Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake: First report

Your name’s not down... Our man doesn’t feel posh enough to be driving the classy new Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake

You know that embarrassing feeling. You’re queuing to get inside a swanky nightclub, but a bouncer points at your scuffed trainers and crumpled jeans before turning you away, shame faced. That’s how I feel every time I step up to our new Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake.

With its stunning looks, upper-crust image and classy interior, the Mercedes is the sort of car that makes me want to smarten up before getting behind the wheel. Not least because all eyes are on me every time I open the door.

Few cars at any price attract as much attention as the sleek Shooting Brake – particularly in our car’s range-topping AMG Sport guise. This adds 19-inch alloys wheels, lowered sports suspension, a subtle bodykit and super-bright LED headlamps.

The upmarket club feel extends to the beautifully built interior, which strikes a fine balance between slick style and functional design. Neat details include the S-Class-style analogue clock in the centre of the dash, the dark-stained wood trim and the intuitive rotary controller for the COMAND infotainment system. I’m even a fan of Mercedes’ trademark single stalk for the wipers and indicators; operating it becomes second nature after only a handful of miles.

As you’d expect of a car costing £52,395, the CLS comes with lots of equipment as standard, including leather seat trim, climate control and a DAB radio. There’s also Parktronic with Active Park Assist, which automatically steers the Merc into a parking space. Yet all this hasn’t stopped me getting a little greedy with the optional extras, as you can see from the panel (below).

While the £290 ambient lighting package, £350 heated seats and £650 Harman Kardon audio upgrade are a little frivolous, the £2,295 Driving Assistance package is a worthwhile addition. It includes life-saving tech such as blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

Fortunately, the Shooting Brake’s strong practicality comes as standard. There’s room for five adults in the cabin – although the low roofline means taller occupants will find the rear seats a little claustrophobic – while the well shaped 590-litre boot easily swallows my three-month-old son’s bulky pram and my three-year-old daughter’s three-wheeled scooter. Better still, the standard 60:40 split/fold rear bench lowers in one movement with a tug of handles located in the side of the boot, while the powered tailgate comes as standard.

So what’s the catch? Well so far, there’s been almost nothing to complain about. I’ll admit I was concerned that the 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel wouldn’t have the refinement or pace to match the CLS’s sporty looks, but it’s actually coping very well. On the move there’s virtually no engine noise, while the combination of a muscular 500Nm torque output and slick seven-speed automatic gearbox means the Mercedes feels surprisingly brisk. And I’m hoping that a few long runs will help improve the current 35.4mpg return at the pumps.

Elsewhere, there’s well weighted and direct steering, progressive brakes and loads of grip from the steamroller-wide tyres. In fact, the only real niggle is the firm low-speed ride, which causes the CLS to crash into potholes and thump over sharp ridges occasionally. That and the fact the driver looks so scruffy.

Our view

“Not many cars are as relaxing to drive as the CLS. The combination of superb refinement and Mercedes’ super-smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox takes the stress out of any journey.”Owen Mildenhall, Senior road test editor

Your view

“What’s the point of this car? Why not just have a regular estate? Anyone who buys one is trying too hard to pose and impress.”Steve, via www.autoexpress.co.uk

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