What is it?
Simple really, an estate version of Merc’s genre-defining CLS four-door coupe. Except Mercedes doesn’t call it an estate. Far too commonplace. It’s Shooting Brake, and TopGear thoroughly approves of the resurrection of this name, even if the CLS doesn’t strictly conform to the traditional two-door estate body shape.
No matter, this is a car into which Mercedes has carefully packed all the clever estate car touches we’re used to from its cheaper family wagons, while letting the designers have their way with the exterior. And at the same time it shows Mercedes has a retort to rivals such as the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe and Audi A7.
The CLS may be based on the E-Class, but the driving experience is more advanced. More mature. More elegant and refined. The CLS cruises as well as you’d hope, with a continental gait that soaks up miles effortlessly. If possible, spec yours with full air suspension – as standard it features conventional steel springs up front and air cans at the back, which gives the ride a very slightly disjointed edge.
Either way, the Shooting Brake handles very well. It has nice, natural steering and controls its weight better than the E-Class. Engine choice is limited to a pair of diesels (have the V6 350 if you can as its smoother, sweeter and swifter than the four cylinder 250), and a single petrol. This could be pointless were it not a 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 with more shove than a rugby scrum and an AMG badge on the flanks.
On the inside
Here’s the surprise. You have relatively low expectations of practicality because of the swoopy styling, but then you open the boot (only you don’t have to, it’s electric) and it’s genuinely big. OK, so the narrow aperture is not Ikea-friendly, but everything else about the Shooting Brake is thoroughly family-friendly – including three seats across the back, instead of the pair in the saloon. The driving environment isn’t maybe as modern and digital as those offered in equivalent Audis and BMWs, but it’s beautifully constructed.
It’s not cheap. That’s the first thing to note. The Shooting Brake experience starts at a whisker under £50,000, making it around £15,000 more than the equivalent (and bigger) E-Class estate. But that’s not really the point. This is a different type of car, and if it proves as popular as we believe, then residual values will hold up well. Economy is good too, with the CLS 250 CDI returning 53.3mpg and the swift V6 diesel topping 47mpg. Even the AMG’s 28.5mpg is creditable given its pace.