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Road Test: Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake
Mercedes-Benz is a company that many assign with certain stereotypes. For the older generation, the brand association would be of a company with a somewhat regal image, a reputation for quality. For the younger generation, these stereotypes are somewhat different. If you were to write a dictionary definition it would undoubtedly involve mentions of stately old men, European taxi’s and high prices.
The past decade has not been entirely favourable to the German brand. The brand name has in recent times become synonymous with a raft of lower-value models, A-Class, B-Class and C-Class models as well as the all-too-common E-Class taxi’s. The traditional values and reputations the German company used to pride itself on have been somewhat eroded.
Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz has undergone a revolution of sorts lately. The new A-Class, for example, is now a model fit to wear the prestigious Mercedes-Benz badge. Whatsmore, the A45 AMG brings some real performance to the hot hatch range. The new S-Class is another example. Mercedes-Benz have succeeded in bringing class leading technology to the S-Class once again. Simply put, it sets a new milestone in the luxury segment (read our exclusive Road Test here).
In the modern era, Mercedes-Benz have been keen to push their sterling reputation and superior levels of luxury. The CLS. The CLS brings back sterling quality to the Mercedes lineup. A decadent five-door design piece that shows a clear message: This car is on a higher level. A car too expensive for sales rep, too unpractical for taxi driver and more affordable than the new S. The perfect choice for those who want a real Mercedes-Benz? We found out – with the top model CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake.
Engine and Mechanicals
At the heart of the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake is the familiar 5.5 litre twin turbo V8 engine. The model we drove is essentially the base CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake model. Since our drive, the standard CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake has been joined in the range by a four-wheel drive CLS 63 AMG 4-matic and the CLS 63 AMG 4-matic S-Model. Initially, the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake came fitted with a 525 hp V8.
Upgrades were announced at the Geneva Motor Show 2013 and, as a consequence, our car comes rated at 557 hp with 720 Nm of torque. Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a familiar 7-speed AMG Speedshift MCT gearbox. The MCT (Multi-Clutch-Technology) gearbox does not use a torque converter. Instead it has a compact wet clutch covered in oil which AMG promise, provides quicker gear charges. It has been around since 2003 in various states.
Our test car was fitted with the optional AMG Carbon Ceramic brake discs. Fitted to the front axle they measure a huge 402mm and at the rear, a smaller set of 360mm discs are mounted. Six piston callipers are fitted to the front with four piston callipers at the rear. As you would expect, braking is fantastic. The carbon ceramics are not only bigger than the usual brakes (360mm on front and rear) but also 40 percent lighter – which brings more agility to the CLS.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake accelerates from a standstill to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. For those that choose the 4-MATIC version, that time is further cut to 3.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h in true AMG style although the optional AMG Driver’s Package allows a top speed of 280 km/h.
AMG claims a fuel consumption of 10.1 liter per 100 kilometer. We didn’t even try to believe that, as we experienced around 30 liters per 100 kilometer during our test drive. Interestingly, it is Euro 6 emissions compliant (an emissions standard due to be enforced in 2015) and doesn’t attract the US Gas Guzzler tax.
The design of the Shooting Brake is clearly the most discussed point on this car. We’re all familiar with the CLS-Class. The Shooting Brake features many of the same traits including the wide upright front grill, fitted with one silver polished brace and the huge air intakes underneath. The front also features a long LED daytime running light which provides some character to those in front.
The hood is long with a low windshield. The car appears squashed with low, smooth lines flowing from front to rear. The rear is the most significant part of this car. Either you will like it or you will not. It features a strong line which blends elements of both the sedan and wagon, never fully becoming either. The rear gets huge curved taillights.
The interior is typical Mercedes-Benz. High quality dashboard in a luxury design, upholstered in the finest materials. This is combined with the AMG sports steering wheel complete with carbon fiber applications.
The center console between driver and passenger shows the difference to a usual CLS Shooting Brake. The prominent feature is a large gear lever in polished aluminium and leather with embossed with the AMG Affalterbach logo. Buttons for sport and cruise adjustments are located towards the drivers seat.
The drivers seat in our test car comes with the option to switch between comfortable and sporty seating, both versions do their job very well. The back seats in the CLS Shooting Brake are very comfortable, but also allow an admirable amount of space for taller people. Our 1.87 meter tall test driver had no space problems behind the driver seat.
After receiving the key, we instantly put it in our pocket and went straight to the Shooting Brake. Keyless Go, a must have for luxury cars, unlocks the door and does away with the need to fumble in your pocket for the key. We have no time to recognise the “new car” smell or other details, we want to drive!
The seats are easily adjusted into a correct and comfortable position and then launch the magical “Start Engine” button. A powerful noise comes out of the exhaust. We use the first minutes till the oil temperature is warm enough to drive in “C” mode – “Controlled Efficiency”, or in colloquial language cruise mode.
In Controlled Efficiency mode, the car drives like a British gentlemen club on wheels – very smooth and dignified. The nice decent bubbling from the exhaust proves itself as the best symphony for the ears. But even at relaxed driving it is hard to keep the car at the speed limit, so we are visibly happy when the engine is warm enough and some country roads lay in front of us.
We switch from Controlled Efficiency to Manual mode and press every sport button we can find on the center console. Hands on the wheel and foot down. The heavy CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake accelerates extremely fast to 100 km/h and continues onwards without much fuss. Fulminant AMG V8 power roars out of the exhaust. Even with the turbos its noise is so addictive and loud.
Aside from Controlled Efficiency, the V8 Mercedes-Benz estate gets “S” mode (Sport), “S+” mode (Sport plus) and “M” mode (Manual). In S+ and M mode, the dual clutch gearbox can shift at rates as quick as 100 milliseconds.
Cornering on country roads, the combination of handling and performance transmits as happiness to the brain. Working the carbon ceramic brakes before a corner, a quick downshift with the paddle increases the fitch. We accelerate once again. It is addictive!
Despite being a relatively heavy family car, the balance feels near-perfect on our favourite country roads. Certainly not a taxi or sales rep feeling, it’s a real machine that can be used to the fullest. Stability program on sports mode allows you some small, but also safe, slides and drifts through direction changes. Only the gearbox shows weakness at some point. When driving into the rev limiter, the gearbox reacts a little sluggish and costs you time but also gives the car a moment of instability.
At speeds above 200 km/h on the German Autobahn, the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake with its downsized engine size and turbos doesn’t show any disadvantage compared to the natural aspired AMG 63 cars. It goes well and straight to its maximum – which is limited at 250kph, but can be increased as option.
Conclusion? The CLS Shooting Brake is a proper Mercedes-Benz. Superb quality and an outstanding image. In terms of the customer it will attract, it does’t fit the target market for what would normally be described as the “average” person.
The mixture of the estate-style coachwork and the V8 engine mutates the driver into his own version of the Incredible Hulk. The Shooting Brake never was a car for conservatives though, too unpractical and more form as following function. We like the courageous move from Mercedes-Benz and so will those that want to experience the sheer visceral strength of a V8 powered estate!