This is the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. It's the production version of the Shooting Break Concept first shown at the 2010 Beijing auto show.
An estate version of the CLS four-door coupe, Merc is hoping to repeat the trick it pulled off when it established the 'coupaloon' market with the original CLS in 2004.
An estate, coupe, or sports saloon - what is the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake?
For a start, it's proof that our collective demand for motoring individuality via ever-more improbable niches knows no bounds, because what we essentially see here is a practical estate bodystyle, deliberately compromised by form over function.
Mercedes itself refers to the CLS Shooting Brake as a 'sports car coupe with five doors and a roof that extends all the way to the rear'.
Clearly, the swoopy Shooting Brake is never going to challenge its E-class brother's gargantuan loadbay, but then again, it isn't supposed to - this is a far more fashionable proposition than the E family wagon. However, the Shooting Brake does still manage a commendable 590 litres of load space, which expands to 1550 litres with the rear seats folded down. That rear bench now sports three seats, in contrast to the normal CLS, set up as a strict two-seater in the hind quarters.
Your cargo will be travelling as stylishly as your passengers, too, thanks to an optional cherry tree wood boot floor, supplemented with alu-rubber rails to stop the Waitrose groceries sliding around in transit. What the family dog will make of being transported in a ballroom-on-wheels we're not sure, but again, perhaps the Shooting Brake didn't have labrador-friendliness high on its design agenda.
The cabin itself remains as-you-were CLS, though new finishes of wood trim and leather are offered via Mercedes individualisation programme.
What powers the CLS Shooting Brake?
Two diesel engines will be offered from launch in the UK. At the lower-powered end of the range we find the four-cylinder 250 CDI BlueEfficiency, good for 201bhp, 369lb ft, 53.3mpg and 139g/km of CO2. Performance is adequate for a sporting coupe wagon: 0-62mph takes 7.8sec and it'll top out at a thoroughly UK-irrelevant 146mph.
The other powerplant is the 350 CDI V6 turbodiesel, develping 261bhp and 457lb ft from just 1600rpm. The extra thrust of the V6 car takes the 0-62mph sprint down to a hot hatch-bothering 6.6sec, and top speed has to be restrained at the familiar 155mph limiter. Economy suffers slightly for the extra poke: the 350 scores 47mpg and 159g/km.
As you'd expect, there's no manual gearbox option: shifting is taken care of by Merc's seven-speed 7G Tronic auto transmission with stop-start as standard.
If you want a petrol-powered Shooting Brake, you'll have to wait for the full-fat AMG version, sporting the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8. Expect performance to be very similar to that of the normal CLS63 AMG: that'll be 518bhp/516lb ft, 4.4sec to 62mph and 155mph, then.
Anything else of interest on the CLS Shooting Brake?
The current CLS was the world's first car to offer what Mercedes calls 'High Performance LED headlights', with greater light discharge than bi-xenons, but lower energy consumption. The CLS Shooting Brake is the second-ever car to feature the technology, but the car's gadget talents aren't limited to snazzy headlamps.
There's an auto-close tailgate as standard, and self-levelling air suspension at the rear to support heavy loads in the Shooting Brake's cargo space. In an effort to alleviate the stress caused by compromised rear visibility from the svelte shape, the Shooting Brake will even measure an appropriate parking space for itself - and then go right ahead and self-park.
Aluminium features extensively in the car's construction, as Mercedes continues its commitment to reduce the heft of its range. The Shooting Brake's tailgate, bonnet, front wings, are all aluminium, as are some suspension and engine components. The pillarless doors are said to each be 24kg lighter than conventional steel doors.
When can I buy a CLS Shooting Brake?
Following its world debut at Mercedes-Benz World in the UK in the middle of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Shooting Brakes will make their way to showroom floors in November 2012.
Mercedes will announce full specification and pricing details nearer that time, but given that a CLS commands around a £13k premium over a normal E-class saloon, don't expect to be picking up even a leanly-specced Shotting Brake with much change from £48,000.