Is the CLA250 Shooting Brake the perfect lifestyle weekender? Paul Maric hits the road to find out.
One of the latest manufacturers to take on creative nomenclature is Mercedes-Benz with the adoption of the shooting brake moniker for its 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Shooting Brake.
The CLA250 Shooting Brake is essentially a station wagon version of the CLA250, adding flexibility and versatility to the A-Class range.
Shooting brake is a term originally derived from wagons that were designed and used to carry hunting equipment and passengers in a comfortable environment. Their popularity grew in the ‘60s and ‘70s when they were built as two-door coupes with a large load compartment in the rear.
In keeping with the intended theme and purpose of a shooting brake, I decided to head out and shoot some wildlife, using the cargo space in the rear of the CLA250 Shooting Brake as the load compartment for my shooting gear.
I saddled up in the CLA250 Shooting Brake and left for the vast planes of country Victoria. The CLA250 Shooting Brake packs a punchy 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine under its bonnet. Producing 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque, the feisty wagon sends it torque through a clever all-wheel drive system.
Priced from $52,400 in CLA200 guise, the CLA250 Shooting Brake tested here retails for $66,400, while the high powered AMG-variant asks an additional $23,110 for a total of $89,510.
Around town the engine is compliant, but can feel a little bit edgy when you demand torque. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission does well at offering gears on cue, but it can be a little slow to react from a standing start.
The ride around town is good, but errs on the side of firm, making it a bit tiresome at times over corrugations and tram tracks. However, the Shooting Brake's direct and communicative steering more than makes up for the hard ride quality. The steering wheel on our test vehicle even featured a flat bottom and small diameter to help it fit nicely in the hands.
While the interior is modern, it lacks the sharp styling and luxury feel of its C-Class sibling. Sadly, the centre iPad-esque screen uses Mercedes-Benz’s clumsy and sometimes tricky to use COMAND system. A rotary dial controls aspects of the screen and while it tries to offer intuitive shortcuts and navigation menus, it feels like it always requires three or four extra steps than it should. With that said, the standard x-speaker sound system is excellent and offers plenty of punch.
Leg and headroom up front is good with both the driver and front passenger seat offering a number of adjustments to improve comfort. The same can’t be said for the second row, where legroom and headroom is fairly compromised for taller passengers (ie anybody above 180cm tall). The chunkier front seats eat into knee room, while the sloping roofline cuts into headroom.
It’s the cargo area that sets the CLA250 Shooting Brake aside from its other A-Class siblings. With 495 litres of capacity on offer, the flat load space is easy to use and easy to access thanks to a high lifting tailgate.
I left the city for some highway cruising before hitting up rural Victoria to find some wildlife to shoot. After leaving the main motorway, I was greeted by lower quality rural roads with corners and plenty of potholes.
On this surface, the firm suspension became less of an issue with speed, allowing the CLA250 Shooting Brake to sit flat through corners and float over imperfections. It was still firm, but the ride wasn’t as jarring as it was through the city.
The open road also allowed the car to make the most of its dual-clutch transmission. With the gearbox mode in its Sport setting, the exhaust began to make more noise and popped and crackled on upshifts and downshifts. The paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel offered an opportunity to extract the most from this pint-sized package.
From here, I left the country roads behind and discovered some gravel roads riddled with silt and potholes. Surprisingly the car felt right at home on this surface, the all-wheel drive system inspiring confidence while offering added traction on the low friction surface.
Having driven far from the city, I finally found the wildlife I wanted to shoot. I pulled over and whipped out the camera and shot the most uninspiring wildlife I’ve ever seen — sheep. These guys know the meaning of relaxation and didn’t mind having the CLA250 Shooting Brake sneak up to them.
The automatic stop/start system allowed me to pull up alongside the sheep, put the window down and shoot away.
While I’m sure nobody would ever use the CLA250 Shooting Brake as an actual weapon-hauling device, I am certain that it’s a car some punters will find useful. The large load compartment and unique styling sets this car apart from the rest and gives it an interesting selling point — something missing from a lot of cars on the market today.
The most powerful non-AMG variant in the range offers plenty of pep in its step and doesn’t shy away from a few bends. At $66,400, it remains great value for a sporty, uniquely shaped car.
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