So you heard Mercedes is bringing a smallish utility van to America and found yourself thinking: who cares. I was there too until I put a few miles on a 2016 Mercedes Metris, and experienced genuinely amazing driving dynamics. In a utility wagon that can carry 2,502 pounds.
(Full Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz flew me all the way to Colorado and let me hang out with them at some fancy resort just so I could drive the Metris and Sprinter. They also fed me some wonderful pills that made me feel human again after a wicked bout of altitude sickness. But I had to sleep in a van and drive the airport shuttle for some crazy Texan who told me about his Chevy SSR for two hours. So, we’re actually kinda even on this one.)
Just to make sure you got that: Metris’ payload capacity tops out at one and a quarter tons. That’s substantial even by full-size American pickup truck standards, and downright unreal for a vehicle shorter than a Chevy Colorado. Towing max is almost as impressive at just shy of 5,000 pounds.
With those specs alone, this van is better at being a truck than a lot of trucks.
But what’s more impressive is how composed the thing is. Even modern high-payload pickups are stiff on the street, especially when they’re empty, and while the Metris interior feels way more utilitarian than other American-market Mercedes vehicles it’s extremely smooth over bumps and around corners.
Build quality is on par with the Mercedes passenger car lineup, materials are tidy and ergonomics are excellent even if there’s not nearly as much leather and LED lighting.
The steering wheel, lifted straight out of a C-Class, does a lot for making the Metris feel upmarket inside. It’s not flashy enough to be called opulent, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t well executed. Every button-click feels purposeful and satisfying, the doors shut with a nicely weighted thunk.
Insert yourself to the driver’s seat, adjust the interface to fit, and the experience is more Star Trek shuttlecraft than Joe The Plumber’s work rig.
The stripped-out open-concept cargo Metris will start at around $29,000 with the eight-seat passenger version closer to $34,000 and up as you add blind-spot warnings, lane-keeping assistance, parking sensors, backup camera, a self-parking switch, and other toys.
Mercedes has been making this little wünderwagen for the European market for some time, selling it as the “V-Class” luxury minivan or “Vito” commercial carrier. Apparently the name’s been changed for America to avoid the Godfather reference. (No, really... that’s what Mercedes told us in the press briefing.)
Whatever you call it and wherever you buy it, the van’s refreshed for 2016. Benz is shilling it as a “mid-size vehicle with full-size capability” as it’s about a foot longer (corrected, I previously wrote “shorter” by mistake) than a Ford Transit Connect with an 880 pound payload advantage reported by Mercedes.
Metris will be coming to the US with the turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine you may have experienced in one of Mercedes’ small sedans, making 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Hooked up to the 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive the company claims “excellent fuel economy” though no official figures have been published. We didn’t drive it long enough to make an educated observation either, but that powertrain is capable of MPGs in the mid-30’s on a C300 so I’m expecting greatness. Like, 15 MPG better than a pickup with the equivalent payload capacity kinda greatness.
Performance is adequate. Yeah I only drove it around the block, that’s all I’m saying for now.
Mercedes made it clear they’re not interested in marketing this toward families, “but we certainly won’t stop anyone from buying one,” Daimler Vans’ VP Bernie Glaser told me with a shrug and cool accent.
Basically, the luxo-minivan (what Europe gets as the V-Class) didn’t test well with focus groups and Mercedes doesn’t think American consumers would care for the commercial-spec Metris’ interior as a daily driver. In general, they’re probably right. But if you’re shopping high-end crew cab pickup truck because you want to carry a lot of crap and fit your whole flock, I’m telling you, Metris makes up for the lack of leather with a beautiful on-road experience.
I think Metris is going to get most of your big-truck boxes ticked at a lower MSRP and half the fuel burn. Need more luxury? Strap an iPad to the seatback. Want to go off-road? Hook your sandrail onto the Class IV trailer hitch.
We’ll give Metris a more rigorous shakedown when we get it to ourselves for more than a few hours, but this is absolutely gonna be one to watch.
Meanwhile, check out the whole brochure or see the size-sheet here:
Images via Mercedes-Benz