Sporty op­tion for the fam­ily

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE - Ler­ato Matebese ler­ato@mweb­

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.

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