From £44,6958
CLA looks, bonkers 45 AMG performance, but with added estate practicality. An enticing mix, but is this Shooting Brake worth the extra?

What is it?

A further extension of Mercedes' small car line-up. The car maker proved estates needn't be boxy two years ago with its CLS Shooting Brake but this CLA version offers all of the style without as much price. Here we drive the range-topping 45 AMG.

Underneath the sculpted bonnet sits the same 355bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and seven-speed auto 'box you'll find in both the A 45 and CLA 45 AMG models. On paper, 62mph from standstill arrives in an all-wheels-driven 4.7 seconds which, despite the Shooting Brake's extra 30kg of weight, is equal to the coupé and only fractionally slower than the A-Class.

Dogs have more reason to be worried because, behind the rear seats, sits a bigger 495-litre boot that can be increased 100 litres by adjusting the rear seats to a more upright 'cargo' position. Folding down those same seats increases the space to 1354 litres. 

Sharp looks, big performance and space for Milo. It all sounds like one-car garage material but will the Shooting Brake prove as fun to drive as its CLA 45 AMG stablemates and, at £43,120, is it worth spending the extra for the privilege?

What's it like?

For now, this turbocharged 2.0-litre is the most powerful in the world, and it remains the car's overwhelming feature. It loves to be pushed hard and suffers very little lag if asked to accelerate without a downchange, so proves a superbly competent motor across most situations. The aural reward for venturing near the redline is sharp cracks from the exhaust on upshifts.  

The seven-speed automatic gearbox itself is less snappy. Left in laid-back 'Comfort' mode, manual changes aren't quite as sharp but swapping the driving mode to 'Sport' sorts this out, while helping to make the throttle that bit more responsive.

Fortunately, no amount of mode swapping affects the steering. It feels good across the board, with a natural weight on straight ahead and a consistent feed of weight off it. There's little true feedback, as is the case with most electronic systems, but it's undoubtedly one of the better systems available. 

The ballistic engine and impressive steering are complemented by a capable all-wheel drive system. All the power goes to the front wheels most of the time but once they begin to struggle, half of it is diverted to the rears. Switching the 45's ESP to 'Sport' quickens this process.

In truth, it isn't the most playful chassis, mainly because the rear-bias never exceeds the front. Despite this, and the fact that AMG softens-off its estates compared with their saloon or coupé equivalents, the way this Shooting Brake corners is nothing short of brilliant. Grip is huge and re-introduction of the throttle, late-corner, is always handled with confidence. 

Even the ride is impressive; certainly better than non-AMG CLA Shooting Brakes. The dampers do a good job of smoothing out rutted roads, while the body remains as composed vertically as it does laterally during hard cornering. 

However, although improved, rear cabin space is still tight. Adults will find their knees against the front backrests and their heads brushing the ceiling, while particularly tall adults will just feel uncomfortable. The sloping rear window makes it a claustrophobic experience, too.

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On paper, the Shooting Brake's boot is as big as an Audi A4 Avant's or BMW 3 Series Touring's but, in reality, its narrow opening, large lip and shallow shape are nowhere near as practical. Another case of style before substance. 

Things aren't so bad in the front of the cabin. AMG touches really lift the quality over lesser models. The sports steering wheel and splashes of Alcantara are pleasing, even if sections of the centre console are made from the same scratchy plastic as the rest of the range. Space, and seat and wheel adjustment, will suit most sizes, too.

Our test car was fitted with Mercedes' optional 8.0-inch screen 'Comand' system (£1870). It's easy enough to navigate, thanks to its three-layer menu system and rotary controller between the front seats. BMW's iDrive is easier to use, though, and looks more modern in terms of on-screen graphics.

Should I buy one?

As long as you're not in search of the best for pace and space, you're likely to be hugely impressed by the CLA 45 Shooting Brake. It handles with 99% of the urgency and composure of the saloon and hatchback variants, and feels every bit as fast in a straight line out on the road - no matter what the official times say.

To our eyes, it's also the best looking of the three, so the extra £1000 it costs compared with the four-door version pales into insignificance. Given the choice, we'd save nearly £5000 and go for the A 45 hatch, but the Shooting Brake’s capability and desirability are hard to ignore.

Mercedes CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake

Location: Stuttgart; On sale: May; Price £43,120; Engine 4 cyls, 1991cc, turbo, petrol; Power 355bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 2250-5000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1615kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Economy 39.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 161g/km, 27%

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275not599 6 March 2015

Too many modern Mercs have

Too many modern Mercs have styling that is just overwrought and downright vulgar.
michael knight 6 March 2015


yet ANOTHER amg derivative. Autocar, don't be swayed by this onslaught. You're mistaking quantity of the German marques for quality.
Curly55 5 March 2015


Buy an audi S4 or RS4 avant if you want a fast estate, it's got a proper engine too.
£43k before extras - I must be getting old but my 2 year old M135i seemed enough to pay at the time even with a 9% discount. Guess it will last me a long time before I pay this sort of money