Generally, a vehicle subscribes to a certain category, a segment or class of automobile that is almost assured to sell to a specific demographic of buyer. There are exceptions of course, but like everything else, there are people who fall between — and automakers who make the effort to cater to them.
An SUV is often an SUV; a coupe is often a coupe. But for some, the perfect vehicle might lie between those two designations, and every once in a while, engineers are given the green light to experiment a little bit. The results are sometimes met with success, and sometimes not, but the point is that they were tried in the first place.
Here are six cars that seem to be born out of this process, as an attempt to address that small minority of people who want an SUV that isn’t just an SUV, or a coupe that’s more than a coupe. They’re hard to categorize, and sometimes hard to determine what the engineers were thinking, but it’s assured that they’ll add some unique spice to the status quo.
This is by no means a comprehensive list — let us know what we left off in the comments below!
1. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a Frankenstein car, as it takes to concepts on polar ends of the spectrum — in this case, a convertible and SUV — and stitches them together with varied results. Say what you will about Nissan’s unusual offerings, but they are one of the few companies taking risks on odd vehicles like this one, or the Juke, or the Cube.
In the case of the Murano, the idea seems to be mixing the open-air enjoyment of a convertible with the high ride height, cargo capacity, and posture of an SUV. Though reviews have said the Murano isn’t the worst car they’ve driven, it seems to fall short of its mission — instead offer the cumbersome nature of an SUV, with the practical nature of a convertible. Odd though it might be, we certainly commend Nissan for taking a stab at such an unlikely marriage of ideas.
2. Honda CR-Z
A combination of a sports-hatch and hybrid sounds like a perfect match, on paper: the fun, maneuverability, and handling of a small hatchback, combined with the increased efficiency of a hybrid system, plus its silky smooth acceleration. The Honda (HMC) CR-Z created quite a buzz before its release, but in practice, it turned out to be a bit less than what people had in mind. It isn’t as sporty as a hot hatch, but isn’t as efficient as a hybrid of its size should be, either. However, we think there’s a ton of potential for this car, but Honda will have to decide which direction to take it in: sporty or efficient. We’re hoping for the former.
3. Subaru XV Crosstrek
The Subaru Crosstrek is a good example of a confused vehicle gone right. It has the profile of a hatchback, the ground clearance of a small SUV, and is designated as being a compact crossover — whatever it’s classified is, it’s selling. And damn well, too — in February, Subaru sold 5,489 Crosstreks, over 68 percent more than it sold in February of last year. While the Outbac, and the Forester too, to some extent, have swelled in size of the years, we’re sincerely hoping the the Crosstrek remains its miniature proportions to appease those who have a passion for the outdoors, but don’t need acres of interior space.
4. Cadillac ELR
While the Cadillac (NYSE:GM) ELR commands the looks and price of a powerful touring coupe, its performance under the hood suggests otherwise. Luxury coupes can often boast in the ballpark of 400-500 horsepower; the ELR has about half of that, and while it may be one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars on the market, Cadillac’s attempt to reconcile luxury with efficiency has been met with underwhelming response.
Luxury often goes hand in hand with power and performance, so GM’s blazing of new ground with the ELR, while noble, leaves the Cadillac with a bit of an identity complex. While there are many who would appreciate a fuel-efficient car guised in luxurious trappings, there are few who would pay $75,000 for it — and fewer still given that the ELR has the horsepower equivalent to a low-end Chevy Malibu. Cadillac should shoot for one or the other — a green luxury car, or a sports coupe — but the ELR’s combination of both is lacking in key areas.
5. Acura ZDX
The Acura ZDX is representative of a whole segment of cars, initially made popular by BMW’s X6. These vehicles are made unique by their SUV roots, but with the raked, coupe-like rear that — like the Murano — makes the vehicle into something it’s not. It still handles like an SUV and drives like an SUV, but with the diminished cargo capacity in the back and performance that isn’t drastically different than the utility vehicle on which its based.
While BMW’s X6 found itself a niche crowd, the ZDX wasn’t so lucky and is being put out of production. The German company, however, has seemingly found success with these vehicular blends, as it is prepping the release of the smaller X4, further pushing the limits of what consumer are actually looking for in a vehicle — the ZDX and the X6 seem to be the answers to questions that no one was really asking.
6. BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe
To start, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a beautiful car. It’s essentially what the 3 Series should be, but it finds itself on this list simply because of the confusing strategy that BMW is applying to its product range. Initially meant to separate the sedans (3 Series) from the Coupes (4 Series), Bimmer’s new numeric system showed promise — until it released the four-doored 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is essentially a 4 Series sedan, albeit one with a sleeker profile than the 3 Series.
This leaves the Gran Coupe in an awkward spot of appealing to those who are looking for coupe styling, but need four doors, but are willing to pay more rather than settle for BMW’s popular 3 Series. We’ve already discussed how the Gran Coupe should have been the 3 Series sedan, but it still doesn’t satisfy the Coupe’s mixed identity.