Mercedes-Benz' supremely elegant estate car, the CLS Shooting Brake, has been released in South Africa in a four-strong range of models from the understated CLS 350 V6 to the awe-inspiring CLS 63 AMG.
The Shooting Brake is about as far as Mercedes-Benz can take the CLS 'four-door coupé' concept without creating the world's most stylish hearse, but it is first and foremost a load carrier.
As marketing manager Selvin Govender put it: “Functionality is obligatory for a car - our customers take this for granted. What sets it apart is a special style.
“The Shooting Brake combines functionality and fascination, with a long bonnet, narrow window profile with frameless side windows and an elegant sloping roof that extends all the way to the rear of the car.
“In essence it's a sports car with five seats and a big tailgate”
Behind that tailgate lies one of the poshest cargo bays on the planet, capable of swallowing 590 litres (or 1550 with the rear seats folded), complete with high-quality carpeting, hand-stitched sideliners and (on AMG models) leather trim elements.
Aluminium designer rails are an optional extra.
Or you can have a wooden cargo deck, laminated by hand from five layers floor of American cherry with precision-cut 3mm strips of fumed oak inlay and brushed-finished aluminium rails with rubber inserts.
Shooting Brake customers in South Africa can choose from five interior colours, five trim designs and two levels of leather luxury, with trim elements in glossy brown burr walnut, black ash, silk matt poplar or black piano lacquer.
The special AMG trim features on the CLS 63 are also available in carbon fibre for the technocrats among us, or with a porcelain finish for a touch of old-world elegance.
Air suspension is standard at the rear, as is a newly-developed electro-mechanical power-steering set-up that, for the first time, gives the boffins the freedom to choose and programme some of the parameters that influence steering feedback - to literally define the feel of the car.
It also makes possible active parking assist; the Shooting Brake is not only able to detect parking spaces, it can also park automatically.
The Shooting Brake is available on the SA market with a choice of three petrol engines, starting with the 3498cc BlueEfficiency V6, rated for 225kW at 6500 revs and 350NM from 3500-5250rpm.
The important numbers are 0-100 in 6.7 seconds, 250 flat out, 8.1 litres per 100 km and 188g/km.
The 4633cc, twin-turbo CLS 500 BlueEfficiency V8 is quoted at 300kW at 5000rpm and 600Nm from 1600-4750, hits 100 in 5.3 seconds, burns 9.2 litres every 100km and spits 214g/km of CO2.
Each of the two BlueEfficiency models drives via a seven-speed auto transmission.
The Big Gun of the CLS range is the 5461cc CLS 63 AMG biturbo V8, delivering a quoted 386kW at 5250rpm and 700Nm from 1750-5250rpm, launching the shooting brake to 100km in 4.4 seconds at a cost of 10.1 litres per 100km and 235 g/km of CO2.
Or, for an extra R145 900, you can get the 'Edition 1' package, that boosts power to 410kW, torque to 800Nm, knocks a tenth off the 0-100 time and lifts the setting on the electronic speed-limiter to 300km/h.
CLS 350 BlueEfficiency Shooting Brake - R835 000
CLS 500 BlueEfficiency Shooting Brake - R1 044 000
CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake - R1 380 000
CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake 'Edition 1' - R1 525 900
As with all Mercedes-Benz cars, the CLS Shooting Brake comes standard with a MobiloDrive 120 maintenance package.