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Another look: Benz’s GST edges closer

Here again: The Vision GST has undergone plenty of work since debuting at Detroit in 2002.

Benz's R-class is a car, van and wagon all wrapped into one

23 Dec 2003

MERCEDES-BENZ will unveil this virtually production-ready luxury people-mover at the Detroit show dubbed Vision GST, but set to be called R-class when it goes on sale.

This car is a follow-up to a concept first shown at the 2002 Detroit show also called Vision GST, but there is plenty of evidence that it has evolved a fair way toward production – it now has B-pillars and conventional rather suicide doors.

In its press material Benz says “series production development of this Mercedes model has already reached an extremely advanced stage”.

Benz would have us believe the GST creates a new category, combining “saloon, van, estate and SUV all in one”, although it sounds like the sort of cross-over line others have espoused previously.

GST Mark II also trades in AMG petrol 5.5-litre V8 power for a turbo-diesel/electric hybrid combination mated to Benz’s new seven-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.

The new powerplant provides 234 kW and a chunky 860Nm of torque, pushing the car – which is longer than an S-class and as high as some traditional people-movers – from zero to 100 km/h in just 6.6 seconds, and then on to an electronically limited 250km/h top speed.

However, the hybrid arrangement is claimed to also cut fuel consumption by about 20 per cent.

The R-class is expected to go on sale in the USA in early 2005, and to reach our shores around one year later. Although it’s too early to talk accurately about pricing, the general message out of Benz is don’t expect the R to be cheap.

The R-class will share its platform with the next generation M-class, also due in 2005. The off-roader will be offered in two lengths, approximately 30cm apart and it is expected the R-class will have the same short and long wheelbase choices. Both vehicles will be manufactured at Benz’s Alabama plant in the USA.

Inside the Vision GST are six individual powered seats, the rear four folding down to provide more than 2000 litres of flat luggage space. Overhead there’s a panoramic glass roof that stretches practically the entire distance between the windscreen and the rear end.

From the drivers’ seat there’s a steering column-mounted shifter as well as manual gear shifts via paddle-like buttons on the wheel if you prefer.

Overseas media reports say the R-Class is also expected to be available with a choice of six or seven-speed conventional automatic transmissions. As well as the hybrid diesel, three petrol engines will be offered: a 3.5 V6, a 5.0 V8 and a 6.0 V12. The 3.2-litre 320 CDI is also likely to appear as an entry-level diesel.

SLK engine revealed

MERCEDES-Benz has revealed details of a new 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine to power the second generation SLK convertible which debuts at the Geneva motor show in March, The new 3498cc engine develops 200 kW at 6000 rpm and 350Nm of torque between 2500 rpm and 5000rpm, with consumption of less than 10 litres per 100km according to European standards testing.

Technical features of the aluminium engine include variable intake and exhaust camshaft adjustment, a two-stage intake manifold, tumble flaps in the intake ducts and an intelligent heat management system.

Interestingly, the new V6 also reverts to four-valves per-cylinder after Benz made a big song and dance in the mid 1990s of three-valve heads in its new generation of modular vee engines.

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