A funny thing is happening with the extinct woolly mammoth: Russian scientists are trying to clone one, using DNA extracted from a corpse preserved in ice. Employing an elephant as a surrogate mother, they seek to render the mammoth . . . um, is “un-extinct” a word? Similarly, full-size luxury SUVs may escape the boneyard previously thought to be their destiny thanks to the clever application of science. Case in point: the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL450.
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We called it a buffalo when we ran one through our 40,000-mile long-term-test regimen, noting that the category was undergoing a steady, endangered-species-like decline. But sales have rebounded strongly as of late; the GL-class is up 33 percent year-over-year during the past three months.
The body, chassis, and even (for now) the name are the same in 2015, but the GL450 has been genetically modified. Under the hood, where our 2013 long-termer housed a mammoth, 4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, there’s now a diminutive 3.0-liter V-6. Also force-fed by a pair of turbos, it makes an identical 362 horsepower. It produces just 369 lb-ft of torque where its predecessor made 406, or 10 percent more. And the lesser amount of torque peaks a bit later, at 1800 rather than 1500 rpm.
In normal driving, the transplant works just fine, capable of a zero-to-60-mph dash of 5.9 seconds, which is identical to our long-term truck’s initial run and an insignificant 0.1-second behind the first GL450 we tested in 2013. On our scales, the new version weighs 254 pounds less than did our option-laden buffalo and 111 less than the first 2013 truck. The mass reduction offsets the V-6’s torque deficit at launch, though autobahn-runners are more likely to detect the missing cylinders as speed rises. The 2015 model was three-tenths of a second slower getting to 100 mph and took 1.9 seconds longer than the long-termer to reach its 130-mph terminal velocity. Passing times—acceleration from 30–50 mph and 50–70 mph—are also longer, by 0.2 and 0.4 second, although they’re still damned quick. In a tight passing situation, we might opt to downshift with the paddles rather than wait for the seven-speed automatic to kick down, but that was true before. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Michael Simari