The elongated idea
Namibians have unique tastes and the motor industry is clear evidence of this. I bet that within a stone’s throw of your current position, you’ll find plenty of small hatchbacks and double-cab bakkies. Luxury sedans are German and will have black leather, I guarantee it.
And if there’s one thing a Namibian (or South African) hates it’s an estate car or station wagon. We recently noticed this while driving Audi’s accomplished A4 Allroad and weren’t surprised that the regular Avant has disappeared completely – there simply wasn’t enough demand.
While Mercedes-Benz offers estate versions of its C and E-Class, they came up with a new idea for the elongated CLS you see before you now. Calling it something else might trick enough people into thinking it’s a niche model. An aristocratic name hopefully confuses everybody else.
“Shooting Brake” was coined about a hundred years ago and implies that the motorised carriage assisted wealthy land-owners and their chommas while out hunting. I hate the name, it makes no sense and seems like desperate marketing. The instant someone goes hunting in their CLS, I will retract that statement.
They should’ve called it the CLS Max or maybe, just maybe, a CLS Estate. A name isn’t enough to put off the haters and any potential owners will be more interested in the features, versatility, performance and most importantly for an expensive estate, the looks.
Having spent a week with this CLS500 Braking Shoot, I can report that Mercedes has done a sterling job. Its looks may be debatable but if you think the CLS sedan is a good-looking machine, this version takes it to another level.
Our test unit also drew admiring glances to its matt paint.
As this is a niche market, thankfully this vehicle was trimmed with matching two-tone beige interior and lots of wavy wood panelling. Hell, even the multi-function steering wheel was half wood (N$5,400), mostly beige and decorated with a fat silver strip.
I was so smitten I bit the back of my hand every time I got in.
From personal experience I can vouch that light interiors require more care but the uplifted ambience is worth your effort – you don’t have mud-fights in light clothing or inside your house either, do you? A slightly more impractical but equally stunning feature was the cargo area’s real wood panelling (N$35,000).
More optional goodies fitted to our test car were Active Multi-contour Seats (N$14,600), Night View Assist Plus (N$19,500), illuminated door sills (N$10,100), Lane package (N$9,300), Driving Assistance package (N$25,700), 19-inch wheels (N$13,100) and Convenience Telephony (N$3,400).
Standard equipment over and above ABS, airbags, climate control etc. includes Airmatic adaptive suspension, Active Park Assist with reversing camera, LED lighting, folding rear seats, tyre pressure warning, COMAND Online multimedia system, Harman Kardon speakers, Keyless Go and a sunroof.
Interior quality is excellent and there are dozens of buttons and two big colour displays to get used to. Vehicle and entertainment information is comprehensive, the in-dash DVD stacker takes six discs and Merc moved the gear lever onto the steering column to free up space on the central tunnel.
The 7G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox offers seven speeds, Eco or Sport mode, shift paddles and a start/stop system in conjunction with a 4,663cc twin-turbo petrol V8. This conjures up 300kW (408hp) and 600Nm, claiming average fuel use of 9.2L/100km and CO2 output of 216g/km.
This combination stunned us in the SL500 and did much the same in this body. Peak torque arrives at just 1,600rpm and the 500 rarely passes 2,000rpm around town. In fact, coasting at 60km/h we often discovered the rev-counter slacking somewhere around 900rpm.
Throttle response is quite brisk for a turbo setup, no thanks to the big displacement. Floor it and the big Benz becomes beastly as it blitzed 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds (claimed 5.3), the low-rev rumble turning to a faint roar and plenty of hissing from the exhaust pipes.
We even chucked the Airmatic suspension into Sport mode and attacked a few mountain passes which the CLS500 SB absorbed with grace. Steering feedback is slightly numb, handling and grip are commendable for such a big car and you can have a modicum of fun before the cloud of electronic nannies descends on you.
What made this CLS much more impressive was its commuting and highway etiquette, where the suspension’s Comfort mode soaks up everything – even with30-profile tyres. Our consumption average for the week hovered around 12L/100km despite the occasional blast from that monster engine.
A Mercedes-Benz CLS500 Shooting Brake costs N$1,044,000 excluding extras and comes with a two-year warranty and six-year/100,000 maintenance plan. Too expensive for an estate? Perhaps, but a bargain for a blisteringly fast and comfortable Shooting Brake. Guns sold separately.
0-100m: 4.6s / 104.9km/h
0-200m: 7.4s / 135.9km/h
0-300m: 9.8s / 157.1km/h
0-400m: 12.0 / 173.0km/h
1/4mile: 12.0s @ 107.7mph (173.3km/h)
Climate Warm, sunny
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4