Two-door coupes are sportier looking than four-door sedans. And, judging by their popularity, many people apparently feel that the racy looks outweigh any inconveniences, such as longer, heavier doors that are harder to keep open when entering or exiting.
General Motors is offering a new line of medium-sized, front-wheel-drive cars this year that are available only as two-door coupes. Two of the new models, a Buick Somerset Regal and an Oldsmobile Calais, were tested by Consumer Reports auto engineers.
The Regal and Calais are somewhat smaller than other medium-sized GM models.
The Regal was equipped with a standard four-cylinder engine and regular suspension; the Calais, with an optional V-6 and optional suspension -- part of GM's "firm ride and handling" package.
When equipped with popular options, including automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering column, rear-window defroster and stereo radio, the Regal was priced at about $10,900, including destination charge.
The Calais, with those options as well as its optional V-6 engine, firm ride package, aluminum wheels and stereo radio with a cassette deck, costs about $700 more.
Both GM coupes tested out well. They started and ran perfectly and accelerated smartly. (The auto engineers say that acceleration with the optional V-6 engine in the Calais is very spirited. But jack-rabbit starts on slick surfaces should be avoided; it's too easy to make the wheels spin.)
Fuel economy in the Regal was good, delivering an average of 27 miles per gallon overall. The Calais tested had lower fuel economy, at an average of 23 mpg overall (largely due to the optional V-6 engine).
Both cars handled nearly as well as a good sports sedan. The optional suspension in the Calais helped it snake through the auto engineers' pylon course faster and cleaner than the Regal, and made it even more accurately controllable around the track. But they both delivered a busy, small-car ride.
The seating in both the Regal and the Calais cars was uncomfortable. The auto engineers said the front seats were thinly padded, low, narrow and insufficiently angled upward at the front to provide good thigh support. Rear seating in both cars was cramped and uncomfortable for two adults and worse for three.
Despite the cars' high overall test scores, Consumer Reports auto engineers say that the new models are a gamble. In recent years, new GM cars have proved decidedly unreliable in their first year of production.
However, in most lines, General Motors has worked out some of the bugs in later years. The auto engineers think it best that you wait a year or more before you consider buying one of the new GM coupes.