The term shooting brake isn’t a common one here, but it’s a more common term in Europe for a prestige wagon.
The term ‘brake’ as a vehicle body has its origins in heavy wagons that were used to help slow down draft horses under training. This evolved into ‘shooting brake’ when similar wagons, originally horse-drawn and later motorised, were used to transport shooting parties, think Maggie Smith and her entourage on their way from Downton Abbey to slaughter some grouse.
The name was subsequently been used to describe a station wagon variant of a sporty coupe or sedan by companies such as Jaguar, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and even Ferrari.
The Mercedes CLS wagon is an extension, literally, of the CLS four-door coupe. When shown at the 2003 Frankfurt motor show, many said a coupe must only have two doors and that the CLS wouldn't sell. Ten years on they’ve been proven wrong not just with good sales numbers but also by competitors such as Audi, BMW and Porsche producing similar cars.
The Mercedes CLS Shooting rake starts at $129,000 for the 250 CDI. The price goes up to $173,000 for the CLS 350. Both models get ABS Brakes, automatic transmission, cruise control, dual front airbags, front side airbags, electronic stability program, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, USB/auxiliary audio inputs, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted controls.
Two variants of the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake are available in Australia with a third due later in the year. The two current models are the CLS CDI, powered by a 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel and the CLS 350 with a 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 petrol. An AMG CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake, with a 5.5-litre V8 biturbo petrol engine was previewed at the 2012 Sydney Motor Show and will be added to the range in September 2013.
The CLS 250 CDI produces maximum power of 150 kW and 500 Nm of torque. Its official fuel consumption rating of just 5.5 litres per hundred kilometres means it avoids some Luxury Car Tax (LCT).
The CLS 350 comes with 225 kW and 370 Nm. Its fuel usage of 8.2 litres per hundred kilometres means no LCT exemption and a price surcharge of $26,277, bringing it up to $173,000.
Europeans have long denounced the boxy station wagon and gone instead for vehicles where style takes precedence over function. The Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake has taken this a step further by merging a sleek coupe with a practical wagon. Not an easy task but one that the Benz designers have managed superbly.
Add an ‘a’ and an ‘s’ into CLS and you get ‘class’ and the big Merc wagon just oozes it, both inside and out. There’s a sporty look to the front end with its mildly aggressive grille and headlight shapes. At the rear the roof slopes down in a manner resembling the CLS four-door coupe and the rearward extension has been beautifully shaped to show this is not your mundane everyday load hauler. We particularly like the way the side windows that slope down to a point at the rear and love the shiny finish that surrounds them.
The Shooting Brake’s interior is finished in quality materials giving an elegant feel throughout with sensible, well-located dials and controls.
Most grand touring coupes have two doors, and while they will generally offer plenty of comfort for two on a long-distance drive trip, any extra passengers are likely to face space restrictions in the rear seats, if indeed there are rear seats. At first glance the styling of the Mercedes CLS wagon suggests that rear headroom would be limited but in fact that’s not the case and a couple of 1.8-metre passengers settled in during our test with no problems at all. While it’s effectively a four-seater there is a somewhat cramped centre seat so five can be carried for short and not particularly comfortable trips.
The rear door, more like a hatch than a wagon, is wide and with a low loading lip it’s easy to load to its 590-litre capacity. As is becoming common with luxury vehicles the door operates automatically, opening with a button on the key fob and closing with a button on the bottom of the tailgate.
Boot capacity is a reasonable 590 litres although that’s only 70 litres more than in the CLS coupe. At 1.158 metres in length there’s room for large items although the dipping roofline does limit tall items. With the rear seatbacks lowered – via levers on either side of the boot wall – storage capacity increases to 1550 litres.
Adding a real touch of class, and a step back in time, is an optional mahogany timber-lined floor compete with shiny cross bracing. We’ve only seen this in photos and couldn’t help but think that we were looking at the rear of a hearse. We trust that’s not the case in real life.
We’ve been able to drive both models, the CLS 250 CDI during the press launch late last year and the CLS 350 in our recent extended test. The CLS 250 CDI has plenty of performance with a minimal amount of turbo lag. Road noise is well damped, though we suspect there may be slightly more intrusion into the rear of the cabin because of the wagon body.
While the V6 petrol engine in the CLS 350 offers more refinement those on a tight budget would find it hard to justify the extra $44,000 (mostly LCT) in its purchase price as well as the increased fuel costs. Then again buyers in this market aren’t on tight budgets.
Handling in both models is neat and precise with good steering feel and the ability to get the big wagon hustled into corners with ease.
CLS 250 CDI 2.2-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $129,000 (automatic)
CLS 350 3.5-litre petrol five-door wagon: $173,000 (automatic)
Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake
Price: from $129,000
Crash rating: Not rated
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC, ESC
Engine: 2.1-litre 4-cyl, 150kW/500Nm; 3.5-litre 4-cyl, 225kW/370Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, RWD
Dimensions: 4.96m (L), 1.89m (W), 1.42m (H)
Thirst: 5.5L/100km; 8.2L/100km