with a wide range of engines given its European market, the ones you wanted were the performance versions.
You could have Scirocco R that was powered by a 2.0-liter I4 with 260 hp. It also got bigger air intakes, dual exhaust and a rear diffuser. Or you could have the Scirocco GTS that debuted for 2015. The GTS was essentially a three door GTI. It was powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 217 hp.
VW once considered brining this gen of the Scirocco to the U.S. but initially VW decided against it; it claimed that the Scirocco would eat into GTI sales. Ultimately, the decision against bringing the Scirocco to the U.S. came down to money. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2008, VW’s sales and marketing chief Detlef Wittig said that exchange rates at the time would result in VW not making any money if the Scirocco was sold in North America. VW dropped the model in 2017, also shutting down any speculation or rumors of the model making a return.
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