Mercedes looks to entice a new audience

For much of the 137 years or so that Mercedes-Benz has been active on the planet, its products appealed largely to a more sober and mature type of clientele.

Mercedes looks to entice a new audience

For much of the 137 years or so that Mercedes-Benz has been active on the planet, its products appealed largely to a more sober and mature type of clientele.

Even despite the ‘Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes-Benz’ incantation from the late counter-culture heroine Janis Joplin, the German car maker never really cracked the ‘yoof’ market.

Indeed, speaking to a young gentleman recently who was asking advice about purchasing a new, big, and expensive SUV, I advised him to look closely at Examiner Motoring’s Car Of The Year Winner, the Mercedes GLE, but chided him that he was probably too fresh-faced to be seen driving a Merc.

I told him I was only kidding, but that in days not so recently past, a young person would not be seen dead driving a Mercedes for fear of credibility issues. He looked at me as if I had just descended from Planet Zog, completely failing to understand where I was coming from.

The point here is that in recent years Mercedes has fully addressed any issues it might have had about its products appealing to anyone under 50 years of age; indeed, the company has done such a good job of breathing new life into its range that the average age of their customers is falling like a stone.

This can only be a good thing for the three-pointed-star as it moves away from steady if somewhat staid designs and into an area where design is everything and to appeal to a more youthful audience is essential.

To that end the CLA Shooting Brake 180d is a very racy looking thing altogether — and especially so with the AMG Line trim — and definitely designed to attract a younger demographic.

The car we tested is actually the second generation of the Shooting Brake — which is a sort of coupe estate, coming as it does with frameless windows and a very sporty, sloping roofline.

The front end is quite sexy too, what with that floating lower bumper and the ‘hockey stick’ signature LED running lights being added to by a neat underscore which not only freshens up the whole template but somehow makes it even more sporty.

This car is based on the A-Class hatchback and the CLA coupe, but that very fact has presented some difficulties for the engineer involved in piecing this car together, while also having several upsides.

One of those upsides is the look which is very curvy and actually presents something which looks lower than its hatchback sibling, but this is a sort of trompe l’oeil because it is not actually lower at all. But the look and overall execution of the design is something which will definitely appeal to the younger buyer or, at the very least, those who are young at heart.

Another plus is that Mercedes has pretty much cornered this segment for itself as there is no comparable Audi or BMW competitor because there is no A3 estate and neither is there a 1 Series; that means the Shooting Brake — by default — goes head-to-head with such as the A4 Avant and the BMW 3 Series Touring, both of which cost a lot more.

Potential downsides appear when you’re on the move, though. The regular A-Class is not noted for the dynamism of the driving experience and has been plagued by crashy ride characteristics and an unsettled feeling on bad roads.

But the lowered comfort suspension we see here is an undoubted improvement for the Shooting Brake, levelling the ride comfort by quite some margin and doing a lot more to ease out the pain of potholes and larger bumps.

Another thing some people might not like is the 1,461cc diesel engine which only outputs some 116bhp and which will be seen in some quarters as being too weedy for a car like as this with such obvious coupe pretensions.

The top speed of just 203km/h and the 11 second 0-100km/h time is not eye-catching, although the official fuel consumption rate of 3.9 l/100 km (71.7 mpg) will attract buyers looking for a frugal mount. The 106g/km CO2 will present you with an annual tax bill of €190, which will also appeal.

All that being said, I was a little uncomfortable with the manner in which the car laid down what power it has.

The tester was fitted with a seven-speed automatic ‘box and it seemed to me that early torque delivery meant any slight excess on the throttle led to wheelspin and tyre screech, neither of which was very appealing, but something you should get used to and overcome with practice.

What I was very comfortable with was the interior which is little short of sensational and commanded by the twin 10” bonded screens which contain the instrumentation and the MBUX infotainment/connectivity systems which are terribly intuitive to use and easy to live with.

The build quality of the whole interior is right up there with the best and while the rear passengers might find legroom a little tight, the whole aura of the thing is pleasing on the eye and the AMG Line additions add an additional layer of class.

Even though there was nearly six grand worth of added spec on the tester, the standard kit levels are good and the likes of the 18” twin spoke alloys, sport seats, and the flat-bottomed Nappa leather clad sports steering wheel (multifunction, naturally) add some very classy touches.

This sporty beast is not only classy to look at but has genuine functionality.

Unfortunately — yet again with a Mercedes — I have to rail against the fact there is no spare tyre at all; and on top of that you have to turn off the damnable lane-change warning every time you get behind the wheel. Could we have a simple on/off button please?

So, as Mercedes continues forth on its task of broadening the appeal of the brand, cars such as this will play a vital role for the German giant.

In truth, the CLA Shooting Brake might only have a small role in that overall scheme, but it will be an important one nonetheless as it is very physical evidence of the company’s intent.

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