Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake review
Mercedes has created yet another niche with the CLS Shooting Brake – a four-door coupe that thinks it’s an estate
Mercedes is the king of conjuring up niches from nowhere. It did it with the CLS four-door coupe back in 2004, and now the CLS Shooting Brake is performing a similar trick. Rivals include the BMW 5 Series Touring and Jaguar XF Sportbrake, but in reality there’s nothing quite like it on the market. Beneath the swooping bodywork is a boot that’s roughly on a par with the 5 Series Touring, but smaller than its distant relative, the cheaper E-Class Estate. All models get an electric tailgate, leather trim and air suspension as standard, while cherry wood decking for the boot floor is available as an option. Engine choices range from the efficient four-cylinder 250 CDI to the silky smooth six-cylinder 350CDI. The only petrol option is a storming 549bhp CLS 63 AMG.
Our choice: CLS 350 CDI Shooting Brake
If style isn’t high on your agenda, you’re unlikely to see the point in the CLS Shooting Brake – an E-Class Estate costs less and offers more boot space. But meet it in the flesh and it’s hard not to be captivated by the Shooting Brake’s unique silhouette. The long bonnet, stretched roofline and elongated side window graphic give it plenty of presence and make it look larger than it actually is. In fact, it's only 16mm longer, identical in width and 3mm lower than the CLS coupe. The interior is identical to the standard CLS - apart from the long, narrow boot of course - which can be optionally decked out in cherry wood for the ultimate style statement. It'll cost you around £4,000, though. However the rest of the interior is suitably luxurious and all models come very highly equipped as standard, with leather seat trim, Bluetooth and climate control featuring on all models. Go for the range-topping AMG Sport and you'll benefit from dazzlingly bright LED headlamps and eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels.
Compared to the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, the CLS coupe places more of a premium on refinement and effortless progress than driving dynamics, and it’s a similar story with the Shooting Brake. In the corners body roll is marginally more pronounced, due to an extra 15kg of weight, but there’s loads of grip and you can hustle it along at quite a pace despite its large exterior dimensions. But the Shooting Brake encourages relaxing driving, with suspension that is incredibly supple on SE versions - the AMG Sport suffers from a firm low speed ride - and a whisper quiet interior. Despite sounding a little coarse on full throttle, the 250 CDI model is an excellent all-rounder with all the performance you could need. However, our pick of the range is the super-smooth 261bhp 350 CDI, which suits the Shooting Brake’s sophisticated character perfectly. There is only one gearbox but the seven-speed automatic is relaxing as long as it's left in auto mode.
As you’d expect, the CLS Shooting Brake comes laden with Mercedes’ usual suite of cutting-edge technology and safety systems. These include nine airbags, brake assist, tiredness detection, blind spot assist, lane keep assist and the list goes on. Euro NCAP hasn’t tested it yet, but with that sort of armoury you can expect a full five-star rating. Mercedes build quality has improved dramatically of late, so you can expect the CLS Shooting Brake to be dependable for the length of the ownership experience. Mercedes finished eighth overall in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey - that's six and seven places ahead of BMW and Audi respectively.
Combining style with practicality is the Shooting Brake’s reason for being, which is why hidden under that enormous arcing roofline is a 590-litre boot, that expands to 1,550 litres with the three-seater rear bench folded flat - that's roughly the same as the BMW 5 Series Touring. The E-Class Estate boasts 400 litres more than that, but then it’s the biggest car in its class by quite some margin. An automatic tailgate is fitted as standard to all models, which swings open to reveal a long but narrow load area. Deep pile carpet and rubber strips are fitted as standard on the boot floor, but bespoke storage rails that stow beneath the false boot floor can be fitted as an optional extra - although they should really be fitted as standard to a car with a minimum price tag of around £50,000.
If you want low running costs, then the 250 CDI is undoubtedly the model to go for. With stop-start, 201bhp and - more importantly - 500Nm of torque, it mixes lively performance with excellent economy claims and CO2 emissions of 53.3mpg and 139g/km respectively. By comparison, the 350 CDI produces 261bhp and promises to return 47.1mpg. Although a tank of fuel will last a long time in either of the two diesels, expect maintenance costs and insurance premiums to be above average. To buy it will set you back more than the CLS coupe, and although extra standard equipment includes easy-fold rear seats, rear air suspension and an automatic tailgate, it's still a significant price leap over its four-door cousin. On the plus, the huge desirability of the Mercedes CLS means that residuals are competitive, with all diesel versions retaining at least 45 percent of their value after three years.