Mercedes CLS 250CDI Shooting Brake test
It has the dramatically swooping lines of the coupe and a similarly shallow, banana-shaped side glass area, but it adds an extra side window under a roof pulled well back over the rear wheels.
Engines for the UK are 250- and 350 CDI diesels and a monstrous 549bhp, twin-turbo V8 for the CLS63 AMG. Here we're testing the 201bhp CLS 250CDI, which has a 2143cc, four-cylinder engine.
What's the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 250CDI Shooting Brake like inside?
Not nearly as claustrophobic as it looks, despite the shallow side windows – which are frameless, incidentally, yet very well sealed against wind noise.
There's much polished aluminium in the cabin (including a square surround for a retro-looking analogue clock), reflecting the fact that the doors, bonnet, tailgate, front wings and some structural body parts are made of the lightweight metal.
You can also choose from several wood finishes and leather textures from the Designo trim options.
One such option is the cherry-wood boot floor with fumed-oak inlays and rubber grip strips set in aluminium, yours for an astonishing £4030. It's meant to evoke a yacht's decking, but the wood surface is worryingly easy to scratch.
Pulling release levers in the boot space flips down the rear seats' backrests to make an extended load floor, which is far from flat. The boot itself is generous – 590 litres up to the window line – but the loading aperture is small.
This is a proper five-seat estate car, with generous legroom and acceptable rear headroom despite the low roofline, and, as expected, its cabin exudes quality and luxury.
What's the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 250CDI Shooting Brake like to drive?
Very much like a CLS coupe, which means it's tauter and more sporting than an E-Class, but still majors on refinement.
The engine is smooth and quiet enough for you not to notice its low cylinder-count, and there's enough torque – 369lb ft – to haul this heavy car with ease, as the claimed 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds shows.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox has a selector on the steering column and paddleshifters for manual control, and it shifts smoothly once you've learned to trust the engine's pulling power and can resist the temptation to press the accelerator too far.
The Sport mode gives more eager downshifts for smaller accelerator movements, while a stop-start system is standard.
The CLS's electric power-steering system speeds up the straight-ahead response, making this hefty car feel surprisingly compact and agile. You might expect such a system to feel unnatural, but it doesn't.
The air suspension gives a firm but comfortable ride in the Comfort setting, but the Sport setting is for smooth roads only.
Surprisingly, the CLS retains Mercedes' old-fashioned foot-operated parking brake.
Should I buy one?
The CLS Shooting Brake looks pricey compared with conventional executive estates. Nevertheless it combines striking style with proper practicality, while also proving a quiet cruiser that is crisp and agile to drive.
You can specify an AMG Sport trim (an extra £3010), which adds LED headlights, larger wheels, more aggressive styling and more sporting suspension, but we'd stick with the regular 250 CDI version.
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By John Simister