by Roger Biermann
With Mercedes-Benz leading the resurgence of work and passenger vans in the US with the Sprinter in the early 2000s, the Metris offers a more compact alternative to the larger van. The only rear-wheel drive van in class, the Metris is larger and offers more towing capacity than counterparts like the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200. Available in cargo and passenger van variants, with cheaper Worker trims launched last year, the Metris' versatility in both price and configuration gives it appeal for both commercial and personal use.
Despite being a Mercedes, it's important to remember this is part of their van division. As such you can expect few of the luxuries normally associated with the brand. The interior is riddled with scratchy plastics – hardy workman finishes that should stand the test of time. The steering wheel in stark contrast is the standard leather-clad Merc item that looks and feels lovely.
The cabin can be configured in either cargo or passenger van variants, with the large dimensions affording both more space than smaller rivals from Ford and Nissan. The passenger variant can be had in either 7 or 8 seater orientation, with the former offering a 2-2-3 configuration that gets replaced by a full 2nd row in 8-seater setup. In 7-seater setup, rear seats can be orientated to face each other, or all face forward for a traditional van-like arrangement. In addition, the high roof makes ingress, egress, and moving about inside a not-so-painful experience.
The Metris fails to offer anything exceptionally special in the segment when it comes to ride and handling. Being taller and narrower than traditional family minivans, body roll feels more pronounced and the slab-sided body catches cross winds like a kite in a Kansas tornado, though cross-wind assist is available.
The 3.8-inch ground clearance offers ample wheel travel, and while most bumps are dealt with fuss-free, any severely rutted road sees the Metris deliver a heaving ride quality made ever more infuriating by the constant squeak of the body on the chassis beneath it. Competitors like the Ford Transit Connect are far more car-like in such circumstances.
However, despite this, and in spite of its size, the Metris is highly maneuverable in tight spots thanks to sharp steering and a good 38.7 foot turning circle. But with rear visibility severely compromised, the $1 750 Driver Efficiency package with reverse camera is a must have.
There's only one engine, a gutsy 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline motor, paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Power outputs are healthy at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, with drive being sent to the rear wheels only – the only vehicle in segment to be rear-wheel driven. Performance is punchy, even when decently loaded, and the payload and towing capacity far outguns the competition at up to 2502lbs internal payload and 5000lbs towed behind, compared to the next best Ram ProMaster City at 1883lbs and 2000lbs respectively. But it loses its edge in efficiency; 21/24mpg lagging behind competitors' 27/29mpg figures.
In base Worker specification, you can expect little – not even color coded bumpers or alloy wheels. Opt for a standard passenger van and there are numerous features to be had, including the option of rear folding doors or a liftgate door, electric sliding side doors, navigation and cruise control. Even heated seats are available with the $755 cold weather package. Safety features include crosswind assist, attention assist, and load-adaptive ESP programming, with options to include blind spot assist, collision avoidance, and lane keep assist.
By virtue of its sheer size, payload and towing capacity, as well as nimble handling, the Mercedes-Benz Metris is far more versatile than its competitors. The compromise comes in fuel economy and price, though – as the Metris is the most expensive van in segment.