Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 Shooting Brake

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Shooting Brake' is a very grand term for an estate car, isn't it? It evokes images of the coachbuilt specials of yore - the Jaguar XJ-S-based Lynx Eventer, the Aston Martin DB4 & DB5 Shooting Brakes, sporty coupés that were re-hammered into estates to make them more practical for grouse shoots and what-have-you. And it does make sense in the context of the CLS.
You see, while the CLS may appear to some to be a luxury four-door saloon, it is styled and positioned as a coupé - albeit quite a big one. So the act of expanding the rear glasshouse and bolting on a tailgate wouldn't be done justice by merely referring to it as a 'CLS estate' - 'Shooting Brake' is far more appropriate for the model's ethos.

This one's quite a cheeky one too: the example SuckSqueezeBangBlow tested was the CLS 350 BlueTEC AMG-Line. What that means, in essence, is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel offering 258bhp, a nine-speed autobox, 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, 19" AMG alloys, vast brakes, AMG sport seats, clever LED lights, and self-levelling air suspension. Given the hugeness of the spec list - and, er, the car itself - it seems remarkably reasonable at £51,765.
It's an entertaining thing to drive, too - burying the throttle when the traffic lights turn green causes the tail to wiggle and squirm, before the electronics rein in the mischief and set about firing you toward the horizon as efficiently as they can manage. This sort of casual-yet-strict parenting characterises the car as a whole; try to get the tail out on a greasy roundabout, for example, and it'll j-u-s-t let you oversteer for a second or two before giving you a stern look and a slap on the wrist, the chassis straightening everything up and pretending nothing happened. It just stops short of spitting on a handkerchief and wiping the jam off your chin, you scruffy little urchin. Stop messing about. Stand up straight. Honestly.

The CLS Shooting Brake is like a mischievous young dad - aware of the necessities of practicality that come with family life and doing everything possible to make it all run smoothly, and yet eager to be a little bit naughty when nobody's looking. The thing brims with potential: sure, you'll spend 95% of your time in the car being a grown-up, carting kids and hedge-clippings about, but for that other 5%, the cheeky grin emerges and everything gets a bit sideways. Just for a moment, but it's enough.

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