It's that time of the year again when Father Christmas goes on his globe-trotting journey to spread happiness and joy with his presents and I bet he would be absolutely delighted to swap his old-fashioned, reindeer-powered sleigh for a much more stylish, much faster and much more practical mode of transport such as the sizzling new Mercedes-Benz CLS.
The new Mercedes Benz CLS Shooting Brake is not one for Rover or the garden refuse.
However, like the rest of the world he might be puzzled by its rather strange name of Shooting Brake (which harks back to the days when shooting brakes were carts used for breaking in horses and taking rich gentry on hunting trips).
He may also scratch his head as he puzzled about why anybody in his right mind would plonk a station-wagon rear on to the bum of a sleek coupé to create something which is a bit of a mish-mash that will probably only appeal to a small, wealthy niche market.
Remember the station wagon?
For like most of us, he too, probably has sweet memories of vehicles called station wagons or estates before they were reborn as Audi Avants, Alfa Romeo Sportswagons and BMW Tourings. But now, just as we slowly started getting used to those names, up pops Jaguar with a 3.0-litre V6D S Luxury XF Sportbrake (not yet available in South Africa) and Mercedes-Benz also delves way back into horse-drawn times and launches its GLS estate in completely new guise and by the weird name of Shooting Brake.
Gone are the days when station wagons and estates were refrigerators with wipers, wheels and spacious bench seats designed to carry Mom, Dad, Granny, little Mary-Jane, naught Bobby, Rover the dog and all the gear on family holidays to the sea. Or when they were loaded down to bum-dragging levels with rep samples and country deliveries, or antique dealers carted heavy side-boards around in them, or when they were cheaper and more convenient to transport garden refuse in to the dump rather than hiring a man with a truck to do the job.
There's lots of room for more than just that one case...
However, all Santa's doubts and nostalgia will disappear in a flash when he slides in behind the wheel and fires up Merc's snazzy new German coupé-wagen. Whatever reservations he might have had about its looks and name will evaporate instantly, particularly if he happens to be driving the thunderous version that has AMG 63 tattooed on its bum.
Mercedes unwrapped its new three-model GLS Super Brake vehicles for the local motoring media recently and by the end of the first stint at the wheel of the least wild, entry-level Shooting Brake in the range, already most of the eye-brow lifting sceptics amongst us gave it an enthusiastic nod of approval.
Not one for Rover or the garden refuse
In short, the new Shooting Brake is a one helluva chunk of refined German motoring pleasure. It has been described as "a cage fighter in a Savile Row suit" and that is exactly what it is.
This smart new Merc will probably never be used to take Rover down to the beach or rubbish to the dump. It's just too expensive and smart for that. At most, the luggage space will be used to transport the odd (dry and sand free) surfboard, cleaned mountain bike, a few hiking back-packs, cases of expensive estate wine, perhaps a saddle and other horsy kit and a golf bag or two because the Shooting Brake's natural parking space (when it's not on parade in the drive-way of a leafy suburban mansion or in the company chairman's reserved bay at the office) is an upmarket golf club where only the right chaps are accepted as members.
For this is snob-mobile that will in all probability never see, let alone be exposed to dirt, rough and dust - it's just too fancy and too expensive for that and nobody in his right mind would want to risk a scratch or a paint chip on its gleaming body.
You have a choice of woods for the load bay and the trim.
The CLS Shooting Brake is available with three engine variants - three petrol engines - CLS 350 BlueEFFICIENCY, CLS 500 BlueEFFICIENCY and the CLS 63 AMG. The CLS 350 has a V6 naturally aspirated engine and the CLS 500 is kitted with V8 bi-turbo engine and both are linked to a 7-speed automatic transmission.
The real bar fighters in a Hugo Boss suits are the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake, armed with an AMG V8 biturbo 386 kW/700 Nm engine and a special sports transmission, and its wilder brother called the "Edition 1" that blasts out 410kW and 800Nm.
Some sporty kit
The 350 does the mandatory 0-100km/h sprint time in 6.7 seconds, the 500 cuts this down to 5.3 seconds, the standard AMG 63 slices it down to 4.4 seconds and the hottest Shooting Brake version blitzes it in 4.3 seconds, which means it is fighting in Porsche 911 territory and is faster than most other Porsches.... and this is supposed to be an estate of some sorts, remember!
It goes without saying that the GLS' fiery performance is enhanced by lots of sporty kit, including sports suspension, speed-sensitive steering and high performance brakes. It is also kitted with a long list of driver-assistance systems to help prevent traffic accidents and reduce the severity of an accident.
Performance aside, the Shooting Brake is quite unusual, very different and striking in the looks department - a polished combination of sleek coupé and practical estate, now even way more impressive than the original head-turning, opinion-dividing first GSL launched a few years back.
OK, the rear door is large enough to admit the odd sideboard or so - but would you want to?
The long bonnet is still there, only sleeker. The frameless, wrap-around windows are narrower and the roof seems to slope even more dynamically to the rear towards the fifth door and a very practical luggage space - in essence, this is a sports car with five-seats and lots of space, ultra-refined, down to the solid thud of its doors.
Perceived as a role model for the today generation of sporty wagons and load-luggers the Shooting Brake even made it into the top 10 in a survey of upper-crust motoring metal in UK where others in the top 10 included the Aston Martin Rapide, Lexus LS600H, BMW 7-Series and the Maserati Quattroporte.
A hedonist's delight
On the road and particularly with the taps opened wide, this avante garde Merc handles like a dream and it clings with tenacity that is awesome for this class.
When it comes to luxury, comfort and convenience, the Shooting Brake also sets very high standards even up to an optional R30,000-plus wooden luggage compartment floor. Its interior exudes a door-to-door aura of distinction, from the leather trim to the hand-stitched carpeting and from the armchair cosy seats to its orchestral quality sound system it is a hedonist's delight. Up for choice are five interior colours, five trim designs, two different quality of leather and three wood types for the trim (high-gloss brown burr walnut, high-gloss black ash and silk matt poplar). Black piano lacquer trim is also an option.
And although it looks more like a coupé than an estate it has a load volume that begins at 590 litres and can be stretched to 1,550 litres when the rear seatbacks are folded down. The three saddle-type head restraints on the rear seats can also be lowered at the touch of a button by the driver or manually by the passengers.
Sleek lines, and a performance to match.
By keeping weight down by the clever use of aluminium and other light-weight material, fuel consumption, emissions and drag are also reduced considerably.
The Shooting Brake is Mercedes-Benz at its executive best and if old Santa does decide to ditch his sleigh and put his reindeer out to pasture and to have a go at this GSL it's not going to be easy to prise him from behind the wheel....and instead of hauling his heavy sack of presents down a zillion chimneys he would probably rather head for Kyalami race track for a bit of real yo-ho-ho fun. From me the GLS gets gold stars for its unusual looks, practicality, safety, handling, stoking performance and luxurious passenger wrappings even though its price tags put it way beyond even the wildest dreams and bucket lists of 99.9% of all South Africans.
The least-expensive CLS 350 costs R835,000, the GLS 500 breaks the million rand barrier with a price tag of R 1.044m, the AMG 63 ups the ante to R1.38m and the wildest GLS AMG Shooting Brake "Edition 1" tops out at R1.459m. CLS Shooting Brake.
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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