First drive: Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake
Ollie Marriage reports back on an excellent new car with a name from the past
Posted: 19 Sep 2012
Ah, Shooting Brake... Now there's a good name.
Agreed. A name born in the nineteenth century no less, packed with connotations of a gentleman's country pursuits. Just the thing for Merc's retro-futuristic CLS estate.
Estate? Wash your mouth out. That's no load lugger.
On the surface, maybe not. That pinched window line is coupe-ish, and although the roofline is long, the tailgate angle is more fastback than flatpack. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but personally I like it better than the standard four-door CLS. It looks great.
Hmm, but great looking cars rarely have much space inside...
Welcome to the exception. The Shooting Brake has a 590-litre boot, which is 30-odd litres bigger than the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5-Series Touring or Jaguar XF Sportbrake, all of which are practical family cars. The seats also fold to raise capacity to 1550 litres.
There must be drawbacks?
There are, but they're pretty minor. The boot aperture is impeded by the rear light design and there's a bit of a lip to lift stuff over. The engineers said that both could have been changed. but on this car, design comes first. There's good underfloor storage, an electric tailgate is standard (personally, I have this down as a minus), and you get the usual array of boot fixing kits and even a Cherry Wood floor.
Oh god, you mean like in the Audi Q7 V12?
I do. It's a £4,030 option that means all loads will be able to do a Bambi-on-ice impression as soon as you move anywhere. This will not impress your Labrador. If you live in China you have no choice though - the timber deck is standard fit in the Shooting Brake there.
No idea. Instead, learn that rather than a strict two seat rear compartment, this model provides space for a third person. Up front all is very much as you would expect - provided, that is, you're familiar with the CLS. Even if you're not, you soon will be, because this is an easy car to get on with, simply laid out, comfortable and undemanding to drive.
That's damning it with faint praise surely? How much worse is it to drive than the CLS?
No, it's as undemanding as you want it to be. Just click the column gearlever into drive and you're off (although there's still a hateful foot-operated parking brake to spoil things), largely unaware of any difference between CLS four door and five door. There doesn't seem to be any more noise echoing around the cabin, just a faint awareness that there's more open space behind you.
And the handling?
Sportier than the average estate due to the car's lowness. It has lovely steering that suits the car perfectly, and moves smoothly and gracefully. Ideally, you want to spend £1150 on air suspension. The Shooting Brake comes with rear air cans as standard, but if you stick with the conventional spring/dampers up front, it feels a little odd, the front slightly harsher and more rigid than the back. It's got nice handling balance, corners smoothly and is generally a capable and enjoyable car to drive. Satisfying sums it up pretty well.
And you're clearly referring to the diesels here?
And the sole petrol destined for the UK, too. And yes, that is the 63 AMG with its 552bhp twin turbo V8. It's howlingly fast in a straight line, but not quite as unhinged as the E63. More polished, somehow. Anyway, in the UK we won't get the 350 and 500 petrols, so will have to content ourselves with the 250CDi and 350CDI diesels. The latter is the one you want, the V6 smoother and more laid back than the four cylinder.
But obviously much more expensive?
Not really, no. Prices start at £49,360 for the 250 CDI, while the 350 CDI is £53,000. If you don't want to go the whole hog and buy the £83,030 63 AMG, there's an AMG Sport trim for the lesser models. It's replacing the old Sport trim and costs around £3,000 more.
It's a very good all-rounder: stylish, cool, as practical as you're likely to need: a better drive than an E-Class, more desirable than an SUV. It's going to sell well. And it's also going to give Audi and BMW a headache - the A7 and 6-Series Gran Coupe are recent rivals to the CLS and now Merc's gone and set another target to beat.