What is a shooting brake?

Wagon, sports tourer and avant are all words used to describe estate cars. In other words, cars based on saloons or larger hatchbacks that have extended rooflines for larger load areas behind the rear seats.

So what’s a shooting brake?

The term shooting brake, like many titles, isn’t used very consistently by manufacturers. Many would argue that the car must have an estate bodystyle but only two passenger doors to qualify as a shooting brake like the Ferrari FF, BMW Z3M and (if you remember it) the Reliant Scimitar. More often than not, cars classed as shooting brakes have more swooping rooflines than normal estates.

But if you’ve seen the recent news from Mercedes about its CLA Shooting Brake you’ll realise that the term is fairly fluid. Mercedes’ justification for calling the four-doored CLA a shooting brake is that it considers the standard CLA to be a four-door coupe rather than a small saloon. Ultimately, shooting brake sounds sexier than estate.

Historically, the term comes from the vehicle that shooting parties would use on hunts. The vehicle had to be practical to hold the rifles, marksmen and shooting game while out and about. It’s called a ‘brake’ because this described the carriage used to train and break in young horses.

What are they good for?

Shooting brakes, and estates in general, are fantastic vehicles for those who need a little extra practicality to store pets, children and/or assorted family paraphernalia. They don’t suffer the higher fuel consumption, body roll or compromised refinement that plagues many SUVs and 4x4s because they are based on normal road cars.

Like the idea?

If the idea of a practical yet stylish car that works as well as any normal road car appeals to you then take a look at our shortlist of the best estates of 2014.

If you think estates look more like hearses, then take a look at our shortlist for the best family cars of 2014 – the majority are hatchbacks or saloons. If those aren’t big enough for your family, then check out our best seven-seat car of 2014 shortlist holds the key to top-notch transport for larger broods.

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