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Driven: Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 BlueTec Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 BlueTec Shooting Brake
Merc's larger Shooting Brake, updated and now with nine forward gears.

 



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Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 BlueTec Shooting Brake

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: exquisite exterior, largely excellent interior, high levels of refinement, slick new automatic

Not so good: still some odd cabin ergonomics and do we really need nine ratios?

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 BlueTec Shooting Brake AMG Line
Pricing: £51,400 standard; £51,765 as tested (£365 rear privacy glass)
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Combined economy: 49.6mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
Power: 258hp at 3,600rpm
Torque: 620Nm from 1,600- to 2,400rpm

Our view:

Mercedes-Benz recently took it upon itself to update the CLS 'coupé' and Shooting Brake models. This was an atypical mid-life facelift that all cars go through, yet in this case the changes carried out to the CLS twins were minimal, to say the least. To spot one (aside from registering how new it is by looking at the number plate), you need to note the new front grille, larger air intakes and LED headlights. And that's your lot - Mercedes felt Hubert Lee's 2007 design was so good first time around that there was little point putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa, so to speak.

Because, let's face it, there's nothing out there to rival the CLS when it's in Shooting Brake guise. If you don't need every last cubic foot of cargo space then sacrificing the handsome-but-worthy E-Class's carrying capacity for the stunning, rakish looks of the CLS Shooting Brake seems to be a no-brainer. True, the Shooting Brake is more expensive, as Mercedes deems it a model that straddles the gap between its E- and S-Class cars, but at little more than £50,000 in range-topping AMG Line trim and with a meaty 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel under the bonnet, the CLS 350 BlueTec feels like a seriously premium car and - more to the point - something of a bargain. The only option on our test car was privacy glass (£365); the Comand system with top-notch satnav, intelligent headlights with Adaptive High Beam Assist, automatic tailgate, cruise control, AMG sports seats and steering wheel, and 19-inch alloys outside are all part of a lengthy standard equipment list.

So already, there are no issues in terms of its pricing or its looks, which are just sensational. It is far more beautiful to behold than any other even vaguely comparable wagons from rival manufacturers, with various details standing out, like the muscular haunches, sweeping swage lines running the full length of the flanks and that sleek glasshouse profile. We think the interior is pretty good too, although it still displays some of Merc's wilfully 'different' ergonomics and design, like the display screen perched near the top of the dash (it doesn't look anything like as 'aftermarket' in the CLS as it can do in some other Mercedes models, though), the Comand system controls - which is a mix of physical buttons and touchscreen 'soft buttons' that takes some getting used to - and the column-mounted shift lever.

Talking of which, perhaps the biggest change with the facelifted CLS comes in the form of a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, designed to have short lower ratios for punchy acceleration (evinced by a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds, which - if anything - feels like a conservative claim) and longer upper gears so it can squeak into lower VED and BIK brackets; at 149g/km for CO2 emissions, the CLS 350 BlueTec Shooting Brake sits in Band F (£145 per annum) and the 27 per cent BIK grouping, so it makes fiscal sense.

The gearbox makes sense in the real world, too, because it is a creamy-yet-rapid operator. Never once do you feel the CLS slurring from one of its many ratios to the other, while the car is quick to respond to kick-down throttle commands. It also returned mid-40s mpg on a long motorway run, getting somewhere very close to its official combined economy figure, which is impressive for a machine this powerful and pacey. Yet, having said all that... there wasn't really anything wrong with the old 7G-Tronic transmission, which made do with two fewer cogs. They were well-spaced enough so that you never felt that nine gears were necessary. And, short of keeping the car in manual mode all the time, you'll never know what gear the CLS is in at any given moment because the display doesn't tell you. As an example of how crowded things get near the top of the gearbox, shifting from eighth to ninth at 60mph saw the revs drop a mere 200rpm.

Still, as we said, the 9G-Tronic is otherwise a fine transmission, so is there anything else to note that holes the CLS below the waterline? No, there isn't. There's little to fault in either the ride or handling stakes, accepting that it's an estate after all and therefore not going to grip like a sports car. But it is very capable on a twisting road, masking its near-two-tonne bulk brilliantly with a trinity of compliance (therefore keeping more of its tyres in contact with the road for more of the time), sharp, weighty steering and competent body control. The ride, meanwhile, is in the main superb; although those 19-inch AMG rims on 35/30 front/rear profile tyres can occasionally transmit thumps and lumps into the car at slow speeds.

Also, if you sample both the 2.1 turbodiesel and this 3.0-litre V6 that Mercedes offers, you'll realise how archaic the smaller lump feels in comparison. Where the 2.1 grumbles and somehow doesn't feel as strong in the midrange as you might expect when glancing at its on-paper stats, the 3.0 offers everything you'd want of a large capacity diesel engine and more. It burrs away up front in hushed tones, offering its almighty 620Nm the instant you call for it. OK, so occasionally you can spin up an inside rear wheel when exiting a junction if you're injudicious with the throttle, but most of the time the 350 meters out its power in a magnificent, seamless fashion.

So the revised CLS Shooting Brake is stunning to look at, has a fine cabin (albeit with one or two quirks), is both comfortable when cruising and entertaining when pushing on, has a sublime drivetrain and isn't that unreasonable when it comes to purchase price and running costs. That there's nothing else really quite like it out there is the clincher. Can you tell we really like it?

Alternatives:

Audi A6 allroad 3.0 TDI 245hp: as an alternative to a basic A6 Avant, the mid-power allroad is well worth checking out as it's sublime in many, many ways. But it barely looks any different to the regular A6 upon which it is based...

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo: we're trying to think of things that are a bit alternative, rather than just a 5 Series Touring. And if you think the 5 GT is better looking than the Shooting Brake, well... good luck to you.

Mercedes-Benz E 350 BlueTec Estate: the 'normal' alternative in the Mercedes stable. Obviously more capacious and cheaper, but while there's nothing wrong with an E-Class's chiselled looks or feeling of quality, the CLS is a cut above it and worth the price premium.


Matt Robinson - 22 Mar 2015









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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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