Mercedes-Benz” and “van” in the same sentence is still a bit hard for us to wrap our heads around, although they’ve been selling them in the rest of world forever. Perhaps we’ve been gawking for too many years at 300SLs and driving luxury sedans and cars like the current and very sweet S-Class Coupe to think of Mercedes as a purveyor of commercial vehicles as well.
Granted, the Sprinter has been here awhile, but it is so massive that it looks like it’s from another planet -- plus it originally came here badged as a Freightliner and later a Dodge. The new 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris looks more like a vehicle regular folks would drive. Like the Sprinter, the primary mission of the Metris is commercial in nature, but it’s a more manageable midsize van alternative.
First a few words about the van’s name. It’s made up. Don’t Google the word Metris to see if the van was built in Metrisopolis, Greece, or named for a famous Carpathian goat. It wasn’t. In all but the U.S. and Canada, this same machine is called the Vito, short for Vitoria, Spain, where they are primarily assembled. Having been in New Jersey for decades, Mercedes North America is well aware of the potential complications in calling a vehicle Vito, though it might earn them an honorable mention on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”
At 202.4 inches long, 75.9 wide, and 74.8 tall, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris is bigger than both the commercial Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 SV. It’s also in roughly the same size ballpark as the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Town & Country, and although it’s somewhat taller and narrower than those vehicles. It is generally speaking garageable. Still, Mercedes insists the Metris is not a minivan but a midsize van, and that gets to the matter of intent.
There are two versions of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris, the Cargo Van and Passenger Van. The former is the type that hypes such features as the ability to load pallets, has doors that can open to 270 degrees, and offers a wood floor with six D-rings. Minus windows aft the driver’s door, the Metris Cargo Van’s sides provide generous space for advertising your plumbing business, floral shop, or delivery service.
Anyone who knows the likes of limo services also knows that many of the Lincoln Town Cars that traditionally formed the backbone of livery services are getting long in the tooth and up in miles. Lincoln hoped its MKT van would follow in the Town Car’s tire tracks, but that hasn’t happened to any real extent. We’re told those who use such services can be a touch snobby about their rides. The venerable Town Car is accepted, the MKT not so much. Mercedes would like to fill the void with the Metris.
The Metris Passenger Van offers dual sliding side doors, room for up to seven, airbags galore, a raft of available and optional safety features, Crosswind Assist to keep things straight and safe, back seat A/C, and as Mercedes points out, “Large cupholders ... to meet North American customer needs.” And of course there’s the Mercedes-Benz star smack dab in the middle of the grille. Although it’s not going to wow you with its exterior style, the Metris is a solid-looking van, with an interior design that’s a mix of practical with a touch of style.
Piloting the rear-drive Metris shows it has the sort of character that should enable it to handle the types of congested city and short-haul driving most limo and taxi services usually provide. Power comes from the same 2.0-liter turbo-four used in the C-Class and CLA-Class, with the latter’s 208 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque and backed by a seven-speed automatic. It’s not a barn burner on the open road with five passengers but is nicely adequate around town, with potentially decent mileage and -- critical to commercial owners -- up to 15,000-mile service intervals. The steering feels a bit light out in the country but just what you’d like in city maneuvering, with an impressively tight turning circle.
Being Mercedes-Benz, the Metris must be pricey, right? Not so much, with the Cargo Van starting at $28,950 and the passenger version at $32,500, not including a $995 destination charge.
While the Metris Passenger Van might not be on the soccer mom’s radar and doesn’t have an option list that contains such niceties as vacuum cleaners and TV screens, that could change. Mercedes does offer the V-Class elsewhere in the world, its luxury passenger variant that’s more of a traditional minivan in approach, but says it has no plans to bring that model here. It will keep its corporate eye on market trends and attitudes, however. If it sees an opening, at some point in the future you could see families in Metrisi (is that the plural?).
By the way, both the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris and the Sprinter are now sold through a separate division called Mercedes-Benz Vans. Given the rugged mission of such vehicles, we had to ask about the upcoming Mercedes-Benz pickup truck. Mercedes officials have said it won’t be sold here, but the vibe we got at the Metris event suggests the subject is still wide open. One smiling exec said, “Wouldn’t it be perfect for towing a Jet Ski in Miami?”
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