Mercedes-Benz once again surprises us with the CLA Shooting Brake, which in this second generation form is a small estate with big aspirations. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Mercedes-Benz certainly hasn't played safe with this second generation CLA Shooting Brake, giving it the sort of bold, exciting styling that characterises its four-door Coupe stablemate. Look a little closer and you'll realise that the slinky roofline is a clever slight of hand from the stylists and there's real practicality on offer.
Like its predecessor, this second generation CLA Shooting Brake aims to offer a stylised interpretation of what a small estate should be. The original version was launched back in 2015 to sell alongside the stylised four-door coupe CLA; this MK2 model arrived in the Summer of 2019 and delivers a high-tech cabin that Mercedes reckon takes screen and infotainment technology to the next level. It gets a slightly bigger boot too.
Mercedes markets this car as a 'sporty' alternative to its more conventional C-Class Estate. The CLA Shooting Brake's sporty styling leads you to expect that. Though this car shares its chassis, steering and braking architecture with A and B-Class models, it does get its own suspension set-up, with various changes made to improve comfort and make it a bit less crashy over poorer surfaces. There's torque vectoring to help with the handling and 'Direct Steering' to sharpen things up at the helm. The range kicks off with CLA 180 and CLA 200 variants that both use a 1.3-litre petrol engine co-developed with Renault and are respectively capable of producing either 136hp and 200Nm of torque or 163hp and 250Nm. Next up is the CLA 250 derivative, which uses a 224hp version of the brand's 2.0-litre petrol engine. There's also a 2.0-litre diesel, the CLA 220d, which offers 190hp. All petrol models use a 7G-DCT seven-speed automatic transmission (the diesel has an 8-speed auto). There are two Mercedes-AMG performance variants, the CLA 35 4MATIC, which uses a version of the 2.0-litre petrol powerplant tuned out to 306hp. And the CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ which uses a bespoke AMG-tuned 2.0-litre turbo developing a frantic 421hp.
Mercedes says that the CLA Shooting Brake is 'a designer car', referring to its elegant proportions: a long bonnet, coupe-like window lines, muscular shoulders over the rear wheel arch and a supplely crouched rear, which is intended to show sports car genes. The outline of the frameless windows is identical to the outline of the Coupe's up to the B-pillar. This MK2 model is 48mm longer than the original, plus it's 53mm wider but 2mm lower. The flat headlamps, the low-slung bonnet and the diamond radiator grille with the central star mark the typical Mercedes-Benz sports car look. The interior of the passenger compartment is identical to that of the Coupe. Both CLAs offer unique cabin architecture, primarily thanks to their avant-garde instrument panel: the widescreen display is completely free-standing with no hood on the wing-shaped main body of the instrument panel. This stretches continuously from one front door to the other. At 871 millimetres, the boot opening is significantly wider than in the previous model and the luggage area is 10-litres bigger, measuring in at 505-litres.
Expect to pay somewhere in the £32,000 to £40,000 bracket for this CLA Shooting Brake - and anything between £40,000-£60,000 if you want one of the high performance Mercedes-AMG variants. In the mainstream range, there's a choice of three trim levels - 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus'. Even base 'AMG Line' models come decently equipped, standard kit including the MBUX multimedia system that includes 'Hey Mercedes' voice recognition and is accessed through a 10.25-inch centre-dash touchscreen. This incorporates navigation, a DAB radio and smartphone integration, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's also a 7-inch digital cockpit display, LED high performance headlights, privacy glass, Thermotronic luxury two-zone automatic climate control, a Parking package and heated front seats with leather upholstery. Standard safety features include Active Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist. 'AMG Line Premium' trim adds a larger 10.25-inch digital cockpit display, a dash cam, ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colours and keyless entry. Finally 'AMG Line Premium Plus' spec adds a panoramic sliding sunroof, Multibeam LED headlights, memory seats for the driver and front passenger and an 'Energizing pack' which uses a number of the car's systems to boost driver fitness and wellbeing.
The CLA Shooting Brake almost replicates the economy and emissions figures of the saloon, which means it's very, very good indeed. The kerb weight goes up slightly and, rather surprisingly, the drag coefficent of the Shooting Brake isn't quite as good. Still, it's hard to complain when you have a practical and stylish Mercedes-Benz estate that can return WLTP figures like the ones quoted here. The CLA 180 and CLA 200 variants can deliver up to 45.6mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. The CLA 180 emits 126g/km of CO2 and the CLA 200 emits 125g/km. The CLA 250 delivers up to 40.9mpg and emits 140g/km. The CLA 220d diesel delivers up to 56.5mpg and emits 112g/km. What else? Well it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional 'Service Care' package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash. There's also an ASSYST dashboard service indicator that monitors engine use and tells you exactly when a garage visit is due. It's also worth mentioning that the included 'Mercedes me' connect services package includes remote self-diagnostic capability, enabling your CLA to monitor wear and tear items and alert your local dealer to let you know if something needs seeing to.
The CLA is a key model for Mercedes. Bluntly put, it's a car that appeals to customers who'd never normally think of buying from the brand. They might feel that 'typical' Benzes are too staid and conservative, but the CLA is cut from some pretty funky cloth and the Shooting Brake is anything but traditional Stuttgart tackle. The engineering beneath the car is hard to fault, the equipment you get is impressive, the pricing looks on the button but that styling? Whether you warm to the CLA Shooting Brake in this second generation form is clearly going to depend on whether you agree with Mercedes that it delivers "a contemporary interpretation of sensual purity" or whether you think it's just too odd for words. We like it here. Your opinion may vary.