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Mercedes GL450 SUV a tad too serious to be fun

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The American-bred sport utility vehicle is a constant frustration to the import imitators.

Those brands - the Europeans mostly - tend to take carmaking seriously and want to overthink and overengineer their versions of the SUV.

It will have no compromises, drive with the fury of a sport sedan and climb mountains like King Kong.

That's impossible, of course, and unnecessary. But the imitators continue.

Mercedes-Benz is the latest to step into the ring with its "big" SUV, the GL450, a 335-horsepower, all-wheel drive, seven-passenger truck with the heft to pull a 7,500-pound trailer.

It joins the boxy and iconic G-Class ($81,675), a leather-lined military-grade vehicle that really can climb like King Kong.

Mercedes hopes the sleek and efficient GL will appeal to its base of U.S. buyers when it's time to replace their Dodge Durango, Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, etc.

Some will. Some will still prefer the American SUV, even as it has become better groomed, due mostly to the imports.

GL450 pricing starts at $55,675. The test truck was $68,075.

And it is a fine piece of horseflesh, with air suspension, permanent four-wheel drive with hill-start assist and descent speed control and a special off-road ABS algorithm, all of which takes the place of a two-speed transfer case.

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