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A practical coupe? Or a shrunken estate?

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

By Gareth Butterfield

  • From almost every angle, the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake is a thing of beauty

  • Mercedes fans will be right at home in the spaious cabin, which sports the best bits from other models

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LET me start by explaining exactly what this car is all about. And bear with me, it's a tad complicated.

The CLS on which it's based is the surprisingly successful car Mercedes Benz is using to tempt style-conscious buyers who are lusting for a coupe, but need the praciticality of a saloon.

The CLS Shooting Brake is for buyers who are lusting after a coupe, can't fit in a saloon, and need the practicality of an estate car.

What you see in this car is one of a handful of 'sporting estates' that are dipping their toe in the market at the moment and they're designed to blend the benefits of an estate, with the style of an inherently sporting car.

And it's a fine looking thing, from some angles at least.

It carries over some of the Mercedes CLS's beautiful details, such as its sweeping roof line, its agressive front end and the smooth profile created by the pillarless doors.

But turning into an estate car that can seat four people in genuine comfort and still have a large and practical boot has left it with an awkward hunch. It's grown on me, but it won't be to everyone's tastes.

For the few people that have been craving this sort of car, they will be thrilled to learn that Mercedes offers it with some of its favourite gadgets, including massage seats, and the excellent 'Comand' infotainment system.

They might also be pleased to learn there's a sensible range of engines to choose from, which starts with the 2.2 twin turbo diesel in the 250 variant, which I've been testing.

At startup sound from the engine is barely noticeable, which is a must for any modern four-pot engine - but take the revs past 4,000rpm and it does start to sound rather harsh. It's a shame, because it's a wonderfully flexible engine and, mated to the excellent seven speed automatic gearbox, itgives the car plenty of grunt from any speed.

The CLS, even in standard form, owes a lot to its more grown-up stablemate the E Class and that's a good thing, because you have the option of a superb suspension set up and a similar high quality cabin which is quiet, comfortable and very spacious.

But herein lies a problem. The CLS, even in its lowest spec, is quite a bit more expensive than the E Class. It's also slighty less practical and a lot more ostentatious But the CLS does feel much more upmarket and much more special than the E Class, which is partly thanks to the stylish body, but also thanks to the generous standard equipment and those evocative flowing lines.

It's not just that though. The CLS is more exclusive, it's prettier, it handles better and, shared products aside, there is a real sense you're climbing into a premium, sporty machine rather than a sensible family car. If you think you're the sort of person that will want a car like this, and you'll want it enough to choose it over the arguably more sensible E Class, then I salute you. Thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I would too.

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