The long bonnet and plunging rear roofline will divide opinion, but there is no denying that the CLS Shooting Brake’s design will turn heads and oozes upmarket appeal. Unsurprisingly, it feels like a well appointed luxury estate on the inside.
What is less expected is that the slope of that low roof doesn’t impinge on headroom in the rear of the cabin as much as you might imagine. Neither does it have a hugely adverse impact on rearward visibility; the rear screen is a slightly odd shape, but offers an adequate view. Less impressive is the claim that the CLS Shooting Brake seats five; you’ll have to be a child or lithe supermodel to feel comfortable in the narrow middle berth, although other passengers travel in sublime comfort thanks to low-slung leather chairs.
Boot space is generous, with the overall volume ranging from 590 litres to 1550 litres. The seats-up capacity is more than a BMW 5-series Touring and Audi A6 Avant, although both of those cars trump the CLS Shooting Brake on overall boot space.
On the road, it feels remarkably nimble for a car that’s almost five metres long and weighs 1910kg. The rear-drive car’s sporting edge shines through on flowing country roads where, aided by electromechanical power steering that brings a touch of lightness to the car’s feel, it changes direction in a positive, fairly precise way rarely associated with estates.
The ride is at the firm end of comfortable. The CLS Shooting Brake gets air suspension at the rear with a more standard arrangement of springs and dampers up front. Optional semi-active air suspension offers a more cosseting ride all-round, or you can go in the other direction and specify an AMG Sport pack that includes sports suspension and 19in alloys.
In our view the CLS 350 CDI is the pick of the two diesels on offer, even if it costs an extra £3640. Silky smooth and impressively quiet, the three-litre turbocharged V6 is capable of packing a hearty punch when needed. It can cover 0-62mph in 6.6sec (four-tenths slower than the coupé) and serves up plenty of low-end thrust thanks to 457lb ft of torque from 1600rpm. All variants are mated to Merc’s seven-speed automatic transmission, which works better in Sport mode, which can be selected with a push of a button.
Of course, the four-pot oilburner in the CLS 250 CDI offers better economy, with a claimed figure 53.3mpg compared with the 47.1mpg of the CLS350 CDI, but it also sounds and feels less refined and capable, giving a clear impression that it won’t be as adept at carrying big loads as its sibling.