Mercedes-Benz makes a nice urban minivan. Wait, Mercedes-Benz?

 06 May 2017 - 13:55

Mercedes-Benz makes a nice urban minivan. Wait, Mercedes-Benz?
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris cargo van is gifted with a turbocharged four-cylinder, 208-horsepower gasoline engine and has more oomph than its rivals. It is smoother and easier to maneuver, Warren Brown reports. Mercedes-Benz handout

By Warren Brown | The Washington Post

It makes sense, the Mercedes-Benz Metris urban van.

I call it "urban" because it is small enough to fit in most city garages, park on most city streets and easily navigate through congested city traffic.

In the United States, we classify such vans as "mini." The Metris - introduced in 2016 to compete against models such as Ford's Transit Connect, Nissan's NV200 and the Dodge Ram ProMaster City Minivan - came to market later than, but a bit above, its rivals.

That is not because it wears the Mercedes-Benz badge. It is because Mercedes-Benz did an excellent job of studying the competition.

The Metris, gifted with a turbocharged four-cylinder, 208-horsepower gasoline engine, has more oomph than its rivals. It is smoother and easier to maneuver.

At a maximum utility of 186 cubic feet in the base Worker Cargo model to 38 cubic feet in the fully loaded Passenger Van 126 model used for this column, it offers more usable passenger and cargo space than its rivals. Yet it fits as easily in the city!

It also is reasonably fuel-efficient for a compact van, although the turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine requires more expensive premium fuel to drive its rear wheels. It gets 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway - decent, not great.

Bad point: It is optioned up the wazoo, especially the Passenger Van 126, which starts at $32,900. By the time you finish adding desirable things such as leather-covered passenger seats with lumbar support; advanced electronic safety items; roof rails and 20-spoke light alloy wheels, you've spent $45,870. That means the advantage, here, goes to rivals.

Some of you might wonder why a luxury-car manufacturer such as Mercedes-Benz even bothers with urban vans that don't sell that well in the United States anyway. That's easy. Mercedes-Benz is a highly competitive global transportation company that makes and sells everything that moves on wheels - ordinary taxis and trucks in Africa, huge carriers in Europe, compact urban vans anywhere rivals choose to sell them.

Thus, we now have the Metris available in four trim levels - base Cargo, Worker Cargo, Passenger and Worker Passenger. The Passenger models also can be outfitted with onboard navigation and a 5.5-inch info screen controlled by a rather obsolete toggle-cursor.

But, when all is said and done, it is an easy, fun van to drive. Spectators often are surprised that it is a Mercedes-Benz. It is - one the company does not market well in the United States.

Luxury sells much better and at a higher price here. The Metris urban van, Cargo and Passenger, is too akin to commonality and work.

- - -

Nuts & Bolts

Mercedes-Benz Metris

Bottom line: The Metris provides good transportation for small businesses or large families. It works well in the city.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It provides good service in all three areas.

Head-turning quotient: The Mercedes-Benz star attracts attention. There were lots of "What's that?" questions.

Body style/layout: The Metris is a compact, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive urban van. It is available in Cargo and Passenger models.

Engine/transmission: It comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 16-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable-valve lift and timing (208 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Passenger Van 126 capacities: There is seating for up to seven people. Cargo space with all seats in place is 38 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.

Mileage: I averaged 22 miles per gallon in highway driving - in windy weather.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; dusk-sensing headlamps; side air bags and front, rear and third-row air bags.

Pricing: The Passenger Metris starts at $32,900. The loaded Metris Passenger 126, priced as tested, is $45,870, including a $995 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. You can bargain on this one.

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