Shooting Brake hits bullseye
It is quite appropriate that one of the last launches attended by MotorMania in 2012 should be the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake range - appropriate for two reasons.
Firstly, we were introduced this week to a vehicle that merges the clearly defined boundaries of predictable motoring design with the totally unexpected.
Second, the Shooting Brake illustrates just how advanced cars are these days compared to, say, even five years ago, taking in performance, safety, quality and economy.
It's an exciting and challenging time for the motor industry and, if the Shooting Brake is a pointer to the future, then bring on 2013.
What is it?
The Shooting Brake range consists of three vehicles - the CLS 350 BlueEFFICIENCY (R835000); CLS 500 BlueEFFICIENCY (R1044000); and CLS 63 AMG (R1380000) - and builds on the CLS range that was first introduced in 2004.
Quite clearly a coupé with its crouched posture, long bonnet, narrow window profile and frameless side windows, it also has the convenience of five doors, five seats and a boot big enough for a huge cargo.
The Shooting Brake artistically blends the excitement of sports car driving with the practicality of one's everyday motoring needs.
How does it look?
From front and rear, it is pure aggression. Those large exhausts add impact to the sportiness of the vehicle, while the long, curved bonnet makes a statement on its own.
The only question mark is that long roof sloping to the rear which is so pronounced from the side. On a vehicle just under five metres long, it seems to go on forever.
The cabin is stylish and customers have a choice of five interior colours, five trim designs and two qualities of leather. Three exclusive wood types are available for the trim: high-gloss brown burr walnut, high-gloss black ash and silk matt poplar.
How does it drive?
The engines on the three models at the launch were faultless. Having driven the C63 earlier this year I knew what to expect from the same engine in a bigger vehicle. However, the reality is that nothing prepares you for the raw, naked power that thrusts you back into your seat as your adrenaline levels soar.
Use the paddle shifts as you chop down the gears on the seven-speed gearbox and that sharp, barking sound brings a silly grin to not only to the driver's face, but to those of the many kids hanging about the tree-lined streets of Magaliesburg. The CLS 500 is no slouch either and those on the launch agreed this was probably the pick of the engines.
There is more than ample power available, while the R300000-odd you are shaving off the price of the AMG can go towards your New Year holiday in Plett. Don't forget, with the CLS 63 AMG you get sports suspension with electronically controlled damping, electro-mechanical AMG speed-sensitive steering and the optional AMG ceramic high-performance composite brake system.
Any special features?
If you really want to have bragging rights at the golf estate, go for the optional designer wooden luggage compartment made from American cherry wood that comes complete with aluminium rails.
For just R37000 you will have the best looking boot surface in the game. Only problem is that you'll probably want to cover it up to prevent it from getting scratched.
The back seats are lowered with the push of a button to extend the already enormous boot to a whopping 1550 litres.
There's also a load compartment cover to shield the Woolworths shopping from prying eyes.
Should you buy one?
Those who can slap down a million big ones for the privilege of buying a vehicle are in a different league to most of us mere mortals.
They see life differently and they also look for something different in a car.
In the CLS Shooting Brake they will definitely find it.