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Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake (X218, 2012 - 2017): review, history and buying guide

A leftfield Mercedes with oodles of AMG appeal, the CLS 63 Shooting Brake is an attractive used buy in 2024

Initially launched in 2004 as a sleek E-class-based four-door saloon, the CLS received a Shooting Brake option in its second generation. Arriving in 2012, it ditched the 6.2-litre naturally aspirated M156 V8 of the original CLS 63, replacing it with Affalterbach’s new 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged M157 V8. 

Losing the character and sound of the M156 was a drawback for some, but the turbocharged unit compensated with the numbers it produced: 518bhp and 516lb ft of torque as standard, or 550bhp and 531lb ft with the optional Power Package. In 2013, AMG made the latter tune the default and added a new ‘S’ variant to the range, complete with 577bhp and 590lb ft. To help manage these generous outputs, 4Matic all-wheel drive was available in certain markets, but the UK wasn’t one of them.

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Here, then, power is sent to the rear wheels only via an MCT Speedshift transmission, which offers performance between that of a torque converter and a dual-clutch ’box. The 0-62mph sprint happens in 4.4sec in early cars, 4.3sec with 550bhp, and just 4.1sec for the S. (All-wheel-drive versions could trim these figures further, to as little as 3.6sec.) 

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More than enough to compete with the C7 Audi RS6, and the CLS 63 Shooting Brake offers a true AMG driving experience too, with plenty of character and effortless pace. A longer wheelbase, additional weight and more relaxed spring rates give it more grip than its smaller C63 sibling, but you’re never too far from an oversteer moment should you want one. 

While its sloping roofline sacrifices some practicality over the more traditional E63 Estate, the CLS 63 Shooting Brake cuts a more distinctive shape on the road. Even so, this body style was abandoned for the third-generation CLS, so if you’re looking for a practical performance car with some rarity this AMG should be a contender.

What to look out for

Despite low used prices – £20,000 is the starting point – it’s a relatively reliable machine if given careful, regular maintenance. When viewing a car, check for rattles and abnormal sounds on cold start, and ensure it isn’t (or hasn’t previously been) tuned. While an ECU tune won’t necessarily cause problems, it significantly increases the chances, with some owners experiencing bent conrods with a poor set-up.

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As with most torque-heavy V8s, engine and gearbox mounts can suffer from the extreme forces at play, and so these will likely need attention on most cars at some stage. Camshaft position sensors have been known to fail on the M157, although this is a relatively cheap fix. Much less affordable to rectify is oil working its way into the wiring harness, often from the camshaft position sensors. A careful inspection prior to purchase is therefore wise. 

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There are just a handful of CLS 63 Shooting Brakes on the market at any one time, and given the model’s continent-crossing ability, many have covered six-figure miles. These are the cars you can get for £20,000 or so; opt for one with half the mileage or less and you’ll need to spend another £10-15k. 

What to pay

Excellent£35,000
Good£26,000
Average£19,000
ProjectNA

Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake specs

EngineV8, 5461cc, twin-turbo
Power550bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque531lb ft @ 1750-5250
Weight1880kg
Power-to-weight297bhp/ton
0-62mph4.3sec
Top speed155mph
Price new£83,030
Value todayFrom £20,000

How does it drive?

'You won’t be surprised to hear that it sticks closely to the script established by its peers. The bi-turbo V8 does the full Jekyll and Hyde, burbling happily at low revs but prepared to pull hard the moment you drop the hammer. There’s almost no turbo lag and the only real give away that the engine is force fed is its lack of enthusiasm to go much beyond 6000rpm. 

The transmission works extremely well too, smooth in ‘comfort’ mode, intelligently rapid in ‘sport’ and aggressive in ‘sport plus’, with rapid changes when manually over-ridden. It’s an extremely good car for covering ground in, quickly and effortlessly.

Like AMG versions of the four-door CLS and E-Class, the Shooting Brake feels grippier and stickier than the hooligan C63. It can be pursuaded to slide if you can find a wide, open corner – but you’re never left in any doubt about its mass and size.' – Mike Duff

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