How do you road test a Shooting Brake? Well, unusually for MOTOR, you start by hopping in the back.
Not a position we’re generally accustomed to, as we like to do the driving, but when the greatest difference between two models is the amount of rear accommodation, it seems a sensible place to begin proceedings.
The wagon bodyshell liberates an extra 42mm of headroom in the rear, resulting in rear seats that can now comfortably house a regular-sized adult (I’m 180cm tall), though the door aperture is a bit of a squeeze and that sexy sloping window line means it’s not hugely light and airy.
Still, combined with the extra boot space – only 25 litres more with the seats up, but now with the ability to fold the rear seats down for 1354 litres of luggage area – it makes the CLA S/B a viable proposition for anyone with small children or an active lifestyle, especially as the extra metal and glass adds only $1500 to the price of the CLA sedan.
Kicking off the range is the economical CLA200, available in both petrol and diesel, however anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins will be far more interested in the all-wheel drive 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder models, namely the 155kW/350Nm CLA 250 and 265kW/450Nm CLA 45.
Unsurprisingly, on the road an extra 25-30kg and slightly more rearward weight distribution do nothing to alter the fundamental driving characteristics of the sedan at road speeds, though the extra weight does cost the CLA 250 two-tenths and the CLA 45 one-tenth on the sprint from 0-100km/h.
The CLA 250 need not be seen as the 45’s poor relation, as it possesses a reasonable level of acceleration, with a throaty braart on full-throttle upshifts. The brakes and steering are particular highlights, both offering plenty of communication, but it must be said that when an Audi S3 Sportback is cheaper, much more focused and almost two seconds faster to 100km/h, the CLA 250 does look a little expensive for the performance it offers.
Not so the CLA 45 S/B, which will give an Audi RS4 a hurry-up in the fast load-lugging department. It looks good, too, the extra roofline losing the sedan’s unfortunate resemblance to a taco shell from some angles. The CLA’s slightly softer suspension also pays dividends on Australia’s crappy roads, making it less jiggly than the ultra-firm A45 hatch.
That said, the hatch is still the one we’d buy, as it feels the most ‘AMG’ of all the 45 brood, but if you need some extra space, then the CLA45 Shooting Brake would be next on our list.
4 out of 5 stars
Engine: 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 265kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 2250-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claimed)