Most people don’t know what a shooting brake is. Originally it was a type of car designed to transport wealthy aristocrats and their shooting paraphernalia into the countryside to see off as many pheasants as possible before their hip flasks ran out. These days it’s a fancy name for a fancy motor that has the practicality of an estate car and the ability to drive like a sporty coupé.
Shooting brakes are back in vogue and Mercedes-Benz’s latest estate car, the CLS Shooting Brake, is the most stylish so far. Mercedes has taken its CLS four-door coupé – another car that reinvented a niche segment – and added a long, lithe tail.
The exterior cuts quite a dash thanks to its muscular front and sloping roofline that tapers to a hatch at the rear. It looks graceful thanks its low-to-the-road stance. My test CLS 350 CDI AMG Sport version was further enhanced by AMG body styling, sports suspension, upgraded brakes and 19-inch AMG alloy wheels. The resulting car is sleek and streamlined – far better to look at than the CLS coupé.
Inside is just as good. Lavish and sporty, the interior will be familiar to any Mercedes owner. The leather AMG three-spoke steering wheel enhances the sporty feel in a cabin that otherwise communicates opulence. The ambient lighting in the doors, though functional, adds class. Despite external appearances, there is a surprising amount of headroom for rear seat passengers and at 590 litres the boot is massive.
What you really want to know, though, is how it drives. Very well is the answer. It delivers on the elegance and practicality it promises and does so in a singularly sporting fashion. Powered by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, this CLS Shooting Brake feels quick. It is also surprisingly nimble despite its appearance. Progress – 0-62mph takes 6.6 seconds – is swift and comfortable. The seven-speed automatic transmission ensures smooth and quiet motoring. Operation is via the tastefully subtle paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, or you can take the cosseted option and let the car take care of the gear shifting for you. The overall impression is of a powerful and responsive engine delivering you towards your goal with the utmost efficiency. A self-levelling suspension system ensures the ride is comfortable and this is the case even when the trunk is loaded.
When driving it I barely carried more than my weekly shop but the Shooting Brake is a load lugger, even if it is less practical than its sibling. Unlike the E-class estate, it cries out for a different kind of cargo, possibly a couple of gun cases and a field hamper, particularly if you opt for the optional Designo American cherry wood deck-like floor. At £4,030 I reckon it’s worth every penny. It’s an absolute must-have from a style perspective. Just lay a rug in it if you do transport the dogs in the back.
Can it really be this good? You bet. I loved it. You might not get a fridge in the boot, but there’s enough space to keep the whole family happy.
The fact that it’s not the average estate car is instantly apparent. This is an estate car for people who would never normally consider owning one. It’s a practical choice for the style conscious fashionista.
THE FACTS: MERCEDES-BENZ CLS SHOOTING BRAKE
0-62MPH: 6.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 161g/km
MPG COMBINED: 47.1mpg
DESIGN Five stars
PERFORMANCE Four stars
PRACTICALITY Four Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars