The two cars seen above may not, at first glance, have anything to do with each other. The one on top is a 1949 Nash Airflyte 4-door sedan, the car on bottom is a new BMW concept, the CS. ("C" stands for coupe while "S" represents sedan.) What they do share, however, is a roof shaped in a continuous, uninterrupted line from windshield to rear bumper. What's new is what's old… again.
In the 1940's and early 50's all GM brands plus Chrysler, Packard, Lincoln, Nash and even Tucker offered what was known as a "fastback" body style; an alternative to bustle-back sedans with their visible. Well, friends, it seems the fastback is back in fashion as manufacturers attempt to combine the sleek lines of a coupe with the practicality of a 4-door sedan.
Mercedes was first off the line with its CLS 4-door, but Volkswagen will be unveiling a 4-door coupe version of the Passat in the fall and Audi is said to be close behind with an A5 Sportback. Later Sportbacks will include A3 and A7 versions. No word on exactly when the BMW CS will arrive but it's a sure bet as the Munich Machine seems determined to match its rivals, segment by segment. There is even a rumour that Jaguar is planning a coupe/sedan for its new XJ series.
These cars are sleek in a way that their long-ago predecessors would have called streamlined, though nobody uses that word these days. But are they really practical? Not if you're a passenger struggling to get into the back seat, deprived of headroom by the low roof and denied a decent view thanks to narrow gunslit windows. Perhaps that's why I doubt American manufacturers will follow the Germans in this trend. Not that we North Americans are any less excited by dynamic styling but we're motivated differently. With no Autobahns to navigate, we regard the 4-door sedan as a utilitarian vehicle. That's what killed the fastback.
[Nash Photo: John Nicoletti/CS Photo: BMW]