Them’s the brakes

Benz builds a go-fast ver­sion of its com­pact wagon. It’s unique, that’s for sure

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

IN THE world of pres­tige cars, the com­pact class has be­come the new and boom­ing bat­tle­field.

For­get the 3 Se­ries and the A4 and the C-Class, these days there are smaller and cheaper con­tenders from the Big Three out of Ger­many, with Mercedes-Benz set­ting the pace in value as well as choice.

The A3 is cook­ing along for Audi, BMW has just restyled and re­vi­talised the 1 Se­ries but Benz is into top gear with no fewer than five choices for some­one is look­ing for con­densed lux­ury.

The A-Class is selling up a storm around the world, the prac­ti­cal B-Class is do­ing well and for some peo­ple the GLA SUV and CLA four-door coupe also tick a box.

Then there is the CLA Shoot­ing Brake. Which is where the queries be­gin.

Very few peo­ple in Aus­tralia are buy­ing tiny wag­ons. So why is Benz go­ing there? And why is there an AMG ver­sion of the Shoot­ing Brake — aren’t go­faster fans much more likely to pick the CLA coupe?

In search of the an­swers, I’m jump­ing into the CLA 45 AMG 4Matic and quickly dis­cov­er­ing it’s a car that tries to be all things to lots of peo­ple. It is, as Benz am­bigu­ously de­scribes it, “a unique ve­hi­cle”.

It’s a looker, that’s for sure,

and there is no ques­tion­ing the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of a pocket pow­er­house with 265kW, a 0-100km/h sprint time un­der 5.0 sec­onds, and an elec­tron­i­cally lim­ited top speed of 270km/h.

But the boot is not as good as the GLA, which is my per­sonal favourite among the sil­ver star’s tid­dlers, and even less use­ful than I ex­pect as I’m try­ing to load the six-year-old’s BMX bike and equip­ment into the tail.

It’s a tighter squeeze than I an­tic­i­pate, de­spite a claimed 470L, but should not come as a sur­prise when the “big box” look of con­ven­tional wag­ons has been binned in favour of a droop­ing roofline that matches the con­tours at the front.

The per­for­mance is im­pres­sive and we love the ex­plo­sive turbo work that comes in full sports mode.

On the safety front, Benz does some of the best work in the car world so I’m con­fi­dent it’s a five-star per­former even with­out an of­fi­cial ANCAP score or rat­ing for the wagon.

But I can’t help think­ing about the C63 wagon, and how it’s so much more what I’d want in a hot wagon. There is the ques­tion of price, of course, but still the CLA is a hefty ask from $89,510.

Yes, ba­si­cally $90,000 be­fore on-roads, for a baby wagon.

Now, there is still a lot to like in the CLA 45, from the body de­sign to the classy in­te­rior fin­ish. There are sports seats with real sup­port and a grippy leather-wrapped wheel.

As a drive, I find it’s a bit short in sus­pen­sion travel — which means it can thump through some pot­holes and sharp dips — but the cor­ner­ing grip is great and there is al­ways enough go. With an on-de­mand all-wheel drive sys­tem, the car is con­stantly ad­just­ing to the road and your driv­ing, so it al­ways feels bal­anced and planted.

The turn­ing cir­cle is not great, at 11.04m but the fuel econ­omy is good at 7.0L/100km.

With the ro­tary dial to se­lect the driv­ing mode, from placid to race-style, AMG has also tuned the car so it can match any mood. And the pad­dle shifters for the seven-speed auto are crisply re­spon­sive.

TICK OR NO TICK

Even so, for all its pluses, the CLA AMG Shoot­ing Brake is a car too far. So, for the first time in a very long time, there is no tick for this three-pointed star.

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Shoot­ing Brake

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