JUDGING from all the initial press reports it would appear that Mercedes has hit the jackpot with its CLS Shooting Brake. The second-generation saloon, or four-door coupe in Mercedes-speak, that preceded the Shooting Brake also got the thumbs up, and set the stage for a long-awaited alternative to the conventional premium estate car.
With the basic CLS Shooting Brake consisting of two diesel models, it's clear that beneath the car's sleek exterior it will still be considered by many as a workhorse vehicle. Sure enough, the car's powered tailgate and wide, flat load bay ensure that it can swallow a fair amount of stuff - 590 litres of space in regular trim and 1,550 litres with the rear seats folded. It can't match the more practical, and less streamlined, E-Class but that won't be an issue for buyers seeking a more stylish yet still versatile alternative to a large box on wheels.
And as sure as day follows night, the introduction of a new Mercedes is often swiftly followed by a muscular AMG-tuned version. Mirroring the CLS four-door's high performance variant, the Shooting Brake also gains the very same AMG 5.5-litre turbocharged V8 petrol motor.
Mercedes might appear to be powering ahead with a slew of AMG-badged cars, but in the firm's defense there appears to be no shortage of demand. North America, Asia and the Middle East are enthusiastic customers even if Europeans wince at the price of fuel these days.
That said, Mercedes and AMG have made considerable improvements in this regard, and it’s the main reason why power comes not from the old 6.2-litre V8 but a turbocharged 5.5-litre V8. Fuel consumption and emissions are down while the added push from the turbos delivers greater real world flexibility for low speed driving and overtaking.
On paper the car produces 557bhp plus a healthy 530lb/ft torque. Dragster-like behaviour is guaranteed thanks to those figures, and sure enough 62mph can be reached in 4.3 seconds and the limited top speed is the usual 155mph.
Despite this hooligan-like performance, fuel consumption is an impressive 28mpg. Granted, spirited real world performance will likely see that dip, while CO2 is an equally reasonable 235g/km.
On the road the CLS Shooting Brake delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride for something with so much potential. The option to switch between suspension settings gives you the flexibility to firm things up when conditions allow.
The now familiar AMG seven-speed sports auto transmission can be left in D for most of the time, while four modes offer increasing degrees of shift response plus there’s the ability to play with a pair of chunky steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Explore the car’s various settings and you can get it to behave or wag its tail like a drifting champion. With the latter progress is always predictable, which is doubly impressive for a car of this size. Playing it straight also reaps rewards; the CLS is surprisingly agile and feels much smaller than it really is. The car’s steering is precise and, even in the firmest setting, the suspension does a good job of dealing with surface imperfections.
The switch to a turbo motor might have reduced the decibel count inside the cabin – good for relaxed motorway cruising – but it only takes a quick prod of the throttle pedal to change all that. The result is proof that, despite the need to chase down emissions and fuel consumption, the AMG engineers still know how to make fast cars fun to drive. That the CLS sounds good when at full chat is another plus point over some of its more clinical rivals.
For all the car’s performance attributes, the CLS Shooting Brake just as easily appeals to your practical side. Like its four-door cousin, the Shooting Brake confidently swallows a full compliment of adults, while the rear doors open wide enough to make access and egress straightforward. The car’s wide, flat load bay and easy-open tailgate further reinforce its versatile character.
In AMG tune Mercedes’ CLS Shooting Brake is no go-faster trinket but a genuinely capable load-lugger for all but the most demanding of owners. Rapid to the point of being supercar-fast in the right hands yet versatile enough to justify its price tag if you only want one quick car in the household, sometimes a niche car can be capable of generating widespread appeal.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake, from £83,030 on the road.Engine: 5.5-litre petrol unit developing 557bhp.Transmission: 7-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.Performance: Maximum speed 155mph, 0-62mph 4.3 seconds.Economy: 28mpg.CO2 Rating: 235g/km.