Given the CLS’s potent image, it would seem only right that the Shooting Brake has a bountiful power reserve to call upon. On the face of it, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel has such a stockpile. Peak torque of 457lb ft is available from 1600rpm, and despite weighing just shy of two tonnes, the car will make it to motorway pace from 30mph in just 6.4sec.
However, there is a marked difference between mercilessly provoking the CLS on MIRA’s closed test tracks and living with it day to day in default mode. Leaving the automatic transmission in ‘D’ (or ‘E’ as it pointedly terms it), the Shooting Brake occasionally feels less light on its feet than our numbers suggest. Certainly, this is due to the throttle map, which, understandably, has been tuned with greater sympathy for economy than persistent readiness, thus making the car’s out-of-the-box performance slightly duller to the toe poke than you might expect.
Clicking the gearbox into Sport eliminates the need to flex your ankle quite so far to the ground, but it’s an edgier state of being. For our money, a V6-powered CLS should be whisking its occupants from place to place more effortlessly and briskly, without strategic button pushing.
Obviously, you could opt to change gear for yourself, but the auto ’box suffers from ponderous downchanges and won’t hold on to a ratio. Our 0-60mph time of 7.0sec came up 0.4sec slower than Mercedes’ claim to 62mph, although the discrepancy could justly be attributed to a damp day and the winter tyres on our car.
The result is a luxury car that’s adept at a high street amble and gratifyingly swift when told to be. That would seem to cover the bases, and the CLS350 CDI undeniably does, but its minor faults are located in those everyday moments of stodginess in between, and that is the slender difference between it and the tighter-wound mechanical flair found among close rivals.