Let me start this week with a little history lesson regarding a rather archaic transportation method, the shooting brake. The name has its origins in the ‘brake’ wagons, which were carriage chassis’ attached to unruly equestrians in order to break them of their wild ways. With a body added capable of carrying a hunting party and its various accoutrements, the shooting brake was born.
With the arrival of the motor vehicle, the name was taken to describe a custom built luxury vehicle adapted to suit the requirements of gentlemen off on a shoot. Diversification of purposes also saw the terms ‘estate’ and ‘station wagon’ tags attached to the style, yet the original moniker has always maintained a certain mystique. Cars that are blessed with this title have sleeker styling, more exuberant performance and a certain je ne sais quoi when compared to the more common or garden mutt transporter.
And because of this, Mercedes Benz has not unveiled the CLS Station Wagon this week, but rather the CLS Shooting Brake. The Herr’s and Frau’s in Stuttgart have clearly got it in their collective heads that what they have to offer is a cut above the mob of mere station wagons available on the market.
In fairness the CLS is quite a stunning car and one could easily picture it as a bespoke hunting vehicle, commissioned by a wealthy aristocrat who found the original CLS to be a little restrictive when it came to transporting beagles and a brace of 12 gauges. And with a range which includes the BlueEfficiency 250, capable of dropping under 4.5 litres per 100km, it means you can go away for the weekend safe in the knowledge that the only damage you’ll do to nature will involve lead shot and ducks.
The air suspension standardised across the range will also provide the reassurance that no matter what you throw in the back, the car will still drive like a Mercedes Benz. Although this is a little bit pointless, because no-one who ever gets around to buying a CLS would consider putting anything in the back and risk scuffing the cherry tree decking inlaid with smoked oak that lines the rear load area.
I have complained loudly and often about manufacturers who make a supposed utility vehicle and then line the bit where you put pets, sporting equipment and other items of muddy miscellany with cream carpet so thick you could lose a small child in it. While its all very well making sure the Jones’ know that you have not only kept up, but seriously overtaken them, doing so in a way that means you have to pull out the carpet steamer every time the bichon frise needs walking is plain idiocy.
But a wooden deck which wouldn’t look out of place on a Caribbean yacht takes things to a whole new level. It’s every bit as impractical as carpet, because the chance of scratching will limit use to people who regularly need to transport sizeable quantities of pillows, yet due to its complete ostentatiousness this really doesn’t matter.
There is absolutely no reason why anyone would choose to line a car with wood in the same way that no-one would choose to listen to a record over a CD, write a letter rather than send an e-mail or light a fire rather than turn on a heat pump. Some things should have been consigned to the scrapheap of history a long, long time ago and yet somehow they maintain a sense of occasion that will forever defy the changing demands of time and fashion. Much like the name ‘shooting brake’ really.
Mercedes have deliberately gone down the route of cocking a snook at technology in order to offer the discerning buyer a car with a unique point of difference; for that alone it earns its spot alongside the bespoke vehicles of gentry past. And should this latest panzer wagon eventually follow the tried and true Mercedes route of finding its way into the hands of AMG, the brake may once again have some seriously wild horses to tame.