The idea of the ‘super’ estate is not a new concept.
Starting in the early-to-mid 1990s we’ve had the likes of the Audi RS2 Avant and Volvo 850 T-5R, and coming through to the modern age: the Audi RS4 and RS6 Avant; the Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate; the BMW M5 Touring; the Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sports Tourer and many more – all ranging from exotic five-cylinder engines to twin-turbo V10 powerhouses.
They allow the average citizen to mate supercar-rivalling pace with chest-of-drawer-swallowing practicality, and who wouldn’t want that?
Many fast estate cars are based upon their saloon counterparts, but now there’s a new trend going around – creating fast estates from hot hatchbacks. The Germans obviously want a piece of this cake and so they’ve created these two: the Volkswagen Golf R Estate and the Mercedes CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake. So which will reign supreme? Let’s find out.
Both cars house 2.0-litre turbocharged engines. This may seem modest for ‘performance’ estates, but don’t forget the cars on which they’re based on – Golf R and CLA 45 AMG (coupe version of the A-Class hatch) – are possibly the hottest of hatchbacks that have ever existed.
The Golf R Estate produces 296hp and 280lb ft of torque. That’s mightily impressive for a 2.0-litre, especially as it produces 40.4mpg on the combined cycle and emits only 163g/km of CO2. But then the Mercedes wades in. Its engine is slightly more efficient producing 40.9mpg, and cleaner too, emitting just 161g/km of CO2.
From these, it’s easy to think the Mercedes is less powerful, but no. In fact, it produces 355hp and 332lb ft of torque – that’s absurd.
Styling and practicality
Volkswagen and Mercedes have both gone for the discretely aggressive look for both cars, although coming to the same conclusion through different means.
Like the Golf R hatch, the only giveaway exposing the performance credentials of the estate are the quad exhausts, the black rear diffuser and the slightly more aggressive front-end. Nothing too shouty, and combining this with a conventional estate body means it seamlessly blends into surrounding traffic with ease.
The Mercedes is quite different. The ordinary CLA is very handsome indeed and the shooting brake shape only adds to this; with its roofline that swoops down towards the shallow rear window it looks very different to many other cars, meaning people will naturally be drawn to it.
The reason why the CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake is discreet is because it looks very similar to many other CLA Shooting Brakes that exist. Only the most eagle-eyed individuals would be able to tell the difference.
The Mercedes is more of a style-over-substance machine, meaning practicality has been compromised thanks to the sloping roofline. Boot space is 495 litres with rear seats up (595 litres with rear seats seated more upright) and 1,354 litres with rear seats folded compared to 605 litres with rear seats up and 1,620 litres with them down in the Golf.
Both cars inherit exceptional interiors with the Golf being the more modest. The Golf R Estate is unchanged from the hatch, meaning there are Alcantara or leather sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and many blue highlights.
The cabin of the CLA is much sportier. It wants you to know you’re sat in an AMG-engineered machine: there are AMG sports seats; AMG dials; an AMG gear selector; and lots of red accents including red highlights around the air vents and red stitching on the dashboard and steering wheel. You even get red seat belts.
Even with the 59hp advantage the Mercedes possesses over the Volkswagen, on paper, the two look very similar: top speed of 155mph (limited); both have dual-clutch gearboxes, six-speed for the Golf, seven-speed for the CLA; and both acquire four-wheel-drive systems. They also have great steering systems and expel raspy exhaust notes.
However, there are differences – as the Shooting Brake is a full-on AMG, the suspension is much firmer than that on the Golf, and the gearbox in the Shooting Brake can be slow at times when the unit in the Golf is always quick while still being smooth.
Another difference is the four-wheel-drive system. The system in the Golf is more sophisticated; all of the power can be sent to the rear wheels if required while the Mercedes can only send half to the rears. This means dynamically, the Golf is likely to be more adjustable and therefore more fun to drive, but you’ve got to be travelling at excessive speeds to feel the difference.
Even though all this favours the Golf, you cannot ignore the extra performance the Mercedes offers.
Which one should I buy?
If you’re looking for the better ‘driver’s’ car, the Golf R Estate is looking like the one to have, but if you’re just after ballistic performance, then it’s the CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake you’ll want.
However, after considering their prices, it may swing your decision. The Mercedes starts from £43,120 and the Volkswagen is expected to cost approximately £10,000 less. So after contemplating that price gap, is it really worth paying the extra to have a fully-fledged AMG Mercedes at the cost of practicality?
On that basis, the Golf estate looks like being the more sensible choice – which might not be what you’re after…