Mercedes-Benz surprised the motoring world in 2003 by launching the CLS four-door coupe. People said a coupe could not have four doors and that the CLS wouldn't work.
Tens of thousands of sales have proven the doubters wrong and cheekily, Mercedes has introduced what it calls a coupe-estate, a stylish five-door CLS station wagon. Or rather a CLS Shooting Brake.
Explore the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Range
The name shooting brake was coined centuries back for horse-drawn wagons used to carry shooting parties to country estates. Over 100 years ago the term reached the automotive field when Rolls-Royce built what it called a shooting break.
We first admired the stylish Mercedes CLS wagon at the 2010 New York Motor Show and later attended its world debut at the famed Brooklands racing oval in England. Now we have finally had the chance to drive one in Australia.
Priced from $129,000 the most fascinating thing about the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake is that it exists in a field of one. Sure there are other upmarket competitors, but none of them has the style and elegance of this one.
Jaguar has already shown a concept of what it calls a Sportbrake at recent European motor shows and it will be interesting to see if other topline marques try to chase Mercedes into what could become an expansive niche in the market.
At the rear the roof slopes down in a similar manner to that of the CLS four-door coupe. We particularly like the way the side windows finish at their rear point and love the old-style shiny finish that surrounds them. A nice retro touch. Inside, the Shooting Brake is finished in quality materials giving a pleasant appearance and a warm ambiance. In very Mercedes’ fashion there are easy to read dials that will be familiar to all Mercedes owners.
While the Shooting Brake’s shape is unashamedly sleek it doesn’t do too badly in the practicality stakes. The rear seat has good headroom and legroom and we would have no problem sitting back there for a long interstate trip. Sensibly, the rear area is set up for two individuals, however there’s also a somewhat cramped centre seat so five can be carried for short, but not particularly comfortable trips.
Luggage space is surprisingly good as well, the extravagantly long tail of the Shooting Brake means substantially long objects can be transported. However, large boxy items are restricted by the slope of the roof. In a lovely touch harking back to the days of the horse drawn shooting brakes and the old motor wagons, the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake has the option of a mahogany timber-lined floor complete with shiny cross bracing.
Two versions of the CLS Shooting Brake are now on sale in Australia, the $129,000 250 CDI powered by a twin-turbo diesel engine producing up to 150 kW of power 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).
Then there’s the 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit in the CLS 350 Shooting Brake comes with 225 kW and 370 Nm. Its fuel usage of 8.2 litres per hundred kilometres means it attracts the full ire of the Australian taxation people, as LCT adds a whopping $26,277 to the price, bringing it up to $173,000.
On the road we only had the chance to test the four-cylinder CLS 250. It has plenty of performance, indeed we suspect the great majority of owners would never ask for more. Once minimal turbo lag has been passed the engine has strong acceleration. Overtaking speeds, typically getting as fast as possible from 80 to 120 km/h are despatched quickly to maximise safety.
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. Comfort levels are high and this is the sort of car that could transport four people across vast expanses of Australian countryside, leaving them cool and relaxed at the end of a long day’s driving. Handling is neat and precise with good steering feel and the ability to get the large Shooting Brake hustled into corners with ease.