The new Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake manages to pull off a very impressive trick.
You see, with the CLS, Mercedes combined the style of a coupe with the practicality of an executive saloon. However, the Shooting Brake does even better it boosts practicality to estate-car levels without sacrificing the style.
What's the 2012 Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake like inside?
The Shooting Brake's low roof means its boot is pretty shallow compared with an Audi A6 Avant's or BMW 5 Series Touring's. However, it's also very long and wide, so it still gives impressive load-lugging capability.
You can carry even more by stashing items in the huge storage compartment under the boot floor. Including this area, the Shooting Brake's total load capacity is 590 litres.
The shape of the tailgate means that the opening is a bit on the narrow side and you have to heave heavy items over a small lip.
There are some very handy touches elsewhere, though. The side walls of the boot are completely flat, the tailgate is powered, and when you tug a lever concealed in the boot wall, the spring-loaded rear seats drop flat to maximise load space.
The passenger compartment also has its fair share of practicality. Everyone gets very generous kneeroom, and although rear headroom is tighter than in most major rivals, only exceptionally tall passengers will struggle.
As a bonus the Shooting Brake has five seats instead of the regular CLS's four, so you can bring along one more pal.
Elsewhere in the cabin, the Shooting Brake is typical CLS, which means most of the materials are dense and lustrous, giving it the top-quality feel that some other Mercs lack.
You'll like the low-slung driving position, and the electric seat adjustment makes getting comfortable easy. However, the complicated design of the rear end means that rear visibility is seriously impaired.
What's the 2012 Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake like to drive?
The CLS Shooting Brake is a very relaxing car to drive. Wind and road noise are extremely well suppressed, and the 262bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine we tried is impressively smooth and quiet (you can also have the Shooting Brake with a 201bhp four-cylinder diesel or a 549bhp 5.5-litre V8 petrol).
The V6's prodigious power and torque also gives seriously rapid acceleration when needed, and the silky seven-speed automatic gearbox always seems to know which ratio you want.
Our test car came with optional air suspension (1150), which delivers an outstandingly supple ride at all speeds.
Impressively, the car still feels secure and tightly controlled in bends, and you'll also love the accurate, well-weighted steering.
We'd exercise a slight note of caution, though; our experience with the regular CLS tells us that cars with the standard suspension have a firmer edge than air-sprung versions, while AMG Sport models are firmer still.
Should I buy one?
Here's where we exercise a bigger note of caution. The Shooting Brake is expensive; model for model, it costs many thousands more than most of its major competitors.
What's more, despite its slinky looks and desirable badge, the Shooting Brake is unlikely to match its big rivals on residual values.
Still, the diesels are competitive on fuel and CO2 emissions, and the Shooting Brake comes stuffed with standard kit, including climate control, sat-nav, leather upholstery and nine airbags.
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What Car? says