There are many minivan alternatives these days, with a host of three-row crossovers and SUVs to choose from. But one alternative you might not expect happens to be another van: the Mercedes-Benz Metris passenger van. Although mostly intended for commercial duty, the Metris could serve a certain kind of would-be minivan shopper just as well.
The midsize Metris is the goldilocks of commercial vans. It’s bigger than a Ford Transit Connect or Nissan NV200, but it’s not as massive as a full-size Mercedes Sprinter or Ram Promaster. Because of their size similarities, comparisons between the Metris and the minivan category are inevitable. The Metris is close in overall length to the competition but is taller and narrower. That extra height means you have to step up to get into it, but it also makes maneuvering in the back less backbreaking. The driving position feels higher than in a typical minivan, offering a commanding view of the road. That view is mostly unobstructed in front and on the sides, but seeing out the back is difficult with all the rear headrests (and passengers’ heads) in the way. If you choose the side-hinged rear cargo doors, it’s even harder to see behind you. We recommend selecting the optional rearview camera.
Being a commercial van, the Metris has less sound insulation than most consumers are probably used to. The cabin’s boomy acoustics allow road noise to resonate on the highway. From the cockpit, you’ll notice the materials aren’t up to Mercedes’ usual standards of luxury. You’ll also notice a small display running an infotainment and nav system (if so equipped) that’s at least a generation old, and it’s not a touchscreen. The Metris is built by Mercedes’ commercial van division, so the interior isn’t as concerned with soft-touch surfaces and fancy trim. However, some of the switchgear is plucked straight from the Mercedes parts bin, and if you need a little more pop, you can choose the $650 premium interior package for chrome accents.
There’s ample legroom for adults in both the second and third row, and getting all the way back is very easy with the standard two-seat second-row bench. With a full bench, you have to flip a seat up to access the third row. The seats themselves aren’t adjustable in any way and are relatively upright, making them less comfortable on long trips. There aren’t many places to stow a beverage in the Metris, but rear-seat passengers get removable plastic cupholders that slot into the armrest.
Even though the seats are relatively easy to get in and out of, getting the seats out of the van is a bit trickier. Unlike many minivans that allow the rear seats to disappear into the floor in a few easy steps, the Metris’ heavy benches are locked into rails and require some muscle to lift out. It helps that the Metris passenger van comes standard with dual sliding doors, however. Power sliding doors are optional. The liftgate allows for easy access to the cargo area, but its size means you need a good deal of clearance behind you to open it.
The Metris is easier to drive than most other commercial vans I’ve driven. Despite being tall, the van doesn’t feel tippy in turns. Maneuvering it in a crowded downtown area was also easier than expected, thanks to communicative steering and a decent turning circle. The rear-drive Metris passenger van completed our figure-eight course in 29.0 seconds at an average of 0.56 g. That’s far from being impressive but not much slower than the Honda Odyssey (28.7 seconds), Toyota Sienna (28.8 seconds), or Kia Sedona (28.4 seconds). It’s also about on par with a few smaller commercial vans such as the Ram Promaster City (28.8 seconds) and Ford Transit Connect (29.1 seconds). The Chrysler Pacifica, however, spanks all of them at 27.5 seconds.
As good as the Metris’ 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 is, its 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque is no match for the soccer-field-scorching V-6 engines of the minivan class. The turbo-four gets the Metris to 60 mph from a standstill in 8.6 seconds and to the end of the quarter mile in 16.5 seconds at 82.9 mph. Modern minivans are half a second to a full second quicker in acceleration tests. But on the road, the Metris doesn’t feel slow. The van had no trouble getting up to highway speed with six adults onboard. And when it has just the driver to haul around, the Metris takes off with surprising eagerness.
You can get a base Metris Worker passenger van for $30,990, but unless you’re shuttling people to and from the airport, that trim will be a bit basic for most. To get a van that looks less like it belongs in a taxi fleet and is instead equipped with such niceties as color-matched bumpers and alloy wheels, you’ll have to cough up at least $35,070. Our tester was nearly fully loaded at $45,870, which includes forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and other advanced safety features, plus creature comforts such as heated faux leather seats. That kind of money can buy you a very nice Pacifica or Odyssey, which both offer luxuries (rear entertainment, onboard vacuums, etc.) the Metris simply can’t match. Most Metris buyers will use these vans for their intended commercial purpose, but in the right spec Mercedes’ midsizer could also work for a consumer who needs seating for seven to eight people and doesn’t mind its more utilitarian accommodations.
|2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris (8-passenger)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$45,870|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 8-pass, 4-door van|
|ENGINE||2.0L/208-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,869 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||202.4 x 75.9 x 74.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.5 sec @ 82.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.73 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.0 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/23/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.91 lb/mile|