The upcoming Mercedes CLS estate will take inspiration from the classic shooting brake format.
The new wagon, conceived as a modern-day interpretation of the shooting brake, is set to be revealed in concept car form at next month’s Beijing motor show. Although billed as a concept, it will be extremely close to the production version that has already been signed off.
Mercedes will also announce production plans for the new car, with a UK on-sale date of 2012 and a price of around £50,000.
The CLS estate is part of a broader plan to diversify the Mercedes line-up, with a range of niche cars adapted from more mainstream models and designed to appeal to a younger customer base than those on sale today.
More style statement than load-hauler, the CLS estate is set to provide buyers with an alternative to the BMW 5-series GT and the soon-to-be-launched Audi A7 - both of which have a conventional hatchback.
“Traditional rules don’t apply any more. Established segments are becoming increasingly fragmented,” said a Mercedes insider with knowledge of plans for the marketing of the new car.
The estate shares its front-end looks with the new CLS saloon. But from the B-pillar rearwards it receives its own individual styling.
As revealed in Autocar’s exclusive computer-generated image, the look of the new car is highly reminiscent of Mercedes-Benz’s well received Fascination concept from the 2008 Paris motor show. But while that car had pillarless construction with two doors, the CLS estate will retain the B-pillar and four-door layout of the saloon.
By providing the CLS with additional boot space, Mercedes-Benz hopes to attract customers who may have otherwise opted for a car such as the Audi A6 Avant or the new BMW 5-series Touring.
The idea for an estate version of the CLS is not entirely new. Mercedes’ designers created a similar concept in 2003 but, despite a great deal of internal support, it was never displayed in public. It ultimately became a victim of the company’s cost-saving CORE programme.
Before the CLS estate arrives we’ll see the successor to the current saloon. Seen in our spy pictures (overleaf) undergoing testing in final prototype form, it’s due to be unveiled at the Paris motor show in September.
Codenamed C218, the new CLS sits on the same underpinnings as the current E-class, with a 20mm longer wheelbase than today’s model along with a corresponding increase in length, taking it to around 4950mm. But as with the first-gen CLS, the new car is more about style than interior space.
It borrows heavily from the current CLS, with a distinctive front end carrying hints of the soft-nose treatment from the SLS, plus frameless doors, heavily raked screens, a high waistline and shallow side glass.
But while the overall silhouette is familiar, the surfacing gains a much tauter look in line with recent Mercedes-Benz models, including the F800 Style concept.
And the CLS will be among the first Mercedes-Benz models to receive the firm’s new turbocharged, direct-injection V6 and V8 petrol engines.
Called MoVe, the engines achieve a 25 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and emissions compared with outgoing petrols.
Mercedes will launch the CLS with two of these engines: a 3.5-litre V6 delivering 306bhp in the CLS350, and a 4.6-litre V8 with 435bhp in the CLS500.
They will be joined by a pair of existing V6 common rail diesels: a 2.1-litre with 204bhp in the CLS250 CDI and a 3.0-litre with 231bhp in the CLS350 CDI.
There will, of course, be an AMG CLS, which will use the new turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 engine. Set to replace the existing naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, it kicks out 537bhp, an increase of 30bhp over today’s model.
And an even more powerful version of the same engine will be offered as part of a performance package upgrade, with 563bhp — enough muscle to fire the new four-door to 60mph in just 4.2sec.
The standard engines will come with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, the same 7G-tronic unit that’s used in today’s model but with a modified torque converter for more rapid shifts, and automatic stop-start.
The AMG engine, however, will use the seven-speed MCT (multi-clutch transmission) unit that features in the E63 AMG.
The dynamic improvements brought to the new E-class should be reflected in the new CLS. The two cars share the same chassis and steering system. Along with standard rear-wheel drive, Mercedes-Benz also plans to offer four-wheel drive on selected models, most likely to be the CLS350 and CLS350 CGI.
Inside, the car receives a unique dashboard and its own individual interior trims to separate it from the more formal E-class saloon. The increase in exterior dimensions and longer wheelbase has created more room inside, and luggage capacity goes up to 530 litres.