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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CLS-class - 250 CDI Shooting Brake

Our Opinion

We like
Stylish design rounds out the CLS stable, big-car performance from strong and frugal twin-turbo diesel engine
Room for improvement
Cramped rear-seat space, confusing switchgear around steering wheel, can’t use load area as a picnic bench

Mercedes-Benz logo28 Jun 2013

By BARRY PARK

Price and equipment

The entry-level Shooting Brake in the two-model line-up – until a barnstorming AMG model is added – costs from $129,000 before on-road charges. That lumbers the bigger boot with a $9100 premium over the entry-level CLS 250 CDI coupe.

By comparison, the more conventionally styled Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI costs from $108,150, and includes a rearward-facing third row of seats that increase carrying capacity to seven, well up on the CLS Shooting Brake’s five pews, and almost doubling the CLS coupe’s four.

Audi’s front-drive A6 Avant wagon, costing from $82,900 for the four-cylinder turbo diesel version, has a higher-quality, less moody interior than the Benz, but it is somewhat dowdy on the outside by comparison.

Nope, there’s really nothing out there like it for the money. For it, though, you get the SLS-style nose, the strong side strakes running down to those big hips, and the convenience of a compact-opening tailgate.

As a showpony for the CLS range, the Shooting Brake is well equipped. Our test car contained only one option – the $2100 iridium silver paint – but the Benz didn’t feel like a pauper.

It starts with keyless entry and start (using a very traditional-looking key fob), and runs to electric adjust front seats featuring leather-clad trim with contrast stitching, S-Class-style instrumentation, a big colour LCD screen high on the dash, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with a speed limiter function, automatic bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, satellite navigation, a sunroof, driver fatigue monitor, lane diversion warning that shakes the steering wheel if you stray out of a lane, reversing camera, a parking assistant that will automatically steer you into a spot, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Outside, there’s an AMG body kit that gives the Benz a mean edge to its ready-to-pounce styling. To make things easy, there’s even an electric tailgate open/close function.

Interior

The veiw from behind the wheel in the CLS Shooting Brake looks just the same as in the coupe version.

The driver is presented with a confusing array of stalks around the steering wheel. The CLS still uses the steering column-mounted gear selector, fixed to the right side of the steering wheel. On the left side are the indicator stalk, cruise control and speed limiter stalk, and a small toggle switch for controlling the electric-adjust steering column.

In the heat of the moment, it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s where. Mistake the gear selector for the indicator when making a left turn, and you knock the seven-speed automatic transmission into neutral. Go to recall the cruise control’s memory setting by pulling the lever forward, and you could flash the CLS’s headlights by mistake. Sure you’d get used to it ... and then borrow someone else’s car for a day and need to remap your brain again.

There’s also a foot-operated parking brake, which in a car costing more than $100,000 is wrong. Even a base-model Commodore has an electric one now.

Push those criticisms, harsh as they are, aside and the CLS Shooting Brake’s interior is a comfortable, cosseting place, with the high door sill making it feel quite closed-in.

The interior on our test car, though, is quite black, helped a little by the brushed chrome-look highlights and the white contrast stitching on the leather, and leather-look upholstery covering almost every surface you touch.

The rear bench is typical E-Class tight, although headroom benefits from the fastback roofline compared with the quiff-compressing coupe. You’re still feeling hemmed in, though, because of a ridge in the headliner that swallows the opened sunroof. Don’t lean forward too quickly.

The outboard seats are deep and comfortable, but toe- and knee room are tight and the high beltline – where the body ends and the windows start – give a closed-in feel.

A pair of drink holders flip out of the fold-down centre armrest, and the rear seatbacks split-fold forward to lie almost flat.

The Shooting Brake’s electrically operated tailgate opens high to reveal a big space fitted with six tie-down points, bag hooks, a 12-volt socket and a tap-to-retract load space cover. There are no picnic lunches sitting on the boot floor, though, as there’s a low, wide sill in the way.

Engine and transmission

At 2.1 litres, the four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine under the CLS250 CDI Shooting Brake’s bonnet doesn’t sound like much.

However, open the taps from a traffic light and the little engine pulls like a big V6 and, unusually for a diesel engine, quietly and smoothly.

It’s all down to the numbers the engine is capable of. Power hits its peak at 150kW very early on down the rev range, but torque – the thing that endows the Shooting Brake with its ability to leap away from the traffic lights or effortlessly overtake a truck on the highway – is a whopping, V8-paling 500Nm from not far off idle.

That effortless leap is also down to a clever seven-speed automatic transmission. Combined with that spread of torque, the Benz never feels hesitant or wanting.

Official fuel economy is 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres, helped by a clever idle-stop function, with emissions of 144g of carbon dioxide per kilometre earning it a 7.5 out of 10 rating. The combined fuel figure is very achievable in the real world, as we found out.

Ride and handling

It’s the sharpness behind the wheel that makes the CLS Shooting Brake a brilliant driver’s car.

Steering is well weighted with crisp turn-in, the suspension and low-profile 19-inch wheels clad in Continental ContiSportContact SP rubber hold the road with minimum noise and fuss, and although the brakes on our test car felt a bit wooden, they are linear and fairly responsive.

In a word, you get exactly what you’d expect for your $129,000 outlay. No complaints there.

Safety and servicing

The CLS Shooting Brake is packed with a full complement of front, side, and curtain airbags, and includes a driver’s knee airbag. There’s no official crash test result for the CLS range, but you can rest assured it should be good.

Each time you slide into the front seat and clip in, the seatbelt gives a gentle, reassuring tug to show the car’s PreSafe system that can pre-load the brakes in an emergency stop is working.

There’s even a driver fatigue warning that can sense when you’ve spent too long behind the wheel, and recommend a stop.

It’s a small thing, but the rear-seat headrests retract at the press of a console-mounted button to aid with rearward vision.

Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty on the CLS Shooting Brake.

Verdict

The Mercedes-Benz Shooting Brake is a diversion from the ordinary, making as much of a fashion statement as it does a more practical version of the car that invented the four-door coupe segment.

You can argue over the fastback semantics all day, criticise the drab-looking silver skin that most will wear, and even dismiss it as a passing fad, but at the end of the day it is almost as individual as you are.

Rivals

Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI Estate (From $106,700 before on-roads).
, All-new, it still has that desirable Benz badge, and makes none of the compromise of the Shooting Brake. Comes default with seven proper seats, too, making it much more family friendly than the four-but-five-if-I-have-to Brake.

Holden Sportwagon Calais V V8 (From $54,490 before on-roads).
, Outclassed for interior appointment, but comes close to the Benz in form and kills it in function.

Improved dynamics over the outgoing VF, complete with burly 6.0-litre engine, electric steering, head-up display, and driver safety aids make it more than a passing thought.

Audi A6 2.0 TDI Avant (From $73,800 before on-roads).
, Fairly conservatively styled of this lot, but its appeal is a crisp, clean interior that is the best in the class. Single-turbo engine makes the Avant a bit of a shrinking violet against the Benz, but do you really need all that poke? Price leaves lots of room for options.

Specs, MAKE/MODEL: Mercedes-Benz CLS250 CDI Shooting Brake
, ENGINE: 2.1-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder
, LAYOUT: In-line
, POWER: 150kW @ 3800rpm
, TORQUE: 500Nm @ 1600-1800rpm
, TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed automatic, RWD
, 0-100km/h: 7.8secs
, TOP SPEED: 235km/h
, FUEL: 5.5L/100km
, EMISSIONS: 144g/km CO2
, WEIGHT: 1865kg
, SUSPENSION: Macpherson (f)/multilink (r)
, STEERING: Power-assisted rack and pinion
, BRAKES: ventilated disc (f)/ventilated disc (r)
, PRICE: From $$129,000 before on-roads

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