2 January 2004

Mercedes is out to break the luxury car mould with the new Vision Grand Sport Tourer (GST), unveiled today as a concept for the first time. The opulently trimmed MPV will be called R-Class when UK sales get underway in early ’05.

It will share its mechanical package with the next M-Class off-roader, including its V6 and V8 engines, seven-speed auto ’box, permanent four-wheel drive system and air suspension. Conceived to answer a call for greater versatility in the luxury car market, it will be positioned between the E- and S-Class and come with a high level of standard equipment.

The Vision GST will be shown at the Detroit Motor Show next week. The ‘Vision’ title is Mercedes’ way of saying it is a close indication of the showroom example.

Changes over the original GST concept car from 2002 are extensive, although the shape and proportions remain similar. One big change is the adoption of front-hinged rear doors over the earlier ‘suicide’ doors.

Mercedes plans two different wheelbases for the GST: a five-seater for Europe and a longer seven-seater designed primarily for the US. With a claimed 920mm between the first two rows of seats, and up to 2030 litres of luggage space, Mercedes-Benz talks of unparalleled accommodation.As reported by autocarmag.com, the Vision GST is powered by a petrol/electric hybrid drive system first seen on the F500 concept. It combines Merc’s 4.0-litre V8 common-rail tubodiesel with a sizeable electric motor.

They deliver 313bhp and 634lb ft of torque; on part-throttle operation only the electric motor is used, reducing consumption by up to 20 per cent over diesel-only drive. An electronic system splits drive between all wheels, and during braking the motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery.Hybrid power could become a showroom reality, as an alternative to the V6 and V8 engines which range from 3.5 litres up to a 500bhp 6.3 R63 AMG model.

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