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Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake Review

We hit the streets to road test and review the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG, a family estate with supercar performance.

In 1967 a pair of former Mercedes engineers set up a small workshop in the depths of southern Germany with the aim of creating unofficial upgrade packages that enhance the styling and performance of standard Mercedes cars. The giant car maker took the fledgling company under its wing and forty-six years later AMG has become synonymous with fast Mercs.

And so we arrive at one of AMG’s most brutal, and most elegant, tricks; the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake. With a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 and, in the case of our Performance Package Plus-equipped test example, 557bhp and 800Nm, you can rest assured the performance lives up to the heritage. The fact it can carry four adults and a pair of dogs is almost inconsequential, as is the as tested price of £117,080.

It might look like it was built to haul wardrobes, but the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake also hauls serious ass.
It might look like it was built to haul wardrobes, but the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake also hauls serious ass.

Design

When Mercedes unveiled the first CLS four-door coupe in 2004, the world thought the company was mad, but rival manufacturers eventually followed and the sector has become something of well-populated niche ever since. The three-pointed star was also the first to reveal a shooting Brake (an estate to the man on the street) and yet again it seems others are set to follow. Whatever the market response, there’s no doubt the CLS is one of the most striking Mercedes models this side of a full-fat SLS gullwing supercar. It’s also one of the most elegant. The additional AMG elements only help it stand out – the front track is widened and the alloy wheels upgraded in size and design. Our heavily-optioned example also sports plenty of real carbon fibre trim as well as carbon ceramic brakes behind forged 19-inch rims.

We can't help but feel this is one of the most striking Mercs on the fleet.
We can’t help but feel this is one of the most striking Mercs on the fleet.

Practicality

The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake still knows how to take care of its passengers – and even luggage. Beneath that sleek rear roofline the boot will take 590 litres of load, while folding the rear seats – via the levers in the boot – expands the space to 1,550 litres. As expected the tailgate is operated electrically. And there’s more room in the rear than in the CLS coupe, not only due to extra headroom but because of a three-seat bench that replaces the standard pair of chairs. Up front our car was fitted with active seats with massage function — perfect for long journeys, as well as offering extra support when cornering at speed. In short, save for its prodigious thirst, the CLS 63 AMG is a perfect long-distance companion.

Best seat in the house.
Best seat in the house.

Performance & handling

And you’ll cover long distances quickly in the CLS 63 AMG, of that there’s no question. Use every last ounce of that 557bhp and 800Nm and this five-seat estate will sprint from 0-62mph in only 4.3 seconds. To put that in perspective an Audi R8 V8 takes 4.5 seconds and a Porsche Carrera S 4.3 seconds. In other words, the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG is stupidly quick – especially considering its near two-tonne kerbweight (1,955Kg). It’ll compete with those cars for aural drama too, the V8 engine’s low-rev burble giving way to a demented thunder as you near the redline.

You’ll have to be quick with the gear changes if operating the seven-speed automatic using the steering-wheel mounted paddles though – let the revs run too high and you’ll nudge the limiter before it completes the change. A better option might be to leave the box in Sport or Sport + modes, or even Controlled Efficiency (comfort to you and us) if you’re not pressing on. And while you can ramp up the stiffness of the damping, we’d leave it in normal mode unless venturing near a track or a particularly secluded roundabout.

The exhaust note changes from a low burble to a demented thunder with one prod of the accelerator.

Childish though it is, roundabouts can be can be something of a roller-coaster ride. Switch the safety systems off and even a gentle prod of the accelerator while turning will see the rear end step out into as wild an oversteer moment as you’d like. If you’re a drift king with a family, then let us tell you the CLS 63 AMG is the car for you. If, however, you’re not Russ Swift, leaving the systems in place, or even selecting ESP Sport – which allows a flattering amount of slip before intervening – is a better bet. Here the AMG displays strong grip and impressive body control; the way you can throw the car around is more reminiscent of a lightweight sports car than a practical family model.

The CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake is surprisingly agile, with a playful back end.

Economy & environment

There had to be an area where the CLS 63 AMG fell short, and it’s here that it does. And boy does it do it with style. Officially you could expect up to 28mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle. In our near 1,000 mile experience, of which at least half was spent at a motorway cruising speed, that number dropped considerably closer to 20mpg. CO2 emissions are equally disappointing for the Greenpeace brigade, with the CLS 63 AMG pumping out a whopping 235g/km – despite being fitted with start/stop as standard. If you want economy and efficiency then the CLS 350CDI is a better bet, though you’ll miss out on that beautiful handcrafted engine, each unit being built by a single technician and bearing a plaque with their signature.

Mercedes claims nearly 30mpg, but expect 20mpg in the real world.

Equipment & value

Value is a hard thing to quantify with a car whose list price starts at £83,080. It’s even harder when our car, with its options, finished at £117,080 – in some areas you can buy a family-sized house for that. But it’s not far off the prices of its main competitors; the new M6 Gran Coupe (not yet available as an estate) is £97,490 and the Porsche Panamera Turbo (expect the next one to be an estate) costs £107,903. And the Mercedes is well-equipped, arriving on your drive complete with leather seats, three-zone climate control, sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, adaptive suspension and19-inch alloy wheels. Of course most of your money goes into the hand-built engine, and once you experience the power, noise and character it offers we’re sure you’ll forgive it for every pound it has cost you.

There's room for three at the back.

Safety

The CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake should be a safe bet, despite not being tested by Euro NCAP (most of the other Mercedes models receive the full five stars). And as standard the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake comes with eight airbags, active front head restraints and a Pre-safe system that prepares the car and its occupants in the event of an impending accident. Plus our car’s optional carbon ceramic brakes might be enough to stop you having that accident in the first place.

The boot is absolutely mammoth.

Verdict

There’s something curiously appealing about fast estates in general, but when they look as good as the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake – and trust us in the flesh it is stunningly aggressive – that appeal is ramped up tenfold. There isn’t another car as characterful that can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds; especially if you want to take your friends, family, dogs or your favourite wardrobe along for the ride.

The fact it’s equally adept at cornering at speed, cruising in comfort or parking-up with supercar glitterati makes it even more lust-worthy. Sure it’s expensive, but it’s loaded with kit and boasts a fully hand-built engine that few other manufacturers – no matter how exotic – can really offer. One burst of full-bore acceleration and very, very, quickly you’ll sport a full-width grin across your face, instantly smitten with the capabilities this CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake can offer.

OK, it costs as much as some houses, but we still want one.

KEY SPECS

Model tested: Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake
Engine: 5.5-litre turbocharged V8
Power: 557bhp (as tested)
Torque: 800Nm
Acceleration: 0-62 in 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Economy: 28mpg
Emissions: 235g/km CO2
Price: £117,080 (as tested)
Score: 

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