What is it?
The range-topping version of Mercedes' new Shooting Brake lineup — the estate version of the slinky CLS. Like its four-door compatriot, it gets AMG’s formidable 5.5-litre biturbo V8, which develops 550bhp in UK spec (the Continentals have to make do with a paltry 518bhp as standard).
The engine is hooked up to the familiar Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic transmission, and is capable of returning 28mpg on a combined cycle. More interestingly, it’ll also manage to whisk all 1955kg to 62mph in just 4.3 seconds before finding the limiter at 155mph.
As before, AMG’s adaptive Ride Control offers three damping modes for the standard sports suspension. The front axle is 56mm wider than the conventional car and gets steel springs, while the rear benefits from a self-leveling air-sprung setup.
Outside, the Shooting Brake’s new silhouette gets the usual AMG embellishments – including radiator grille and bonnet design – while the inside adds sports seats, black piano lacquer trim and a rather wonderful three-spoke steering wheel clad in Nappa leather.
What is it like?
The manufacturer claims that it’s combining performance, style and usability in a completely fresh way, but were you sat across the dealership in an E63 AMG estate, a car with a smaller price tag, shared underpinnings and far more space where it counts (ie in the back), you could be forgiven for thinking that the car’s new clothes really are only fit for the most self-aggrandising emperor.
And yet... Circle it slowly, sympathetically, and it’s hard not to fall into the gravitational pull of its design orbit. If the original CLS was meant as a style antidote to the E-class’s cheese-grater cuboid, the latest Shooting Brake is the ultimate emollient to the estate’s bulky derriere. Tapering the rear may have chiseled a colossal 400 litres from the comparative total loadspace, but the visual effect, like the rest of the model’s leap-forward motif, is considerable.
Similarly, AMG’s bi-blown V8 is probably the perfect remedy for the car’s very real weight problem. Like all AMGs equipped with the firm’s seven-speeder there’s an innate reticence in manual downshifts, which makes paddle-shifting this Goliath far less of a pleasure than it should be, although it makes a far better fist of its duties when left to its own devices. Arguably, the default Comfort mode is too sluggardly for the chassis’ natural potency, but there is something appealing about having to wind the baritone engine into a crank-frenzy from the standing start of a lazier throttle map. Sport gives a superior mix of response and ratio selection, and makes a mockery of the Shooting Brake’s 85kg weight penalty over the regular CLS.
Where you want to position the adjustable dampers on AMG’s Ride Control is a thornier issue. As with most of its brethren, the CLS63’s ride quality, even at its most doughy setting on standard 19-inch wheels, is hardly imperious on UK roads. Some of the older spines destined to appear on the waiting list might expect better bump-eating pliancy for their investment, but our usual rebuke is hamstrung by the Shooting Brake’s capacity to translate its enduring rigidity into duly engrossing agility.
Naturally, space and isolation are required to throw almost five meters of Mercedes around with abandon, but find the right stretch of road and exuberant chassis poise and progressive eight-pot delivery bubbles to the surface. Throw in traction-deficient winter tyres and an optional limited-slip rear differential, and the CLS63 becomes a two-tonne arcade game with quick, springy steering to match.
Should I buy one?
The Shooting Brake’s capacity for such hooliganism, along with the broader, everyday capability for an enlivening cross-country drive, has already made AMG’s ’63’ generation a spectacular vintage, and leaves you with more affection for the car than would normally be appropriate for such a paunchy tribute to Germanic excess.
Truthfully, it’s rather hard not to get a little wrapped up in the bare-cheeked brilliance of it all. If you can make your peace with the limited loadspace and attribute the gearbox’s ponderousness and comfort shortfall to mere personality quirks, then there is a huge quantity of car here to enjoy.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake
Price: £83,030; 0-62mph: 4.3sec; Top speed: 155mph; Economy: 28mpg; CO2: 235g/km; Kerb weight: 1955kg; Engine type, cc: V8, 5461cc, biturbo, petrol; Power: 550bhp at 5250rpm; Torque: 590lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic; Fuel tank: 80 litres; Boot: 590 litres; Wheels: 19-inch alloy; Tyres: 255/35 (f), 285/30 (r)