Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Shooting Brake - The Ultimate Niche For Those Who Fancy It
The CLA45 S Shooting Brake is the estate version of the four-door saloon coupe version of the best hot hatch on the market today. Time to drive it!
About 1.5 years ago I drove the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and CLA45 S on and near the Jarama race track just outside Madrid, Spain. After my scenic route near the capital of Spain, I was greeted with a static CLA 45 S Shooting Brake parked alongside a pool at a wonderful looking mansion. The Shooting Brake or T-Modell was now available for a two-week long test drive to experience the differences with the other two family members. In the basis the Shooting Brake is nothing other than a CLA45 S, but with a slightly different more niche and unique body shape while also being a little brother to the CLS Shooting Brake which has become a cult vehicle among the Mercedes-Benz community.
I won’t go into too much detail other than that I called the AMG A45 S the king of hot hatches and personally preferred the A-Class over its slightly heavier and bigger CLA-sister. Let me quote what I wrote about the difference between the two family members; “The CLA itself feels a lot more compliant, less joyful and engaging than the A45. You feel throughout the driving experiences that the CLA is set up for a different kind of customer, who demands a more serious performance potential and less of that wiggly rear end stepping out. The CLA is surprisingly more mature so to speak, some might even say it is "a touch boring", but that word unnecessarily impacts the sheer brilliance of the package under your right foot. The CLA45 S is that good, it is just for another type of driver. One that might not engage drift mode ever during the lifetime of the car, but someone who will have the ability to go from A to B in a blisteringly fast manner.”
With those words in mind, it was time to look at the Shooting Brake, which in the basis is a CLA Coupe with a different body style. Under the bonnet, you will find the same fantastic 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 421 hp and 450 Nm. This converts to 0-62mph in four seconds flat, which is the same as the CLA coupe, and just a tenth slower than the A45 S hatchback. The top speed is limited electronically to 250kmh. The drivetrain offers the same limited-slip differential (LSD) found in the A and CLA, which also donates its electromechanical steering, dual-clutch gearbox and adaptive suspension, and the AMG Torque Control rear axle allowing you to lay down donuts and drifts as if you wear driving a rear-wheel drive sports car.
On the technical front, it offers the same as the CLA and therefore offers in essence the same difference with the A-Class AMG. Still there are a few points to note and those are mainly because of it is new body styling, enhanced weight, improved storage space and niggles that make it a quirking little machine that won’t be everyone’s immediate choice, but allow for something different and out of the ordinary. A car you won’t see every day of the week and an unique member of the AMG family based on the joyfulness of the A-Class and the more compliant CLA with its slightly lower weight.
The new body work with its immensely slopping rear roof line brings the total weight of the car up to 1725 kg, which is 65 kg over the A-Class and 30 kg over the CLA, which isn’t a lot but enough to feel a difference over the rear axle. The car is also 248mm longer, 7mm wider and 3mm higher than the A Class. The wider track at the front (8mm) and rear (27mm) plus the 255 tires on all four corners offer more grip and more compliance on any road. The maturity of the CLA is also shown throughout the CLA SB. It feels exactly the same.
The differences between the A and CLA (SB) become a lot more clear again when you throw the vehicle into a corner. You notice the vehicle has additional weight at the rear that wants to rotate. It is all more apparent and therefore more predictable than the A45 which has more joyfulness and nimbleness. It is more the younger dog among the pack which is less controlled. The CLA only offers that more playfulness at the limit due to its wider tires and longer body work. It is therefore more mature and predictable.
All in all, this is nothing bad and it is a clear difference between the different body shapes. What is Interesting though is that the CLA and CLA Shooting Brake are pretty much similar in their behavior leaving the choice between the two on the matter of looks, space and available budget.
Other points of note can be found inside the cabin. First of all, you will notice all the technical features and refinements which are available across the family. In the front and up to the B-pillar you won’t notice any difference other than another model type displayed in the MBUX. From the B-pillar backwards all changes and you end up with a bit more headspace than the standard CLA. The door handles are annoyingly in the same spot where you want to place your left or right leg depending on where you sit. Especially when you choose for the AMG buckets, which are unnecessarily hard and uncomfortable for long distance driving.
Another noticeable point inside was the tendency for bits of trim to vibrate slightly more frequent than in the A and CLA class, and you constantly hear the rear view camera positioned behind the Mercedes logo on the rear latch opening and close when you choose reverse. The noises gave a less premium feel, clearly more impactful to the body shape of the vehicle and something I couldn’t remember from my time in Spain. All in all, these are little niggles which I noticed.
This leaves me with one last point to discuss and that is the luggage capacity of the estate-like shooting brake body. With seats up, you get 505 liters and with seats down it is 960 liters. Compare this with the 460 liters for the CLA Coupe and 370 liters for the hatchback, and you see there is definitely more volume store things. Even though, the rear hatch offers more practicality, the additional space isn’t as straight forward. The sloping roof line doesn’t offer a lot more space to transport bigger things, which means it is still not a true load-lugger and a vehicle that will allow to carry a family load of luggage for a weekend trip away.
The fantastic 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 421 hp and 450 Nm
So where do I stand when it comes to the Shooting Brake of the CLA45 S family. Looking back at two weeks with the T-Modell, I feel that everywhere were I wrote CLA45 S or CLA in my previous quote above, you can now enter CLA45 S Shooting Brake or Shooting Brake. Both cars are pretty much the same classy but “imperfect” tool with a small weight and size penalty for the T-Modell versus more space and a handy ski hatch. Personally I think the choice for the Shooting Brake variant should purely be based on the love for the body shape.
People who have the option in their wallet to opt for the niche model series and enjoy the appeal of the model will choose it immediately. Others who don’t, won’t easily go down that route and might stay with the CLA Coupe. For those wanting the mental brother of the bunch, they stay with the A45 S and its wrist-flicking agility, which makes it by far the most fun and engaging car to drive of the bunch.
Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Shooting Brake