Sporty option for the family
In Italy, Motor News experienced the reincarnation of the Shooting Brake genre
THE current MercedesBenz CLS is arguably one of the most alluring interpretations of the fourdoor genre with a heavy bent towards sportiness and luxury.
Of course, BMW now has its own rendition in the form of the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, Porsche has the Panamera and Aston Martin has the exquisite Rapide. Merc was certainly the first out of the starting blocks when it launched the first generation CLS in 2004 and I travelled to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, to witness the company’s next chapter in the CLS book in the form of the Shooting Brake (SB).
Essentially a station wagon (estate) variant of the CLS, it retains those elegant lines of its four-seat brethren, but has significantly better versatility and practicality in its arsenal, which may not seem the case at face value.
For starters, it has five seats instead of four and has the ability to tow a trailer or caravan thanks to a retractable tow bar and airmatic suspension on the rear axle. The latter, according to the design project leader, was chosen in order to compensate for the weight that the rear axle is likely to be subjected to and to keep both the front and rear ride height as level as possible, which aids crisper handling.
Measuring just shy of 5m in length, the proportions are surprisingly in line with the rest of the car’s sporty stance. The front up to the b-pillars is similar fare to the four-door coupe, but from there the SB has a considerably sharper look with the sloping roof and beltline melding rather dramatically into the c-pillar. Also, the side windows are distinctly narrower than its stablemate — lending it a very dynamic profile for what is essentially an estate.
Interior appointments, as can be expected, are similar to that of its sibling, save for the rear bench and the boot. Rear seat occupation is reasonable at worst, but the middle seat is perhaps more suited for children than adults. Boot space is a useable 590l, which can be increased to 1,150l with the rear seat backs folded forward. Still on the boot side, you can also opt for the “designo” wood luggage compartment floor, which uses American cherry wood veneer sheets glued together to give a yacht deck like look, which is certainly pleasing to the eye, but perhaps not quite practical. It costs about R20,000 and there is a carpet that you can use to cover the boot floor should you need to, but this somehow defeats the purpose.
There are three models that will make their way to SA next month. These will come in the
It is the CLS350 that is the pick of the bunch with sufficient power and torque for daily use
form of the CLS SB 350, the 500 and 63 AMG. Internationally, there are also 250 and 350 CDI models available. In the instance of the 350 with its 3.5l V6 petrol model, you get 225kW and 370Nm via a seven-speed automatic transmission, a 0-100km/h figure of 6.7 seconds and a top end of 250km/h, while fuel and carbon emission figures are pegged at 7.3l and 169g/km.
Next is the 500 with a twin turbocharged 4.6l V8 making 300kW and 600Nm through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Vital stats are a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds, top speed of 250km/h, 9.2l/100km and 214g/km of carbon emissions.
Headlining the range with a very throaty soundtrack is the 5.5l V8 powered AMG model with 386kW and 700Nm surging through a twin-clutch seven-speed speedshift gearbox to accelerate to 100km/h from standstill in 4.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 250km/h while consuming 10.1l/100km and spewing 235g/km of carbon.
Driving all three models on the launch, it is the CLS350 that is the pick of the bunch with sufficient power and torque for daily use, and enough grunt to overtake slower moving traffic. We averaged 10.3l/100km during an 83km launch route and, though way off the claimed figure, the overall figure was commendable. The CLS500 is surprisingly lithe and agile for what it is and managed to keep up with the brawnier CLS63 on most sections of the route.
But, come number crunching time I feel that you are better off shelling out extra for the AMG as in this segment the bragging rights of driving the big daddy of the range can be warranted.
We managed to put the AMG model through its paces on a winding, 20km route where hard cornering and braking were the order of the day. Even under these conditions the model managed to mask its weight while the optional ceramic brakes managed to arrest speed well and without brake fade. Admittedly, it was difficult to distinguish whether this model is more dynamic than its four-seat sibling, but overall composure was impressive for what is essentially a family wagon.
When all is said and done, the CLS Shooting Brake is not just another pointless car in the segment. While the E-Class estate will appease most family needs with a comfortable interior and appointments, it does not quite evoke passion in the beholder and this is where the Shooting Brake comes in. It is for a family man who wants practicality without relinquishing sporty styling and dynamism.
NEW CLASS: From the front, the Shooting Brake looks like any other CLS, but its rear, top right, shows a modern interpretation on the shooting brake theme. Middle right: The rear seats will accommodate three, but the centre seat is more for youngsters. The optional rear decking, right, is likely to cost about R20,000 and boot access is limited by that narrow aperture.