Detroit Show Preview: Mercedes-Benz Vision GST

Mercedes gives us an advance look at its new, Alabama-built luxury people-mover.

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The Mercedes-Benz Grand Sport Tourer, or GST, will stretch the crossover category to its largest dimensions yet. This full-size, six-passenger soft-roader will be built alongside the ML sport utility vehicle in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It will likely share the ML's engines, including a new 3.5-liter V-6, the familiar 5.0-liter V-8, and a 5.5-liter AMG V-8, although the concept was shown with a diesel-hybrid powertrain.

Mercedes insiders expect big things from the GST. It will be produced in roughly 35,000-unit-per-year runs, and will pave the way for a U.S.-bound baby brother, the A-class-based Compact Sport Tourer, to be shown at the 2004 Paris show. Altogether, the ML, GST, and CST are part of a larger effort to bring Mercedes-Benz utility-vehicle sales up to 50 percent of its model mix. SUVs currently represent around 15 percent of Mercedes' total sales.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The 2004 North American International Auto Show opens to the public on Saturday, January 10, and runs through Monday, January 19. Be sure to visit automobilemag.com for the latest news from the show floor in beautiful downtown Detroit.

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