Call it the luck of the draw, but I recently gained the distinction of being the first U.S journalist to test drive a pre-production version of the upcoming Mercedes Metris mid-size commercial van in the U.S. I was part of the first wave of a two-wave press preview of the 2016 Mercedes Metris held in Southwest Colorado, which used Dunton Hot Springs as the base camp. Being the first journalist to arrive in Durango, the location of the nearest airport, it gave me the first opportunity to get behind the wheel of the pre-production Metris for the two-hour drive to Dunton Hot Springs, nestled in the Colorado Rockies at an elevation of 8,700 feet.
The industry got its first look at the Mercedes Metris when it officially debuted last March at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. However, this press event was the first opportunity to drive the Metris. Being a long-time van owner, I was impressed with the road manners of the rear-wheel-drive Metris, its responsive powertrain, and sure-footedness on the winding mountain road.
The Metris will go on sale this October, offering both passenger van and cargo van models. According to Mathias Geisen, general manager, product management & marketing for Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, it is anticipated that the cargo van version will account for 50 percent of Metris sales, with the balance going to the passenger van version.
Geisen said the top vocational markets for the cargo van version will delivery goods fleets, service & maintenance applications, along with conversions into special purpose vehicles.
The key fleet markets anticipated for the Metris passenger van are limousine, taxi, and shuttle bus companies. The passenger van offers seating for up to eight people.
The Metris is already sold in Europe as the Mercedes Vito, which will continue to be the nameplate in all other global markets. However, in the U.S. and Canadian markets, the nameplate will be changed to Metris.
According to Bernie Glaser, vice president & managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, what many people in the U.S. don’t realize is the Daimler AG (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles. Glaser is bullish about the growth in the small and mid-size van markets citing Global Insights, which forecasts that future market growth will add an additional 100,000 sales to this van segments.
The Metris offers an excellent extension to the product lineup of Mercedes-Benz Vans USA as the model below the Sprinter. It is ideal for urban applications, and can easily fit into all parking garages in large metropolitan areas and personal garages of drivers who work out of their homes, said Glaser.
Unlike the Sprinter, which is only available with a diesel engine, the Metris will only be available with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, which can generate 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. This is the same gasoline engine equipped in the C-Class Mercedes passenger car.
The Metris gearbox is a seven-speed automatic transmission. In addition, the Metris powertrain will be available with an optional ECO start/stop, which was developed specifically for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
One cost-saving feature for commercial fleets is that the Metris will have a service interval of up to 15,000 miles.
The Metris is equipped with many advanced safety features. All Metris models will feature standard ATTENTION ASSIST, standard Crosswind Assist, and standard load-adaptive ESP.
Optional safety features will include Active Parking Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, PARKTRONIC, Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, and a rearview camera.
There are six airbags for the cargo van and eight airbags for the passenger van model.
Let me know what you think.