Without mentioning any names (cough, Audi A7, ahem, BMW 6-series Gran Coupé), Mercedes refers to the four-door CLS as a “template for numerous copycat designs” and expects this wagon variant to be the same again. It might have a point. It has had to scratch quite hard to uncover this particular niche, but with a healthy selling price, no niche is too small, if you can reduce development costs by borrowing from elsewhere within the range.
That is precisely what the Shooting Brake does, adding little other than taller bodywork to the rear of the four-door CLS, which itself borrows rather heavily from an E-class that was renewed not long before the Mk2 CLS’s 2010 introduction.
We’re still unconvinced that this generation of CLS matches the sleekness and elegance of its predecessor, but the Shooting Brake is arguably an improvement on the saloon. “Every genuine car legend appeals equally to the heart and mind,” says Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche, apparently without any intent to exaggerate. We wouldn’t put a CLS in the ‘legend’ bracket in its appeal, but it’s attractive enough. The rear overhang borders on the clumsy, in the view of some testers, but just as many were won over by the smooth grace of the upper window line.
The CLS Shooting Brake is the largest car spawned from this platform. Significant use of aluminium in its panels aims to hide that from the scales. It’s just 44mm short of being a five-metre-long car, and 16mm longer than the four-door. Neither E-class saloon (4868mm) nor estate (4895mm) broaches 4.9m, so it is perhaps no surprise that the CLS has a boot capacity of at least 590 litres.
Beneath the skin, the CLS rather more closely mirrors the mechanical layout of the E-class. Five engine options – two diesels and three petrols – make up the range. Ours was the more powerful diesel, the CLS350 CDI. All engines are mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is three-link at the front, multi-link at the rear, and while coil springs are standard all round on the CLS saloon, air springs are standard at the rear on Shooting Brakes (with all-round air an option).