Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
Since vans generate 1 billion dollars in annual business it isn’t surprising that Mercedes-Benz (M-B) decided to expand their American line-up with the aptly dubbed Metris. The mid-size commercial and consumer application has been touring Europe since 1996 and now makes its domestic debut. Built in Spain, expect the Metris to provide services for hotels, taxi companies, and airport shuttle businesses. During a recent LA visit I took on the role of the milkman delivering fresh soy and almond milk to veggie businesses in route between the SmogShoppe and 10 Speed Coffee in Calabasas. At least that’s how I felt.
The ubiquitous Sprinter, that tall European van, is M-B’s bread and butter and continues to impress with an array of amenities for suitors. The Swiss army knife of vans covers everything from RVing to cargo to mobile entertainment for VIP groups. M-B, which created a separate division for their van unit, is paying special attention to the United States since it’s their second biggest market outside of Germany. But customers were asking for a smaller model with similar capabilities so it was time to invest in a mid-size solution. The Metris, dubbed Vito outside of the US, is positioned as a commercial usage van and currently should not be classified in the minivan category. However, we know private and dual use owners will convert it comfortably and luxuriantly just as they have done with the Sprinter.
Starting at $28,950 the Metris is larger than standard vans and smaller than larger vans. It stows, tows, stacks, stores, and does a lot more. In fact it can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The M-B vehicle fits in normal garages, can seat up to eight occupants, and is extremely versatile. It also has a great turning radius. M-B says 50% of sales are expected to be passenger related and 50% cargo. During my Metris tour in Los Angeles I was able to drive both variants around town. Yes, it’s agile for a van, offers adequate power, and still delivers a certain level of comfort features such as navigation and rearview camera ($1,540 Driver Efficiency Package), USB slot, multifunctional steering wheel with paddle shifters, large cup holders, seat warmers ($730 Cold Weather Package), and switches to automatically close the two power sliding doors. When opening manually they roll on the track smoothly and do not require much effort. But keep in mind the rear windows do not open. The seats have power lumbar but all other movements are manual. Though, if you choose the optional partition in the cargo van you will not have the ability to recline. There are also various pockets embedded within the top of dash for items like clipboards.
Currently the Metris is basic utility and doesn’t offer high-end interiors for the US market as they do for Europe. Yet, for the role it’s been given the cabin provides everything you need. For performance the van rolls around on 5-spoke 17” light alloy rims ($1,140 Premium Appearance Package) which are tucked in 225/55R17 Hancook rubber. The workload is handled through a 2-liter 4-cylinder direct‐injection and turbocharged gasoline engine with 208-horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. of torque, and paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission with available ECO Start/Stop. Although, we were not weighted down with passengers or cargo so acceleration was pretty good. However, visibility was challenging, especially in the cargo package. I had to switch lanes with extreme caution. Expect service intervals at 15,000 miles. In Europe the Metris rocks a diesel engine – my first choice – but M-B is not seeing the demand in the US currently. Which is peculiar because the Sprinter is outfitted with diesel engines.
Once we arrived to our lunch stop the opportunity was given to demonstrate Parktronic with Active Parking Assist as part of the $2,270 Active Safety Plus Package w/Active Parking Assist package. Like M-B’s other vehicles, the system alerts you to a parking spot with enough space and then handles your steering while the driver operates the gas and brake peddle and gears. Pretty phenomenal.
With standard airbags (up to 6), ATTENTION ASSIST, Crosswind Assist, and Load-Adaptive ESP, expect the commercial van to go for $28,950 and $32,500 for the passenger model. Optional safety technologies include Blind Spot Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and much more. That nut milk has to be delivered safely and soundly remember.