There are three diesel engines to choose from, comprising a 220 BlueTEC four-cylinder 2.1-litre unit with 168bhp, a 250 CDI four-cylinder 2.1-litre unit that delivers 201bhp and a 3.0-litre 350 CDI V6 with 255bhp.
They are all capable performers: the220 BlueTEC completes the 0-62mph benchmark in just 8.6 seconds while the mechanically similar but more powerful 250 model manages the same in just 7.7 seconds. Choose the range-topping (diesel) 350 BlueTEC and that time drops to only 5.7 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
Initially all engines came with a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual changes and stop/start as standard, but in 2014 a new nine-speed auto was added. The 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox is smooth and refined, while offering fast shifts and more relaxed cruising at speed
We think the 350 CDI is the best of the lot, offering a perfect blend of performance and refinement. The 250 CDI is decent but it can sometimes feel like its labouring and can get a little noisy when revved hard.
It’s difficult to find a flaw in the way the CLS Shooting Brake deals with corners. It’s got bags of grip, and it hardly leans at all, which is surprising when you consider its sheer size. Although it’s only a minor complaint, the CLS isn’t quite as responsive on turn-in as we would like. That said, the steering is well weighted with a pleasing feel that lets you know what’s going on under the wheels: the inclusion of Mercedes’ standard-fit electro-mechanical Direct Steer system has not compromised things.
The brakes are powerful and the seven-speed automatic is swift and unflustered. The AMG models include extra driving modes that can be changed through a dial on the central console. First there’s the so-called ‘Controlled Efficiency’ setting which means stop/start is always enabled. Then there’s Sport, Sport Plus that deliver faster gear changes and better throttle response.
There’s a manual setting too. For most driving situations we prefer the Sport mode that offers a perfect compromise but Controlled Efficiency is obviously best in congested areas because it reduces fuel use. There’s also a button to turn off the ESP and a button that firms up the AMG’s suspension for sportier driving. Thankfully it’s not rock hard and is perfectly usable on the motorway.