Stuttgart in a day, not the best place to test a 360hp four-wheel drive compact estate, or as Mercedes-Benz prefers to call it – Shooting Brake. It’s an unusual one the CLA Shooting Brake, its lineage is muddled, as it’s the more useful version of a four-door coupé, the CLA, which in turn is based on a five-door hatchback, the A-Class.
Conceptually then it may be slightly confused – it’s more A-Class estate than glamorous CLS Shooting Brake-lite – but in AMG form it has got 360hp and that’s more than enough to keep us awake after a 4am alarm call.
It’s a looker though, more cohesively styled than the CLA four-door coupé with which it shares its name – that car’s arse looks rather apologetically like it’s slipped out of the icing gun of a cake decorator. With a lengthened roofline the Shooting Brake is far more attractive, though the high and wide opening of the boot lid mean you can forget slinging bikes in the back, at least with any real ease.
More a style statement than a useful proposition then, even if that Shooting Brake rear does add 25 litres of luggage space with the seats up, while the ability to fold them allows a maximum load carrying capacity of 1,354 litres. That’s a couple of hundred litres more than the A 45 AMG, though really the main benefit of the Shooting Brake is a 42mm increase in rear headroom. Rear passengers still aren’t going to thank you if you put them in the back for too long, but it’s significantly less tortuous than its relatives.
Those rear seat passengers will also thank the people at AMG for tweaking the suspension settings a touch. Steffen Jastrow, the man responsible for the development of AMG’s small, four-cylinder cars, suggests that CLA 45 Shooting Brake customers are anticipated to be less inclined to take their cars to the track and more likely to carry passengers, so AMG have softened it off accordingly. That’s not immediately apparent on the smooth tarmac around Stuttgart, but should improve the ride back on the ruinously surfaced roads we suffer in the UK.
The rest is all as per the CLA 45 AMG and A 45 AMG, which means a 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder unit developing a not insignificant 360hp and 450Nm of torque, all of which drives through Merc’s 4Matic four-wheel drive system and an AMG-developed version of the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Launch it off the line properly and it’ll reach 62mph in 4.7 seconds, which is a scant 0.1 seconds slower than the coupé. Plenty quick enough, but somehow the AMG never really goads you into using all its firepower, the engine’s relatively uninspiring note lacking the AMG soundtrack so common with its more amply cylindered relations.
It’s hugely capable, without doubt, the CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake offers phenomenal traction, huge grip and mighty brakes, but the seven-speed automatic can be a touch too clever – not allowing early calls on the paddle for a downshift – and the steering, while accurate enough and decently weighted, lacks any feel.
That’s fine in isolation, but Mercedes-Benz isn’t alone in offering fast, focused small estates, SEAT’s Leon Cupra is available in ST form now and while it trails the CLA 45 AMG to 62mph by a second, a £13,000 price difference softens that particular blow. Volkswagen’s Golf R is a better match, with four-wheel drive and near identical performance and a decent boot. The CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake is a curious anomaly then, one that’s expensive in such company and indeed, bettered.
Power to weight: 284hp/ton
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol
Power: 360hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 2,250-to 5,000rpm
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Wheels: 8J x 19 f/r
Tyres: 235/35 R19 f/r
On sale: now