Whether you look at the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake as a more practical coupe with five doors and a large boot, or an estate car that places style above practicality, Mercedes has succeeded in creating another niche in the premium sector. To prove it, the Shooting Brake name will extend to two models in 2015 as the CLA gets the swoopy estate treatment as well.
But before that car’s arrival Mercedes has given the CLS Shooting Brake a swish makeover, and this is our first opportunity to drive it in the UK. Gone is old car’s two-bar grille and in comes a ‘diamond’ version, while the front bumper has been re-shaped. At the rear there’s a more aggressive-looking bumper and the taillights have been darkened.
But the big news concerns the headlamps as the CLS Shooting Brake now comes with clever Multibeam LED technology. Each light cluster ditches conventional light bulbs and instead uses 24 LEDs to light up the road. Flick the indicator stalk forwards for full beam and the LEDs fan dramatically upwards and outwards giving unparalleled vision, and thanks to the Highbeam Assist function – which senses an oncoming car and shuts off the relevant LEDs shining at it – it’s possible to drive at night with full beams on all of the time.
In the refreshed CLS Shooting Brake range, Mercedes offers two diesel engines while a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 petrol is reserved for the CLS 63 AMG S Shooting Brake. There’s a 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit but we’d recommend spending an extra £3,305 for the creamy 3.0-litre V6, badged 350 BlueTEC. With a healthy 258bhp and 620Nm of torque, it’s the perfect engine for the 1.9-tonne Shooting Brake, allowing 0-62mph to be ticked off in 6.6 seconds.
Refined, flexible and powerful, it’s barely audible on the move - even on tickover it’s quiet and the stop-start function shuts down and springs to life with little vibration in city situations. The new nine-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t improve the CLS’s sprinting capability, but shifts between ratios even more smoothly. Combined economy comes in at 49.6mpg while CO2 emissions are 149g/km.
Choosing which engine to have is the only decision to make, because the new range comes in one specification. All AMG Line cars feature gorgeous 19-inch AMG wheels, AMG bodystyling, lowered suspension, leather upholstery, multibeam LED lights, climate control, internet, sat-nav, heated front seats and a powered tailgate. There’s a plethora of optional extras and two extra specification packs too – you can have the boot lined in cherry wood, for instance – but the standard car’s generous specification leads us to recommend going for that one.
Flick the paddles behind the wheel and the car enjoys being hustled along on country roads – the nine-speed box is quick to respond and the power delivery is linear. But ultimately the Shooting is a grand tourer and it’s perfectly at home at cosseting the driver and passengers in near-silence on the motorway.
The Shooting Brake is more practical than you think, too. It’s just 10 litres down on the much more sensible E-Class Estate with the seats up, but once the seats are folded down, the CLS loses some 350 litres. The makeover has made the car even more delicious to own and drive - it’s an eccentric choice, but one that always feel special to drive.
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