2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van Review – Real Van Living
2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van
2.0-liter turbocharged I4 (208 hp @ 5000 rpm, 258lb/ft. @ 1250 rpm)
Seven-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
21 city / 24 highway / 22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
21.3 (observed mileage, MPG)
11.5 city / 9.8 highway / 10.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $32,395 US / $39,100 CAN
As Tested: $39,001 US / $46,359 CAN
Prices include $1195 destination charge in the United States. Canadian pricing without destination/delivery charges, as these are dealer defined and, as such, vary.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who spend the majority of their days in a van of some sort. I’m not talking about the beautiful people on social media hashtagging their rebranding of the Seventies-era shaggin’ wagon as “vanlife.” I’m talking about tradespeople, for whom a van is as important a tool as a hammer or pipe wrench.
For most of my working life, I’ve worked alongside these van drivers — I’ve been selling various products to these workers for the better part of two decades. I’ve noticed over the years that the variety of vans has expanded recently. Where the parking lot of whatever supply house was once filled with cookie cutter vans from the Detroit Three — occasionally dotted with repurposed minivans — these days any variety of tall, Euro-styled boxes-on-wheels might greet me.
The Sprinter was the leader of this new vanguard, with workers praising improved driving dynamics and improved space efficiency. Now a smaller model comes, the Mercedes-Benz Metris, to deliver much of those improvements in a more city-friendly package. Can this sturdier (not-so)minivan replace the stalwarts?
I’d love to tell you that I loaded up the van with every tool I own, twenty sheets of OSB, and set off on some grand building adventure. I can’t say that. The unpredictability of press fleet schedules doesn’t generally allow me to plan major home center runs far in advance — with my luck, I’d have scheduled my weekend to build a deck, and ended up with a Miata. The most I hauled in this two-seat cargo van was a week’s worth of groceries and two pails of cat litter.
A glamorous life indeed.
Not that the Metris couldn’t handle more. This long-wheelbase (135 inches) cargo van can handle 114.5 inches behind the front seats, and a maximum of 66.3 inches side to side. Yes, that OSB or sheetrock can fit just fine — there’s 50 inches between the rear wheel arches. For those of you planning on literally living in this thing, rather than working out of it — yes, that means a dorm-sized twin extra-long mattress can fit between the wheels, or with a small platform built to raise the bed over the wheels, a queen-sized mattress would fit with inches to spare.
It can haul: 2,370 pounds of maximum payload in the cargo area, or five thousand pounds towed. That’s pretty impressive for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing only 208 horsepower. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts a bit lazily — this isn’t a speedy van. One could likely make shifts a bit more quickly with the wheel-mounted paddles, but it simply feels absurd to be tapping paddles on a cargo van.
Driving the Metris cargo van is an interesting experience, as it’s been stripped of all non-essentials like sound insulation that one expects in a typical motor vehicle. You hear everything going on outside, especially to the rear of the van. You’ll quickly become familiar with the volume knob on the AM/FM radio. Every bit of the driver’s compartment feels ready to take the beatings of indifferent journeyman workers, save the surprisingly-plush leather steering wheel. I suppose that economies of scale work everywhere — ordering extra wheels from the supplier for the A-class might be cheaper than specifying a hard-plastic tiller just for the smaller van market.
I’m grateful for one standard safety feature on the Metris: crosswind assist works with the stability control to stabilize the van at highway speeds from winds that would try to topple you over. The stability control is also adaptive to the load in the cargo area, as there can be a huge difference in the weight distribution between a loaded and unladen Metris.
Styling isn’t a huge concern on a cargo van used for work, but I’d argue that this Metris is a rather handsome box. The 17-inch alloy wheels are an extra-cost option, but they look quite fetching. In a work environment, however, I’d rather have the standard steel wheels that any tire shop can easily bend back into shape should a pothole appear.
Whether the Mercedes-Benz Metris will get workers out of their bigger vans is hard to say. For many, there’s no replacement for cargo displacement. But for the many drivers repurposing old minivans for work, this is a no-brainer. It’s easy to maneuver, easy to park, and — as there are no glass side windows — easy to keep precious tools and other cargo secure.
Or easy to get dressed in private for an Instagram photoshoot at the campsite. Who am I to judge?
[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]