Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake bang on target

Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake is a handsome and elegant load-carrying version of the CLS Coupe sa

Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake is a handsome and elegant load-carrying version of the CLS Coupe saloon. - Credit: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has now fired up the estate market with its sleek, sophisticated CLS Shooting Brake. Motoring editor Andy Russell says it hits the bullseye.

Nine years ago mercedes-benz introduced the CLS – a coupe-styled four-door saloon with such a wow factor that the original model still turns heads.

It created a new breed of desirable saloon car – soon joined by Volkswagen's Passat-derived CC and now being boosted by the compact Mercedes CLA also mixing coupe styling with four-door practicality.

With the CLS such a pioneering hit, more than 170,000 have sold worldwide, little wonder Mercedes has launched an estate version called the Shooting Brake, harking back to the coupé-like estates loved by sportsmen, especially shooting parties, in the 1950s and '60s.

Sleek, handsome and elegant, it retains the eye-catching CLS dynamic design but in a more practical package – an estate car for people seeking looks as much a load-lugging ability.

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That's not to say the CLS Shooting Brake is more about style than stowage. Admittedly, if you need a huge estate you would be better served by the Mercedes E-Class but the CLS is no lightweight with its 590-litre boot and standard self-levelling rear air suspension to keep it on an even keel when fully loaded.

The boot goes back a long way, so much so that I almost had to get in to reach something at the back, but the limiting factor for large, bulky items is that sloping rear screen and it's not as deep as a traditional estate car under the load cover.

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The boot is beautifully trimmed with quality carpeting – you can even have an optional £4,030 American cherry wood load compartment with black inlays similar to the decking of luxury yachts – and shows great attention to making life simple. There's standard power opening and closing for the tailgate while the loadbay floor has a strut to keep it open while you access the underfloor storage and spare wheel – much easier than trying to prop it on top of your head! But the flimsy pullout load cover which had a habit of popping out of the runners unless opened carefully felt out of place in a car starting at just under £50,000.

When you need the full 1,550-litre load capacity folding the split rear seats flat is just a case of pulling handles concealed in the trim each side of the boot opening.

There's plenty of space too for passengers in the back, especially in the shapely outer seats rather than perched in the middle – the Shooting Brake carries five while the saloon seats only four – with loads of legroom in the back and decent headroom despite that sloping roof.

Engines are shared with the saloon so that's a 2.1-litre, 204hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel in the C250 CDI, 265hp 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel in C350 CDI and for ultra high performance, and running costs, a 557hp 5.5-litre V8 turbo petrol in CLS 63 AMG.

Sensible money will go on diesels. The V6 unit offers stonking, smooth performance but the four-cylinder unit is more than capable. Mated to a standard seven-speed automatic gearbox, it is deceptively brisk yet will return 45mpg overall.

The low-speed ride with the AMG Sport model's suspension is sensitive on poor surfaces but once cruising the CLS wafts along and drives well on twisty roads but you are always aware of its size.

The cabin is a most pleasant place to be with top-notch materials, fit and finish. The fascia features soft-touch materials, with wood and alloy trim highlights, and the look, feel and overall design of the controls put you very much in charge of proceedings. My only niggle is that the stylish back end's small window limit visibility.

The Shooting Brake comes loaded with standard kit and safety equipment including 18in alloy wheels, satellite-navigation, bi-xenon headlamps with washer jets, a parking system which identifies suitable kerbside spaces via front and rear sensors and steers the car into them, climate control, nine airbags, stability control, leather upholstery, automatic headlamp beam range control and a host of safety features including one to warn when a tired driver's attention is lapsing. AMG Sport models, which cost £2,995 more, have 19in alloys, AMG body styling kit, sports-tuned suspension and brakes, intelligent light system and adaptive high beam, black roof lining and leather upholstery and manual paddles for the automatic gearbox.

The CLS Shooting Brake is an exceptionally stylish way to carry passengers and loads – so much so that I felt guilty putting my mucky walking boots in the boot.

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