Overall rating: 4/5
Leaving no niche unfilled, Mercedes-Benz creates a Shooting Brake from its CLS four-door coupé. The consummate all-rounder just got even more practical with the addition of its estate-like rear end, yet retains all the aesthetic appeal of its less spacious relation.
In the metal 5/5
Gorgeous. Or if you don't think so: interesting at least. The Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake will always provoke a reaction, and the majority of the time it's complimentary. Taking the already niche CLS four-door coupé and adding some practicality back into the equation the CLS Shooting Brake's pseudo-estate car looks hide a surprisingly useful load space. Seats up, the long boot will hold 590 litres; fold them and it'll carry 1,550 litres - more than a C-Class Estate. Opt for the Cherry Wood floor, which looks like the deck of a yacht, and you'll never put anything in it - not least because it's an expensive option and looks sensational.
It's a highlight inside, as really the CLS Shooting Brake differs too little from the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range to feel truly individual. It's all functional and beautifully constructed, as you'd expect, and the lower, more rakish windscreen does add some appeal, but it's not quite special enough in there.
Driving it 4/5
It's unsurprising to find that the CLS Shooting Brake drives virtually identically to its four-door relation. That's to say very competently indeed. Buyers of the CLS Shooting Brake sold in Ireland get four engines to choose from (as in the regular CLS), the range made up of the 2.2-litre CLS 250 CDI, the 3.0-litre V6 CLS 350 CDI tested here, the CLS 350 and last but not least is that wearing an AMG 63 badge and delivering 557hp. The 350 CDI is the best all-round proposition, mixing useable real-world performance, respectable fuel consumption and fine ride and handling.
The CLS Shooting Brake's agility belies its size. The steering is slightly dead around the straight ahead, but weights up nicely when turned and even offers a modicum of feel through the rim. The suspension manages comfort and control adeptly, though opt for the AMG Sport model with its more focused suspension and larger 19-inch alloy wheels and the trade-off is a firmer ride.
The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine is a fine installation under the CLS Shooting Brake's long bonnet. Its 265hp might not seem huge, but the 620Nm torque figure defines it, the ample twist giving the CLS Shooting Brake effortless mid-range - it even sounds good at the top end. A fine cruiser, it'll pick up with convincing punch, is smooth and works well with the seven-speed automatic transmission. That automatic can be reluctant to change gears manually and is a bit clunky at town speeds, so it's arguably the weakest link in a fine driving package.
What you get for your money 4/5
Assuming the Shooting Brake will follow the specification of the four-door model, all should come with (man-made) leather upholstery, metallic paint, Bi-Xenon headlamps, alloy wheels and a host of safety equipment as standard. Opt for the CLS AMG sports package and you'll gain full LED headlamps with an 'Intelligent light' system, 19-inch AMG alloy wheels and sports suspension and brakes.
The option list is lengthy, and one of the most attractive things you can specify is the Cherry Wood rear boot floor. Inlayed with aluminium and with black rubber strips to grip the luggage it's a beautiful carry-over feature from the CLS Shooting Brake concept. Gorgeous is might be, but it won't be cheap.
A niche model within an already niche player the CLS Shooting Brake breaks new ground for Mercedes-Benz. Unlikely to ever be pushed into service as a genuine load lugger, it's more of an individual choice for those who prefer its lines to the coupé and a throwback to Shooting Brakes of old. That Mercedes-Benz has built it deserves applause, as its uniqueness is an enormous part of its appeal.