Mercedes CLS 250 CDI Shooting Brake

Our verdict on the sleek new Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The CLS Shooting Brake is superbly refined, relatively spacious and striking to behold. It isn't a sports car but it does handle its bulk well in the corners. However, it doesn't come cheap. This 250 CDI starts from £1,785 more than the coupe, and although extra standard equipment includes easy-fold rear seats, rear air suspension and that automatic tailgate, it's still a tough pill to swallow. That said, at least you'll be safe in the knowledge that there's nothing out there quite like it - for now at least.

When it comes to creating new niches, Mercedes is king. Back in 1996, the SLK pioneered the folding hardtop roadster segment, the ML did the same for premium SUVs in 1998 and the CLS was the world’s first four-door coupe in 2004. And now Mercedes is up to its old tricks with the new CLS Shooting Brake - a four-door coupe that thinks it's an estate.

It's aimed at those who want to look stylish, stand out from the crowd and still have enough room for the whole family. But it's a bold move, especially when you can buy an equivalent E-Class Estate - with 400-litre more boot space - for over £10,000 less.

You certainly won't miss it in the street. The long bonnet, stretched roofline and elongate 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. It's also 15kg heavier, but the pay off 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.

Push a button and the standard-fit electric tailgate swings open automatically revealing a load area that's rather narrow, but extremely long. If you really want to impress the neighbours, there's the £4,030 option of cherry wood decking on the boot floor, too. It's stunning to look at and run your hands over, but whether your dog will appreciate the low-friction surface, we're not so sure.

If you’re looking for all-out performance, or just fancy scaring your family, there’s the £83,030 CLS 63 AMG, with its 549bhp twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8. Other than that though, the engine options for the UK are diesel-only. The silky-smooth six-cylinder 350 CDI model produces 261bhp and returns 47.1mpg, but it's the four-cylinder 250 CDI - the predicted best seller - that we turned our attention to.

With stop-start, 201bhp and 500Nm of torque, it mixes lively performance with economy and CO2 emissions of 53.3mpg and 139g/km respectively. The sacrifice comes in refinement – under heavy acceleration the coarse engine note is no match for the sweeter-sounding six-cylinder, nor is the acceleration. But rolling around at low speeds and cruising on the motorway, the engine fades entirely into the background and refinement is superb.

With the 350 CDI costing just £3,625 more than the 250 CDI, it’s tempting to upgrade, but the smaller engine works just as well most of the time. Especially when you consider the Shooting Brake is much happier taking things smooth and steady than flat-out.

All versions come with Mercedes’ 7G-TRONIC automatic gearbox, which works fine when its unstressed, but is far slower to react than BMW’s eight-speed equivalent when you want to up the pace. In the corners there’s more body roll than the coupe, but on the whole it controls its weight well, so long as you don’t fling it around. The electric steering is light, and the suspension is supple in either of its two modes.

Although standard equipment is generous - and includes sat-nav, 18-inch alloys and leather upholstery - it’s worth finding another £2,995 for the AMG Sport pack, as fitted to our test car. That adds full-LED lights, AMG bodystyling, 19-inch wheels and sports suspension.

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