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.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
The Shooting Brake is as happy cruising about town as it is covering large distances at high speeds

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.

Top 5 Mid-size execs

  • The Jaguar XF is a sublime British executive saloon. It has a tremendous interior and even greater dynamics

    Jaguar XF

    1
  • Superb engine and cabin, but ride and handling let the side down

    BMW 5-series

    2
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    The E-class more than lives up to traditional Mercedes values

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    3
  • Audi A6
    The Audi A6 is a car that delivers in every area

    Audi A6

    4
  • The Lexus GS is unusual in the part of the market in not offering a diesel option

    Lexus GS

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Lavishly-equipped, rugged-looking Peugeot 508 estate is a pleasant drive, but there are many more recommendable alternatives
  • 308 GT 1.6-litre petrol is priced from £24,095
    First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Peugeot's given the 308 the engine from the 208 GTi 30th and some chassis upgrades; we find out if the changes bring a bit of old-school Peugeot hot-hatch magic to this likeable family hatch.
  • Car review
    26 March 2015
    Does Suzuki's new city runabout have what it takes to succeed?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    Collins Performance has given the Fiesta ST 270bhp and 265lb ft, but has our favourite fast Ford been ruined in the process?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    The Seat Leon X-Perience is the closest thing to an SUV that you can buy with a Seat badge for now, blending estate practicality with off-road ability