Great Cars - Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake
A self-confessed middle-aged alpha male, our reporter Angus Davies may well have found the perfect car for those who want the usual sports car associated with a mid-life crisis, but still have practical considerations to make. He waxes lyrical about life behind the wheel of this remarkable car as he drives to Close House Hotel and Golf in Heddon-on-the-Wall.
My wife often talks about her flat sandals being comfortable. They offer little enchantment. I see no merit in her choice, as to me they exude as much sex-appeal as taking a cold shower whilst sipping a cup of bromide-laced tea. The reason for revealing this insight is that in many aspects of life, we compromise between comfort and fun. In some instances we make two purchases to satisfy both wants. However, a recent journey to Close House Hotel and Golf in Heddon-on-the-Wall may have provided a third way.
THE PLEASURES OF DRIVING. Like many men, I had my pre-child phase of fun, driving sports cars absent of practical considerations. My salad days did not embrace fuel consumption, passenger room or NCAP safety ratings. Mortgage payments and school fees were not on the agenda. I remember enjoying the pleasure of driving, looking for apexes on twisting country roads, deftly judging the camber of bends as I drove with a face exhibiting a beaming grin. Meanwhile, a youthful Mrs Davies sat in the front passenger seat with nervous apprehension as we traversed bends at breakneck speed. I still recall her sitting on a cushion to mitigate the jarring action of the ride on her vertebrae as we drove to Lugano on one spirited trip to the land of cheese and clocks. Today, I drive a German luxo-barge. It is spacious, utterly reliable and has sufficient room to house my over-sized offspring. The ride is exceptionally comfortable, the seats accommodate my overweight middle-aged girth and the engine returns sensible fuel consumption. However, I don’t smile with unbridled joy. It is the automotive equivalent of my wife’s sandals.
NO JARRING. The “third way” made its presence known recently, as the warbling V8 5.5 litre bi-turbo power plant resonated around the narrow lane where I live. My transport for the weekend was the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake. The press car arrived from Mercedes-Benz in resplendent “diamond white metallic paint”. It had the up-rated, 19 inch AMG forged alloy wheels. Experience has shown me that wheels this wide, shod in low-profile rubber often look good and wonderfully grip tarmac, yet transmit every nuance of the road to the point of rattling teeth free of their fillings. However, the chassis engineers at AMG have somehow imparted a ride comfort to this model which is superb. There is no jarring, no excessive road noise and quiet conversation is easily made.
WARP SPEED. With a weather forecast of looming rain scheduled for my native Lancashire, I departed to the sunnier climes of the north-east with the Davies clan on board. Driving along the M6 heading north, it did not take long to establish that residing within the Shooting Brake is a very pleasant place to be. The potency of the engine is apparent the first time you recklessly stab the throttle and lurch towards the horizon at warp speed. However, treat the throttle with due reverence and progress can be made swiftly but in serene splendour. There is no need to converse with raised voices; civility is assured.
LUXURIOUS SEATS. The black AMG seats were trimmed in the wonderfully named “passion leather”. They support the body very well. I often find a short seat squab leaves my legs feeling a lack of abutment behind my knees. No such criticism could be directed at these luxurious chairs. Moreover, my car had the “Dynamic Multi-Contour Seat Package” which included pneumatic seat supports which grip the sides of the torso. Some may like the intelligent gripping of the body offered by the system when it senses the car is cresting a bend. They hold the body in position. My son loved having the dynamic function enabled on his passenger seat, whereas I must admit I found it a little disconcerting. The beauty of the option is that you have a choice to switch it on or off. LIKE A BALLERINA. Approaching Penrith, we left the M6 and headed to The Village Bakery, Melmerby. This is a favourite haunt and the usual fare of organic bread sampler and cooked breakfasts were gutsily consumed by all of the family. It was leaving the eatery and heading along twisting roads to Close House that the car showed its playful side. The car had four adults on board, with luggage and photographic equipment in the load compartment, yet nimbly moved round corners like a prima ballerina. The steering had a wonderful weight to it. Turning the alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, with its peerless tactility, I was able to thread it through a series of corners with laser-like precision. This is a substantial vehicle, 5 metres in length with a kerb weight of 1,955 kg, yet somehow it feels as “chuckable” as a small hot-hatch. I remember studying physics at school and it left me questioning Newton’s laws.
SANDSTONE BUILDING. As we arrived at Heddon-on-the-Wall, we looked for our accommodation for the evening and were impressed by the sight of the tree-lined route to the 18th-century mansion. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching period dramas on television over the years and the view of the sandstone building engendered thoughts of a Jane Austen novel. Whilst the house offers traditional luxury, the adjacent golf facilities are cutting-edge, with two Lee Westwood courses to sate the desires of the keenest golfer. The backdrop provided the opportunity to capture some images of the sinuous lines of the Shooting Brake before the now looming dark skies overshadowed the immaculate white paintwork. Practicality often blights a beautiful saloon car’s shape, as the hearse-like rear is grafted on to increase load capacity. However, from any angle this car is gorgeous. My test car had the “AMG Exterior Carbon-Fibre Trim Package”. It costs a not inconsequential £3,950.00. However, the resultant aesthetic allure of this option would prove very tempting, assuming Mrs Davies should be kind enough to allow me to squander the children’s inheritance.
REVERSING CAMERA. The standard specification of the car is very long. It would challenge the word count of War and Peace. Nevertheless, those kind people at Mercedes clearly wanted to ensure I enjoyed the full AMG experience, with an inventory of options that would fulfil the whim of the most demanding oligarch. The reversing camera is a must have. It makes parking child’s play thanks to superimposed guide lines projected onto a live video image of the area behind. The “Night View Assist” provides a monochrome infrared image of the road ahead, revealing otherwise invisible hazards. My favourite option was the “Bang & Olufsen BeoSound high-end surround sound system”. Fourteen speakers provided an elevated aural appeal that exceeds anything I have ever heard in a car, or indeed at home. Whilst the interior of any car is less than ideal for listening to music, Bang & Olufsen have somehow created something very special indeed. The distilled sound emanating from the unusual illuminated tweeters adjacent to the door mirrors was quite exceptional.
COMFORT AND FUN. Sadly, as the IWC Schaffhausen-branded dashboard clock kept reminding me, my temporary tenure of the 557 bhp Mercedes would sadly come to an end. A delicious evening meal at Close House and a restful night sleep in the calm and comfortable suite set me up for the journey home the following morning. I enjoyed my short sojourn to the north-east. The scenery was spectacular, the roads enjoyable and the locals friendly. However, despite the comprehensive pleasure provided by the hospitality of the region, it was the pleasure imparted by this son of Affalterbach which will forever be indelibly etched on my soul. It offers the practicality and comfort of sandals but with the elegance of a pair of high heels.