- Lots of functionality
- Prestigious badge
- Car-like driving dynamics
- Competitive pricing
- Offbeat minivan alternative
- No diesel option at present
- Engine might labor under full load
- Front seats could be more supportive
- Second/third rows not easily configured
- Three-pointed star too showy for some businesses
Splitting the difference between the large Sprinter and smaller competitors like the Ford Transit Connect, the mid-size 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris will have an entire commercial van segment to itself.
Although the name "Metris" is new, the Spanish-built Mercedes-Benz is not. It's known everywhere else as the Vito, a name roundly rejected by U.S. market research.
It was 15 years ago that MB introduced America to the large, Euro-style van with its Sprinter, which has also been badged as a Freightliner and a Dodge. We've become the Sprinter's largest market after Germany, and the Teutonic automaker will add the mid-size Metris to its commercial lineup this October.
We'll get cargo and passenger variants priced from $28,950 (plus $995 destination). Mercedes-Benz calls the Metris "right-sized" and we can see the logic: it's large enough to best the payload and cargo volume of the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 SV, and RAM C/V Tradesman by significant margins, but small enough to fit in a garage.
Unlike Sprinter vans, which are offered only with diesel engines, the rear-wheel-drive Metris features a gas-powered 4-cylinder making 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It's the same unit you'll find in the CLA and C-Class, and mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. A start-stop system is optional because it isn't needed to hit fuel economy targets and may annoy drivers. Service intervals—of critical concern to fleet sales—are as high as 15,000 miles.
Standard safety features include a host of airbags—six for the cargo van, eight for the passenger van—as well drowsiness detection, crosswind assist, and load-adaptive stability control. Buyers will find a rearview camera and assists for active parking, lane keeping, blind spots, and collision prevention on the options menu. The Metris hasn't yet been rated by the NHTSA or the IIHS.
Mercedes-Benz takes pains to emphasize the commercial intent of the Metris passenger van—hotel shuttles and the like—and explicitly states it won't be bringing a luxury variant to North America. But the Metris will be available in over 200 of the country's highest-performing dealerships, where some passenger car shoppers are sure to take notice.
We can see why some would give it strong consideration, despite the fact that it's designed for and marketed to a commercial audience. With a starting price of $32,500 (plus $995 destination), the passenger van offers strong driving dynamics, seating for up to eight, plenty of usable space, and a three-pointed star for the same price as many mainstream family vehicles.
Whoever buys the Metris will have a hard time faulting its driving dynamics. Our drive was too short for in-depth analysis, but initial impressions indicate more than adequate acceleration, good steering feel, and a smooth, compliant ride. This car-like nature will be an advantage whether collecting hotel guests at the airport or taking the kids to school.
You might notice we haven't said much about styling yet, and there's a reason. It's a bit of an afterthought here, compared to nearly every other Mercedes-Benz product we've seen—even the function-over-form B-Class Electric Drive city car. The Metris doesn't have the sort of interior Mercedes-Benz's passenger car buyers would expect. Aside from a gorgeous steering wheel that looks and feels decidedly upscale, material choices are typically durable and drab.
Seats in the pre-production Metris we briefly sampled—fairly shapeless and covered in a fabric that didn't even try to look fashionable—are clearly designed for shuttle duty. This may not deter buyers cross-shopping non-luxury family vehicles, though—especially if rumored options like a panoramic roof materialize.
We weren't given a complete list of features, but it's fair to assume equipment levels on the Metris won't be lavish. Some nice extras can be added, however, in the form of optional navigation, automatic air conditioning, and electric sliding doors. Key specs for the passenger van include standard seating for seven, maximum payload of 1,874 pounds, towing capacity of 4,960 lb, and cargo volume of 38 cubic feet. (The cargo van ups cargo volume to 186 cubic feet, while maximum payload rises to 2,502 lb.)
The one thing that may scotch the deal for non-commercial buyers is old-school second- and third-row seating that's secured to in-floor tracks and can't be configured or folded like the seats on modern minivans and crossovers.
The Metris has been rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 23 highway, 22 combined in passenger setup, 21/24/22 mpg in cargo van specification.