Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

JLR to take on 150 apprentices

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:28 AM PST

New apprentice scheme open to GCSE and A-level-qualified candidates

Jaguar Land Rover is to recruit 150 new apprentices in its first recruitment drive of 2013.

The scheme is split between Advanced and Higher apprenticeships, which have 90 and 60 vacancies respectively.

Higher apprenticeships are open to applicants holding A-levels (or equivalent) in maths and a science or technology subject. It takes six years to complete, during which time successful candidates will gain a number of NVQ qualifications as well as an undergraduate engineering degree.

Advanced apprenticeships are open to GCSE qualified applicants, who will also gain a number of NVQ and Technical Certificate qualifications. It takes between three and four years to complete.

Successful apprentices will go on to fill roles at JLR's facilities in the Midlands and North West, including its new £355 million advanced engine manufacturing plant in Staffordshire.

Kirsty Scott, head of organisation performance at JLR, said: "We have recruited more than 300 apprentices in the past two years and are pleased to be recruiting another significant intake of new apprentices in 2013. We have ambitious plans for growth and Jaguar Land Rover is committed to providing the highest quality of both practical and academic training to develop future talent for the business."

The apprentice scheme is open to applications now and closes on January 31.

Daljinder Nagra

Renault to axe 7500 jobs

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 04:56 AM PST

Job cuts in France forced by sustained downturn in European new car market

Renault is to cut 7500 jobs in France by 2016.

The announcement comes as Renault seeks to reduce costs as Europe's car market sinks for a sixth straight year in 2013. French car registrations are at their lowest level since 1997.

The job cuts are expected to include 5700 departures through 'natural turnover', meaning resignations and retirements. The total number to be lost is equivalent to 14 per cent of Renault staff in France.

However, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has confirmed there are to be no plant closures in France.

The cuts are needed for the company to break even, according to French head of operations Gerard Leclerq.

"If an agreement is signed with unions, this staff redeployment would require neither a plant closing nor any forced departures," he said.

Renault employed about 128,000 people worldwide as of the end of 2011.

The news follows Honda's announcement that is to cut 800 jobs in the UK due to low demand in European markets.

Holly Stevenson

The stars of Detroit we won't see in Europe

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 04:45 AM PST

Our Detroit motor show highlights which, for better or worse, won't be making it to the UK

Long-haul motor shows are typically a mixture of mainstream launches and local market exotics, and this year's Detroit motor show has been no different.

For every Mercedes E-class facelift, there's been a seven-seat Volkswagen SUV concept or Lincoln MKC baby SUV. Spot one of these on your way to Sainsbury's in the next few years, and you'll know you're watching a dedicated eccentric at work.

Here, then, lest you never see them again, are our 10 favourite cars that have been made without the European market in mind.

VW CrossBlue

It's name may make it sound angry, but this seven-seat SUV is an epic demonstration of just how far the MQB platform can stretch. Conceived as a rival to the Ford Explorer in terms of size and price, the car is likely to go on sale in 2015 and form a cornerstone of VW's expansionist plans in the US.

Toyota Furia

Another car that has a hint of anger in its name, the Furia is a concept that shows the direction for future Corolla design. As such, we won't be seeing it on our shores. But there's still reason to rejoice, as Akio Toyoda's demand for his company to produce more striking designs will surely spread.

Corvette Stingray

You'll be wondering what this car is doing on the list, given the enthusiastic reassurances given by all at Corvette that this £50k Porsche 911 rival will be engineered for right-hand drive. Trouble is, that's in the diary for 2015 at the earliest, meaning there's still a worrying number of hurdles to overcome.

Tesla Model X

How they tease. Shown in Detroit as a modified prototype, the Model X inches towards production with its mouth-watering, Porsche 911-beating performance figures intact, along with those scarcely believable 'Falcon' doors. Trouble is, the market for such a large seven-seat SUV market is tiny in Europe, making production unlikely.

Hyundai HCD-14

Billed as a design study for Hyundai's future upmarket models, the Genesis and Equus, and therefore showing design cues for two vehicles that have no production future in the UK at present. That said, it's worth a look merely to take in its giant and somewhat blunt design.

Lincoln MKC

This 'baby' SUV concept is 4.55m long with a 2.7m-long wheelbase, and is loosely based on the Ford Escape/Kuga. The lavish styling has been created by Lincoln's dedicated design team. The brand also gets its own dedicated engineering team. A Chinese launch in 2014 is on. Europe, however, remains a final frontier.

Chevrolet Silverado

In North America, this vehicle is an icon; no wonder, perhaps, given its size means you can't miss it. The Silverado takes on an added air of importance, because it's been on sale in the US since 1975, and this full-scale makeover means updating a classic design that's set in the hearts of minds of many buyers.

Kia Cadenza

Known as the Kia K7 in its home Korean market, but still wholly unfamiliar to most European minds, this large saloon is a rival to the Toyota Avalon and Acura RL (two more cars Europeans won't see) in the United States. If you're taking notes, it is slightly longer and narrower than a BMW 5-series.

Cadillac ELR

A range-extended Cadillac using the same technology as the Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera. That may not sound much to get excited about, but there's no doubting this is a good-looking car. Truth is, though, that even if Cadillac does see through plans to relaunch in the UK, its got enough of a battle on its hands without trying to convince us of the merits of alternative powertrains.

Usain Bolt Nissan GT-R

It's a Nissan GT-R painted gold. Generaly speaking we'd mock such a project for being showy and pointless, but this charity creation has been built not only for a good cause, but created in the name of a sprinter who any London 2012-loving individual has to respect. Even so, that doesn't mean you'll see it on Clapham High Street any time soon.

Autocar magazine 16 January preview

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 02:56 AM PST

Mercedes CLA revealed; World's most in-depth test of the new Volkswagen Golf; Quickest-ever Polo uncovered; £25k used car buying challenge; 174mph Audi RS7

This week's issue of Autocar magazine lifts the lid on the Mercedes CLA and how it takes the firm into new territory. We also take a look at the next four small Mercedes models to be spun off the CLA's platform.

The stars of the Detroit motor show are placed under the spotlight. We consider whether the all-new Corvette C7 has what it takes to match Europe's best and how the new Lexus IS can succeed without the option of a diesel.

We also analyse the story behind the UK's growing new car market, and how GM plans to turn Vauxhall around.

Our first drive section leads with the tough and rugged looking Volvo V40 Cross Country, four-wheel drive BMW 320i xDrive and the Mazda 6 Sport Tourer. And the all-new Volkswagen Golf is the subject of our full, eight-page road test.

We pitch stars of the track – the Caterham Seven and Ariel Atom – against the stars of the field, the Land Rover Defender and Freelander in an old-versus-new comparison. Plus we travel to Korea to see how the London mayor's plans for a fleet of electric hire cars works in Seoul and speak to Mitsubishi Motors' president Osamu Masuko about his firm's future.

We wave goodbye to our long-term Honda Civic, and deliver updates on our Volkswagen CC, Volvo V40, Audi A6 Allroad and Alpina D5, while James Ruppert explains why the Nissan Qashqai makes a great used buy.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents, or available for download from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store.

China is the key to Ford's luxury car strategy

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 02:34 AM PST

Rather than smarting over its sale of the now buoyant JLR, Ford is focusing on the future and the development of its Lincoln brand

Luckily, I got my chance at Detroit to quiz a senior Ford boss about the future of its luxury brand, Lincoln. Jim Farley is Ford's global sales and marketing boss and, I'm pleased to report, a keen Autocar reader.

Not surprisingly, he appeared not concerned about Ford's sell-off of Jaguar Land Rover. "We just had to do it," he said. "You won't believe how much time and energy it takes just to run a company like Ford, without the distraction of other brands."

But he did admit that Ford didn't cope well with running a multi-brand operation. "For whatever reason, a company like Volkswagen can do it, but Ford couldn't. We just got distracted," he said.

And he acknowledges that as a result, Ford is now locked out of the fast-growing global luxury market, without attempting to suggest that Lincoln can rectify that situation any time soon.

In fact, Lincoln is going through a "brand building exercise and not going to chase volume", he said.

The sales numbers back this up. Lincoln is only selling about 90,000 units in the US, with a further 10,000 or so in South Korea and the Middle East.

That's many fewer than its nearest direct competitor, Cadillac, which sells about 150,000 units in the US and a further 45,000 in the rest of the world.

JLR, remember, is around the 300,000 mark.

Lincoln's current focus is to get a new model range of seven cars into production, with the focus on rebodying Ford platforms, rather than rebadging them – a significant difference.

Outside the US, the thrust is to beef up sales in China, starting in 2014, and with this in mind Lincoln was hosting a group of Chinese journalists at Detroit.

In fact, China, rather than Europe or Asia, holds the secret to Lincoln's development. If all goes to plan, China will be Lincoln's biggest market by 2020.

In that time, Ford will have a chance to reflect that in the same timeframe, JLR may well be selling in excess of 600,000 cars around the globe. Food for thought, indeed.

Manual gearboxes are history, but will we really miss them?

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 02:17 AM PST

It's time to let go of our obsession with manual gearboxes and embrace flappy-paddle gearshifting

Even the new Renaultsport Clio won't be available with a manual gearbox, but in the grand scheme of things, will that matter?

Cue a whole heap of arguments declaring the true driver's car to be dead, alongside another somewhat predictable war cry bemoaning the onset of electronics, all of which are apparently bad news for us enthusiasts. To which I'd say, wake up, smell the Castrol R and stop moaning about things not being the way they were.

Okay, some of the electronic gubbins, particularly those relating to the throttle and steering, aren't entirely welcome in cars that are supposed to connect with the keen driver. And some of the less capable paddle-shift gearboxes are, or at least were, a pain in the whatnot in the way they fail – or failed – to exact a shift when you ask them to.

In truth, though, most flappy-paddle gearboxes tend to be either fine, good or excellent in the way they respond to your inputs nowadays. And the best ones are approximately 10,000 per cent more capable at swapping cogs than us mere humans are.

When I was racing TVRs several hundred years ago, one of the key factors during a race was the ability not to fluff gearchanges. The gearbox was a bit of brute, so mastering its nuances wasn't easy. And in three seasons I don't reckon I managed it once during an entire race distance. At some stage during every race I fluffed a shift, at which point approximately half the field would come flooding by and the process of trying to repass people would begin all over again.

Had the car been fitted with a dual-clutch gearbox like the one Renaultsport is about to make compulsory in the new Clio 200 Turbo, however, I'm absolutely certain I'd have been less unsuccessful.

Yet maybe the best thing of all about dual-clutch gearboxes is that when you're not going for it, you can just select D and bumble about in them. In stop-start traffic jams on the motorway, for example, you can forget the hassle of having to continuously juggle the clutch and accelerator, which is something that drives me round the twist in a conventional manual. Even in heavy town traffic you can drive a dual-clutch as if in a normal automatic, without needing to be twinkle toes with any of the pedals.

And when the right road appears and those horns emerge from your temples, as they do from time to time, you can switch to manual – sometimes even to sport manual – and the thing will slice between ratios faster and more efficiently than you could ever manage manually. In turn, this will enable you to concentrate more clearly on the pleasures of pure driving – of turning in, braking, exploiting the balance and using the power of your car – more precisely than you ever could with three pedals and a lever to also think about.

That's why the manual gearbox is history. And anyone who thinks otherwise can stand over there alongside the rest of the Luddites, with their VHS video recorders, their black and white TV sets and their belief that the earth is flat.

First drive review: Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI DSG Elegance

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 02:01 AM PST

The third-generation Skoda Octavia majors on interior space and practicality and offers a whole lot of car for the money It's the third-generation Skoda Octavia, the ever-popular family hatch which the Czech manufacturer confidently believes will break into the top 10 global best-sellers when sales of this all-new version get up to speed later this year.Designed to appeal to car buyers regardless of whether they dwell in Beijing or Bromsgrove, the new Octavia majors on practicality by offering cavernous interior space and some clever design touches, and all for a competitive price – even if Skoda is by no means the budget brand it once was.With the recently released Skoda Rapid now slotting into the range beneath the Octavia, this car – based on the longer-wheelbase version of the VW Group's modular MQB platform – has grown in size to accommodate its new sibling in Skoda's product range.Compared to the outgoing model, the new Octavia is 90mm longer, 45mm wider and has a wheelbase that is 108mm longer. Skoda is proud of the fact that its models often blur car class boundaries, and the Octavia is no exception. The company claims it has interior space comparable to a model from the next class up: the total interior length is 1782mm and the seats-up boot capacity is a cavernous 590 litres. By comparison, a Ford Mondeo's is 528 litres.Despite the car's growth spurt, Skoda maintains that the Octavia's key rivals remain the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus. However, it is not hard to imagine the keenly priced and well equipped Octavia turning the heads of car buyers looking at vehicles in the Mondeo class.Late last year we got an early drive in a Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI DSG SE Plus, but that petrol variant won't be coming to Britain when the Octavia goes on sale in March. Instead we'll get two smaller petrols – a 1.2 TSI and 1.4 TSI – and a brace of diesels.A 1.6 TDI is likely to be a popular seller, but here we get our hands on the oilburning range-topper, the Octavia 2.0 TDI, equipped with the DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox and in the top Elegance trim.

Vauxhall Cascada prices announced

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 04:01 PM PST

New Vauxhall Cascada convertible will cost from £23,995 when it hits showrooms in April

Vauxhall's new Cascada convertible will cost from £23,995 when it goes on sale in April, with prices rising to £29,080 for the range-topping 2.0-litre model. And although the Cadcada has no direct rivals, Vauxhall reckons it will be able to steal sales from Audi's A5 (the nearest sized equivalent) by competing on value for money.

The entry-level car comes with a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 138bhp and stop start, with a top speed of 129mph and a 0-60mph time of 10.2sec. The Cascada is also available with Vauxhall's new MGE 1.6-litre petrol engine with 168bhp, hooked up to what is described as a "low friction" six-speed auto. It will reach 60mph in 9.2sec.

The range topping engine is the 2.0-litre 192bhp twin turbo diesel, claimed to return 54.3mpg and emitting 138g/km, with a 0-60mph time of 8.9sec.

Two trim levels will be available – SE and Elite – and all Cascadas come with HiPerStrut front suspension, lifted from the VXR cars.

Vauxhall downsizes diesels

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 04:01 PM PST

New 1.6 oil burner offers better economy and more power than old 1.7 and 2.0-litre diesels

Vauxhall will replace its 1.7-litre diesels and some of its lower-powered 2.0-litre diesels with an all-new 1.6 that the firm claims will "set benchmarks for refinement, performance and environmental compatibility."

Part of the same engine family as the new MGE 1.6 petrol, the CDTI Ecotec engine produces 135bhp and 236bhp, more than the 1.7, and it should return 10 per cent better fuel consumption than the equivalent 2.0-litre diesel.

The first car to get the new engine will be the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Detroit motor show video review

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 09:07 AM PST

A look back at the stars of 2013's Detroit show

The Detroit motor show was the first major event of 2013. Stars of the show included the Corvette Stingray, Honda Urban concept SUV and the VW CrossBlue - all very different, but all hugely important models.

Detroit motor show: Via Motors

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 07:32 AM PST

A new range of range-extender hybrid trucks from ex-GM boss Bob Lutz

These are the first models in a range of new hybrid commercial vehicles, unveiled by Via Motors today at the Detroit motor show.

The brainchild of Bob Lutz, ex-GM vice chairman and the man behind the innovative range-extender hybrid Chevrolet Volt, Via Motors offers hybrid conversions of full-size GM trucks.

The first Via truck is expected to go on sale in mid-2014, and will use a hybrid drivetrain with an electric motor coupled to a 402bhp 4.3-litre V6.

It will travel 40 miles on electric power alone and is expected to cost twice the price of a conventionally powered equivalent.

However Lutz says the running costs mean the price of ownership over the vehicle's lifetime will be substantially less than the standard vehicle.

Lutz has shifted his attention to commercial vehicles after publicly stating that electric technology in small passenger cars was "nonsensical".

Detroit motor show: Lexus IS

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:30 AM PST

Sub-100g/km hybrid replaces diesel for next generation Lexus IS

Lexus will not offer the new IS with a diesel engine, replacing it with a petrol-electric hybrid that the firm claims will emit less than 100g/km of CO2. The new car, which has been unveiled at the Detroit motor show, goes on sale in the UK this summer.

The IS will be powered by either a 2.5-litre petrol V6 in the IS 250 or a combination of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and electric motor in the IS 300h. The hybrid system is used in the Japanese market Toyota Crown – in that car the engine produces 163lb ft and 175bhp, and the motor makes 141bhp and 221lb ft. Combined, the system produces 217bhp and Lexus is aiming for fuel consumption of over 65mpg.

Both the IS 250 and 300h are rear-wheel drive, with the 250 driving the wheels though a six-speed auto, while the hybrid uses a CVT. The front double wishbone suspension is a revised version of the last IS's, while the rear is a multi-link system borrowed from the Lexus GS. The IS also uses the GS's Drive Mode Select software.

F Sport models now get different styling to distinguish them from the standard IS, with a different grille and bumper. Suspension and steering are retuned, and F Sports can be had with optional Adaptive Variable Suspension. Its Drive Mode system gains a fourth setting, too. 

The car is slightly wider, longer and taller than the outgoing model, with a 70mm longer wheelbase. Lexus claims this give the IS more room for rear passengers and class-leading rear knee room, while boot size has increased to 480 litres. The hybrid loses 30 litres of boot space.

The cabin design is closely related to the LF CC concept car's, with its high centre console, analogue clock, wide air vents and touch sensitive controls.

Detroit motor show: Nissan Resonance concept

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:26 AM PST

New SUV concept previews the next Murano and elements of the upcoming Qashqai replacement

Nissan is offering a glimpse at its future crossover models at the Detroit motor show with a new concept car called Resonance.

The Nissan Resonance, designed by the firm's Californian design studio, is said by insiders to be 70 per cent representative of the next-generation Murano next year, with some of the more exaggerated details set to be toned down rather than the basic shape to be changed drastically.

The 4840mm-long Resonance also has features, including its front grille and 'boomerang' headlights, that will carryover to the next Qashqai, which is also due in 2014.

Nissan boss Andy Palmer believes Nissan is once again redefining crossovers, as it did with the Qashqai. "We want to maintain our global leadership in crossover sales, and this concept showcases our plans to redefine the sector again.

"We want cars for people with an optimistic outlook and this edgy yet sophisticated design inside and out delivers that. It is confident and expressive, and that defines our crossover philosophy."

Nissan points out the Flare Orange-coloured concept's 'floating roof' as one of its more striking features, a full-length glass roof supported by sharply raked A-pillars and softer D-pillars.

Nissan has turned to space travel for inspiration for the concept's interior, imagining how first-class space travel might look. Light, hand-stitched leathers feature alongside wood and metal trim. The centre console is dominated by a large integrated touchscreen that controls all of the car's major functions.

The all-wheel-drive Resonance is powered by a petrol-electric hybrid system that includes Nissan's next-generation CVT. The drivetrain mates a 2.5-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

Electric tech on small cars "nonsensical"

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 03:22 AM PST

Ex-GM boss Bob Lutz downplays the importance of small electric passenger cars, including the Chevrolet Volt he helped create

Bob Lutz, one of the masterminds behind the Chevrolet Volt, has said that he now considers the ground-breaking range-extender technology to be wasted in a family car-sized vehicle.

While at GM Lutz championed the cause of the Volt, and was instrumental in pushing the technology through. Its creation was also a key part of GM's bargaining package when it asked President Obama's administration for financial aid during the economic crisis, since it allowed GM to pledge investment in environmental technology.

However, Lutz, who is currently involved in a project to bring electric trucks, pick-ups and SUVs to market with a new American firm called Via, now believes that range-extender technology would have been better showcased in larger vehicles first.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and we shouldn't forget that the Volt and sister car Opel Ampera are the world's best-selling electric car, but the truth is that even then it's not meeting sales expectations, and that's because most customers don't want to pay out a major expense for the technology to make minor savings.

"Frankly, unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can't be convinced. The first two types of buyer will buy whatever's built, but the latter is a harder case. The obvious answer is to electrify as big a vehicle as you can, because that's where the fuel and running cost savings make the most sense.

"If I had my time again at GM then I would have started with the Cadillac Escalade for the range-extender technology, and brought the Volt in later. The more gas-guzzling the vehicle, the more economic sense of electrifying it. Car companies need to get their minds on that: electrifying an Opel Corsa that uses virtually no fuel anyway and then lumping a huge premium on it to cover the battery costs is nonsensical. Why bother? It uses virtually no fuel anyway."

The first Via truck is expected to go on sale in mid-2014, using an electric motor coupled to a 402bhp 4.3-litre V6. It will travel 40 miles on electric power alone and is expected to cost twice the price of a conventionally powered equivalent. However Lutz says the running costs mean the price of ownership over the vehicle's lifetime will be substantially less than a standard vehicle.

Detroit motor show: Honda NSX

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 03:19 AM PST

The latest incarnation of the hotly-anticipated Honda NSX sports car concept has been unveiled at Detroit

A revised Honda NSX concept was shown at the Detroit motor show today, revealing a lightly modified exterior design and a view of the car's interior for the first time.

With the car, which is being developed mainly in the US, still two years from production, Honda officials say they have taken the opportunity to respond to feedback and engineering requirements to create the latest concept.

Jon Ikeda, head of Acura design, said: "This project is evolving all the time, and we wanted to reflect that with the concept. What is most amazing is how little the exterior has changed, What you see on the exterior is a more focused look at our goal of creating the modern performance car. It must be futuristic, be simple but technical, and express the performance and technology leadership we want to take."

Although the cabin looks near production ready, Ikeda stressed that it was only a first concept, and that it too could evolve in the years until the NSX's official launch. The styling highlight of the interior is the big carbonfibre struts which run from the dash into the centre console.

"The key is that the interior design compliments the vehicle, creating that link between man and machine," said Ikeda. "A performance car needs great visibility, intuitive controls and an interior quality that lets the driver focus on driving. Nothing must distract from that goal."

"The revised exterior is a more focused look at our goal of creating the modern performance car. It must look forward, be simple but technical, and express the performance and technology leadership we want to take."

The NSX will not go into production for at least two years, and will be built in the US, where most of the car's development will also be carried out. The car will use a mid-mounted V6 coupled to an electric motor to drive the rear wheels, and electric motors driving the front wheels to give four-wheel drive. Honda's Super Active All-Wheel Drive system will also be fitted.

The NSX concept was previously shown at last year's Detroit show.

Detroit motor show: 'Mercedes must fight for F1 title in 2014'

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 01:53 PM PST

Mercedes boss, Dieter Zetsche is confident about his firm's chances in the F1 world championship - but not until 2014

Mercedes will be in a position to win the Formula One world championship in 2014, according to company boss Dieter Zetsche.

Speaking at the Detroit motor show, Zetsche admitted that the team's results last year, where it finished fifth in the constructors' championship and scored one win with Nico Rosberg, were not good enough.

"Formula One is a very visible platform, and there's no doubt we spend a lot of marketing budget on competing as we consider it close to our core business," said Zetsche. 

"But as its so visible people see pretty quickly if you succeed or not, and if the results are up to your expectations. For Mercedes those expectations must be that we are up there at every race competing for victory.

"Even though we had one win last year, you cannot say we were in a position to be considered winners everywhere. So that is why we have made changes - a new driver, a new chairman and more to come.

"What we saw was that the engine was the best, or up with the best, and drivers who were among the best. The real problem lay with the chassis and we are working on that.

"The coming season will probably not allow us to show the full effect of the changes, but in 2014 we will have a good shot at the championship, especially with the new engine rules. Optimising the chassis and engine for that opportunity is key."

Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 03:38 AM PST

Does the five-door Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake have the substance to back its style? Sometimes the word 'estate' doesn't quite cut it, apparently. Not content with introducing us to the concept of a four-door coupé, Mercedes-Benz is insistent about reintroducing the 'Shooting Brake' moniker for the five-door variant of its likeable CLS.It's amazing how quickly you get used to an idea. Most of us were rather taken aback when Mercedes first launched the CLS, but it slotted swiftly and easily into the range and our understanding. It came across as more dynamic than the E-class on which it is based and almost as classy as (and undoubtedly more individualistic than) an S-class. Unlike its larger sibling (as with Audi's A6 next to the A8), the CLS doesn't say that its driver is on his way to an airport departure lounge.Quite what the Shooting Brake says is what we're here to find out. Logic dictates that if you want an executive-sized Mercedes-Benz with ample room in the rear, you'd buy an E-class estate. But logic frequently works in mysterious ways, or not at all, in this sector, and sometimes what a car says about its owner is as important as what it does.

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