GRAND TOURERS & SPORTS SEDAN/SALOON
One of my favourites but possibly the hardest to pin down. GT is an acronym for Grand Tourer, itself based on the Italian term "Gran Turismo". What does appear consistent about GT cars is that they are considered luxury automobiles capable of high speed and spirited long distance driving. Specifically where levels of refinement, spaciousness and comfort leave the driver and passengers unfatigued after many hours of travel. They should be both exciting to look at and drive. They have a useful luggage capacity, the chassis/suspension setup should easily cope with all road conditions and they should comfortably seat 2 passengers. Generally they are front-engined and rear wheel drive. They usually are but not limited to two doors and this is where the confusion starts. Manufacturers have muddied the waters by applying GT badges across many divergent types of vehicles.
My first exposure to the GT moniker stems from the mid 70's where the term was applied to a famous Australian Ford Coupe, the XB GT351. The XB was truly an epic vehicle, it was definitely capable of a stress free Grand Tour and on paper it possessed all the GT credentials. It was fast, luxurious, had a large capacity V8 engine and could seat four comfortably but it was also considered a muscle car.
The GT badge implies levels of sophistication and performance that is far superior to your average passenger vehicle and can be applied to limited series high performance versions of what is otherwise a conventional model.
In Australia we're still seeing this formula being applied to the regular Ford Falcon family sedan, where limited runs are produced by FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) as the high performance Ford GT, unquestionably it qualifies as a Grand Tourer in every sense.
Maybe the clearest way to explain GT cars is to talk about the 2016 Aston Martin Vanquish and the 2016 Kia Optima GT. One is a GT and one is not. There is not a single GT badge to be seen on the Aston Martin but it is arguably one of the best Grand Tourers available. The Kia on the other hand does wear the GT moniker and while it definitely is a higher performing version of the standard vehicle it doesn't really possess the power and handling required to qualify. It's a case where the marketing and reality of the product don't meet.
We pretty much take owning a car for granted these days but it wasn't that long ago that when you had a car in the first place, this meant you stood out from the crowd. As car ownership became mainstream with every man and his dog owning a motor vehicle, the marketing gurus had to think of new ways to entice buyers to their brand.
One concept was to come up with the Sports Sedan/Saloon, where you took what was basically a standard family car and fitted it with some "go faster" bits, whacked on an aero kit of some sort and then called it a Sports Saloon (or SS for short).
In Australia we've been doing it for decades. The 1972 Holden HQ Kingswood came out as an SS edition, complete with lurid body colours like Barbados Green, go fast stripes, SS badges, fake guard vents and alloys wheels. Along with a 4.2 litre V8 engine with either a 4 speed manual or 3 speed auto transmission. It really looked the part and it didn't matter that your mate could buy the standard Kingswood to the exact same mechanical spec... yours looked sporty and that's what counted.
So, early on in the evolution of the Sports Sedan/Saloon they were in reality just makeovers. They gave the punters a chance to own something different from their peers.
Times have moved on and so have the expectations of the Sports Sedan/Saloon. Today the class is not only expected to look the part, they have to play it too. To qualify as a Sports Sedan, performance and handling should be in another category altogether from the vehicle they are based on. So in essence they are generally considered to be high performance 4 door vehicles, with precise handling, strong braking characteristics but still be based on their standard versions.
You only need to look at BMW and Subaru as two prime examples. The Subaru Impreza that the WRX STi is based on is poles apart as far as handling and performance are concerned. While the BMW M3 based on the standard 3 series sedan is probably considered the king of the Sports Sedan category.