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BBC Autos

Review

Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake, luxury by the wagon-load

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The rain comes most days in Singapore. Sometimes it is a little, on this day it is a lot.

With the downpour, the rainbow-coloured Honda Super Four motorcycles loosely phalanxed around the Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 Shooting Brake coalesce as the wagon cruises through what is left of Chinatown. The riders drop gears and rocket forward en masse to reach their destinations or peel off to find shelter under a shop-house awning, leaving the gray Mercedes wagon alone for a moment.

The CLS makes a shapely, if not altogether practical, partner for negotiating the frenetic streets of Lion City – one of the vehicle’s export markets. (Mercedes is not sending the Shooting Brake to the US.) There may no longer be a three-pointed star emblem to sight through at the hood’s leading edge, but there is presence aplenty. The louche swoop on the tapering rear of the Shooting Brake’s sedan equivalent, the CLS “four-door coupe”, is emphasised here in profile. Combined with the sculpted muscle over the haunches, a bystander gets the impression that the car is always accelerating, mass dragged away from the huge star on the grille toward the tailpipes.

Precious little else looks like the Shooting Brake, granting it what passes for preferential treatment on Singapore’s roads. Bikers break away a fraction to see the whole machine. Taxis afford it half a sideview-mirror’s grace.

Inside, Mercedes have made their usual, restrained efforts. The gloom triggers to automatic headlights and the little Bang & Olufsen tweeters at the base of the windshield wake up, too, looking like delicately illuminated acoustic Fabergés with their hourglass shape. It is a nice touch, lifting a cabin that otherwise lacks the drama of recent efforts from the Benz’s peers at Jaguar and Audi.

On the practical side, the Shooting Brake has a 21-cubic-foot (590l) trunk, whose rear hatch closes electrically with a finger touch. Despite the car’s sloping roofline, there is respectable headroom for backseat passengers, who enjoy elegantly tailored, lightly scalloped seats. Up front, there is a well-integrated navigation system with the usual dusting of wireless connectivity and air-baggery.

Breaking free of the densest parts of the city, the car’s 3.5-litre V6 engine feels eager but not loutish on the Central Expressway. There is 306 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque marshalled through a seven-speed autobox. The CLS 350 is not really about brutal speed – for that there is the 525hp CLS 63 AMG – but it is certainly rapid, hitting 60mph from a stop in a manufacturer-estimated 6.7 seconds, en route to  a governed 155mph top speed. Dawdling Hino trucks from the Yishun industrial works are easily dispatched.

A driver can cycle into Sport or Manual modes, but pull down on the column shift for Drive, tweak the excellent stereo to complement the muted growl from the twin exhaust pipes and no further fiddling is required to have  a special car and happy driver.

Happy, that is, if said driver live in one of the Shooting Brake’s export markets.

Vital Stats: 2013 Mercedes Benz CLS 350 Shooting Brake

  • Base Price: Not available in US (roughly £55,000, or $83,000, in UK)
  • Fuel Economy: EPA data not available
  • Drivetrain: fuel-injected, 306hp, 3.5-litre V6, seven-speed automatic transmission
  • Major options: rear-seat entertainment system, AMG sports package, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Driving Assistance package

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