What is it?:
The striking Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake blurs the line between coupé and estate, combining the practical roominess and large tailgate of the latter with the sporty styling and stance of the former.
When the original CLS first went on sale in 2004, Mercedes tapped into a hitherto undiscovered demand for four-door coupés. The Stuttgart manufacturer hopes the new CLS Shooting Brake will carve out some more sales space in an ever-fragmenting market.
However, Mercedes is gracious enough to admit that it didn’t invent the shooting brake concept, referencing diverse cars such as the Reliant Scimitar and Volvo 1800 as the inspiration behind this CLS variant.
This car’s development can be traced back to Concept Fascination, unveiled at the Paris motor show in 2008, and Concept Shooting Break ('Break' has since become 'Brake') shown in China two years later.
Based on the CLS platform and sharing that car’s wheelbase and major mechanical attributes, the Shooting Brake is marginally longer than the coupé, but shares that car’s 1416mm height, 1881mm width and 2874mm wheelbase. Something it doesn’t emulate is the price: you’ll have to find an extra £1785 for the Shooting Brake over the coupé.
Although the full engine line-up comprises three petrols and two diesels, only the oil-burners – the 350 CDI tested here and a four-cylinder 250 CDI – and the wildly entertaining twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 AMG model are making it to the UK. We’ll have to do without four-wheel-drive variants, too.
The diesels can be ordered with an optional AMG Sport kit that adds sports suspension and brakes, full LED headlights, sportier bodystyling, an uprated steering wheel and pedals and 19in alloys in the place of the regular 18in items. All that costs an extra £2995 over the standard CLS 350 CDI, or £3010 if you specify the kit on the CLS 250 CDI.
What's it like?:
The long bonnet and plunging rear roofline will divide opinion, but there is no denying that the CLS Shooting Brake’s design will turn heads and oozes upmarket appeal. Unsurprisingly, it feels like a well appointed luxury estate on the inside.
What is less expected is that the slope of that low roof doesn’t impinge on headroom in the rear of the cabin as much as you might imagine. Neither does it have a hugely adverse impact on rearward visibility; the rear screen is a slightly odd shape, but offers an adequate view. Less impressive is the claim that the CLS Shooting Brake seats five; you’ll have to be a child or lithe supermodel to feel comfortable in the narrow middle berth, although other passengers travel in sublime comfort thanks to low-slung leather chairs.
Boot space is generous, with the overall volume ranging from 590 litres to 1550 litres. The seats-up capacity is more than a BMW 5-series Touring and Audi A6 Avant, although both of those cars trump the CLS Shooting Brake on overall boot space.
On the road, it feels remarkably nimble for a car that’s almost five metres long and weighs 1910kg. The rear-drive car’s sporting edge shines through on flowing country roads where, aided by electromechanical power steering that brings a touch of lightness to the car’s feel, it changes direction in a positive, fairly precise way rarely associated with estates.
The ride is at the firm end of comfortable. The CLS Shooting Brake gets air suspension at the rear with a more standard arrangement of springs and dampers up front. Optional semi-active air suspension offers a more cosseting ride all-round, or you can go in the other direction and specify an AMG Sport pack that includes sports suspension and 19in alloys.
In our view the CLS350 CDI is the pick of the two diesels on offer, even if it costs an extra £3640. Silky smooth and impressively quiet, the three-litre turbocharged V6 is capable of packing a hearty punch when needed. It can cover 0-62mph in 6.6sec (four-tenths slower than the coupé) and serves up plenty of low-end thrust thanks to 457lb ft of torque from 1600rpm. All variants are mated to Merc’s seven-speed automatic transmission, which works better in Sport mode, which can be selected with a push of a button.
Of course, the four-pot oilburner in the CLS250 CDI offers better economy, with a claimed figure 53.3mpg compared with the 47.1mpg of the CLS350 CDI, but it also sounds and feels less refined and capable, giving a clear impression that it won’t be as adept at carrying big loads as its sibling.
Should I buy one?:
Whether you’ll consider the CLS Shooting Brake over a regular estate depends on your practical requirements.
If you need maximum load space and want a car that will withstand the occasional biff, scrape and scratch, Merc’s dependable E-class estate offers a bigger boot, has a rear opening that makes bulky items easier to load and costs about £10,000 less.
However, if you only occasionally lug loads but prefer a sportier drive, a high-quality interior and attention-grabbing styling, the CLS Shooting Brake will hold plenty of appeal. Mercedes is confident there’s a keen market– and they’ve been proved right in the past.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI BlueEfficiency Shooting Brake
Price: £53,000; 0-62mph: 6.6sec; Top speed: 155mph; Economy: 47.1mpg; CO2: 161g/km; Kerb weight: 1910kg; Engine: V6, 2987cc, turbodiesel; Power: 261bhp at 3800rpm; Torque: 457lb ft at 1600-2400rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic