MERCEDES-BENZ started a trend with its CLS in 2004, giving us a large four-door saloon with the look of a coupé.
This Shooting Brake version of the car is a welcome arrival.
The model makes sense, giving a rear loading hatch for practicality, more cargo space but retaining a sleek fast-back style. The load floor and sides are carpeted, with under-floor storage, side nets with the option of aluminium rails on the floor. Another option is a cherry-wood deck – at a hefty price hike.
And the name? The company explains: “Break, or the homonym brake, was the name once given to carriages used to ‘break’ in wild horses and also to restrict (or “brake”) their urge to move, so that they could be put to use as work horses. Where necessary, “Brakes” were often fitted out with variable bodies, which were only really used to carry along anything that may have been necessary for the hunt, for example. Any such vehicle which was used when going out shooting was called a Shooting Brake or Shooting Break.” Discuss?
Shooting Brake? I can’t see many of these taking guns to their prey. The name Station Wagon would be more appropriate, or Grand Tourer. It is a model that could be aimed at Americans – though by nature they are sniffy about buying estate cars. Mercedes built the gargantuan R-Class estate car for the US, only for it to be largely ignored there.
In Britain we start at £49,360 for the four-cylinder 250CDI, expected to be our big seller. The smoother and more powerful 350CDI costs £53,000 – both of them are a premium of £1,785 over the equivalent CLS Coupé but there is more equipment including the self-levelling rear air suspension. The only petrol model offered in Britain is the race-quick V8 63AMG at £83,030. The diesel models are offered in AMG Sport specification at £52,370 and £55,995. The gearbox is seven speed automatic with stop-start ignition.
Disregarding the over-sexed V8 model, you get a lot of car for around £50,000. It is five metres long — an inch and a bit longer than the Coupé. It has more cargo space – enough for 40 boxes of wine with the seats up, or 100 boxes with the seats folded. Maybe it should be called the CLS Vino Wagon but there is one snag with carrying 100 boxes of wine. They would weigh approximately 750 kg – which is a third more than its official payload.
Wine or not, it really does smack of a gentleman’s estate car – even more so if you shell out another £4,030 for the wooden rear cargo floor. This homage to the caulked deck of a yacht is faced with cherry wood, with protective aluminium facing runners. The estate weighs an extra 64 kg, and you can feel this added encumbrance in corners. It lacks the easier handling of the Coupé or indeed (shorter) conventional estate cars like the BMW Touring and Mercedes-Benz’s own E-Class, which shares the basic chassis and wheelbase – and is much cheaper. Its handling poise and an impolite clatter over drain covers really do not matter a jot because while it does not feel like a natural born dancer, and even reluctant to be flung into fast curves, it can still be driven quickly enough by a normal driver.
Style, that’s what will sell the Brake. It looks stunning – though there is a view that the first CLS Coupé looked more special than its successor and therefore an estate version of the first version would have looked better than the one we see here. Too late for that now.
There is some good chattering material here for the Camshaft Arms while in the Smallbore Bar they’ll be debating the need at all for the Brake. Conversely, will it make the Coupé look like a poor relation. The price premium for the Brake seems modest considering the extra equipment (to recap: better LED lights, rear air springs, powered tailgate, bigger load volume) plus its rakish profile which is more imposing than the Coupé. «