A new era of style-driven wagons is adding class to the traditional load-lugger and the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake leads the convoy.
The entry level diesel costs $129,000 before on-road costs. That’s $30,000 less than the entry sedan, though the sedan starts with the 3.5-litre petrol engine rather than the 2.1L turbodiesel in the wagon. To get that price, the Shooting Brake deletes the LED headlamps, TV tuner and three-zone climate-control aircon as standard gear. There won’t be many complaints about the fit-out though, with a 10GB hard drive, internet and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control, sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps and powered tailgate. The 3.5-litre petrol version adds $44,000.
This 2.1-litre diesel engine is a brute. There’s a moment of lag off the line but once underway there’s plenty of pulling power. The seven-speed auto is responsive shifting up or down and the 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds belies the small size of the engine. Throw in a claimed fuel use of 5.5L/100km and I wouldn’t be too worried about buying the diesel, especially given Mercedes-Benz Australia has fitted AMG-spec sports suspension to the car.
Celebrity morgues will be swooning because if style matters you won’t be seen dead in anything else. Cargo space is OK with the rear seats up at 590 litres but expands to a coffin-accommodating 1550 litres when the rear pews are folded. Up front is the distinctive CLS blunt nose, dominated by the tri-star logo and everywhere else there the Benz fashionistas have rolled out more curves than Jennifer Lopez. The interior is understated class but I could do without the foot handbrake and column-mounted gearshift.
No one’s officially crashed a CLS yet. It’s safe to assume a five-star safety rating, given it has E-Class underpinnings and is loaded with enough active and passive protection to outfit a militia. The base car picks up 11 airbags, a driver drowsiness detection system, lane-keeping and blind-spot assistance, tyre pressure monitoring and the Pre-Safe software that prepares the vehicle in anticipation of a crash.
The Shooting Brake is essentially a limousine with a really big boot. Drive it like one and it is surprisingly rewarding. Keep the momentum up, which isn’t hard to do with the sports suspension, and it flows like mercury from corner to corner. Savage the accelerator and it will jostle the occupants as the 500Nm deals with a 5m-long car that weighs 1800kg. It may be fitted with five seatbelts but in reality it is four-person transport - you don’t want to be the bunny in the middle seat. There’s more headroom than the sedan and no one this side of seven foot will complain about leg space.
Shoot for the base model and you won’t be disappointed. In terms of looks and load, the CLS Shooting Brake makes many wagons redundant.
Price: from $129,000
Service interval: 12 months/25,000km
Crash rating: Not rated
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC, ESC
Engine: 2.1L twin-turbodiesel, 150kW/500Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, RWD
Dimensions: 4.96m (L), 1.89m (W), 1.42m (H)
Thirst: 5.5L/100km (diesel), 144g/km CO2