Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but in the evening rush hour in Florence, one of Italy's most stylish and cultured cities, everybody seems keenly aware of our CLS Shooting Brake.
"Bella machina!" We could see the words forming on the lips of the locals as they eyeballed the latest automotive styling statement. In the country that created the word "sprezzatura", the Shooting Brake was creating a favourable impression.
The Germans have been quick to adopt English terminology, and Shooting Brake is a term enthusiasts associate with the three-door, coach-built, Harold Radford Aston Martin DB5. However, the name is appropriate for the CLS, since "wagon" is too vulgar for an occasional load carrier as stylish as this.
Whip out your measuring tape and you'll find it's only 0.5" longer than the coupe it's based upon. As Carsten Ertelt, head of the Shooting Brake design team explained, "The extra length is in the greater overhang, and is a function of the styling, which was the driving force for everything in this project."
In a clear statement of the priority given to styling, Carsten explained how the engineers complained that a car with this shape would have a compromised luggage compartment. "That may be how it appeared from the outside, but when we measured, we were happy to find that we had slightly more space than the Audi A6 Avant."
There are almost 1800 new parts in the Shooting Brake. Up to the B-pillar, the front is identical to the Coupe, but every other panel is new, with the longer trunk floor coming from the E-Class wagon.
The sleek load carrier has a Cd of 0.29, compared to 0.26 for the four-door Coupe.
The Shooting Brake is 143 lb heavier than the four-door, split 55 and 88 lb over the front and rear axles, respectively. The extra glass panels and powered tailgate add to the weight in the rear. "The good news is this brings the weight distribution closer to the ideal 50/50."
A useful option is the dark-tinted rear glass, which not only keeps the heat out and hides your belongings but enhances the shape of the swoopy rear end.
With its AMG body styling additions, ride control sports suspension, interior trim and weapons-grade twin-turbo V8, the CLS63 AMG version certainly adds an emotionally charged driving experience to the Mercedes Shooting Brake portfolio.
Stepping out of the ultra refined CLS350 CDI twin-turbo diesel V6 I drove first, my senses were assaulted by one of my favourite soundtracks ever. AMG had to overcome the damping effect of turbocharging on the M157 bent-crank V8, but the noise is still there in full measure. Like all V8-powered machines from Affalterbach, the CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake is a great 'tunnel car'.
There's only one short tunnel on the autostrada near Florence, but I made full use of it with the windows down, and noted the locals giving enthusiastic thumbs up as we emerged back into daylight.
The CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake has 525hp from 5250-5750rpm and 516 lb-ft from 2000-4500rpm. This has the potential to rocket itself to 62mph in just 4.3sec, and on to an electronically limited 155mph top speed - that can be edited out for a small fee. However, the car also comes with the optional Edition 1 state of tune that gives it 557hp and
590 lb-ft. We imagine this won't amuse the German tuning industry that makes a living from propelling Mercedes-Benz faster, but it does offer the enthusiast some factory-approved fun.
Even in its 525hp trim, the car wags its tail easily enough when provoked with the right foot, and playing in the hills in Sport+ mode enticed the fat 19" rear tires to relinquish their normally tenacious grip, delivering delicious oversteer on demand out of tighter bends.
On bumpy roads, we preferred to keep the suspension in Sport 1, or 'Nurburgring' setting, since Sport 2 compromised wheel travel when you hit short frequency bumps. We nicknamed Sport 2 'Hockenheim' since it is perfect for an all-out attack on a smooth road or racetrack. In Sport+ mode, the AMG Speedshift MCT transmission is lightning fast through its seven ratios. We actually found it a more consistent transmission than the dual-clutch in the SLS AMG, which appears to suffer occasional software issues when you want a downshift under hard braking into a slow corner on track.
In Comfort mode, the CLS63 was happy to waft along but felt a bit fidgety compared to the silky 350CDI.
If all this weren't enough, Mercedes showed off its optional Designo American cherry wood flooring for the luggage bay. However, the sky-high price tag made it hard to swallow.
Unsurprisingly, the wooden floor will be standard in China, while Mercedes expects 50% of Russian buyers to opt for it as well. Naturally, the precious wooden floor comes with a folding, anti-slip mat to protect it when the cargo area is used for its intended purpose!
2013 Mercedes CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake
Engine 5461cc 90? V8 twin-turbo with direct injection
Drivetrain seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic, 40% limited-slip differential
Brakes Six-piston calipers f, four-piston r, 14.2" drilled rotors f&r, optional carbon-ceramic front rotors
Wheels & Tires 9x19" f, 10x19" r AMG wheels, 255/35 ZR19 f, 285/30 ZR19 r tires
Exterior AMG body styling kit
Power 525hp at 5250-5750rpm
Torque 516 lb-ft at 2000-4500rpm
Top Speed 155mph (limited)
Weight 4145 lb