Mercedes family Van

As Mercedes-Benz was finalizing the preparation of its mid-size Vito van for U.S. consumption, it stumbled upon one last matter to settle before hitting the start button on the presale PR blitz: the name. Focus groups revealed that Americans, self-impressed film fans that we are, just couldn’t shake the “Corleone” connotations from the name Vito, christened in deference to the Vitoria, Spain, assembly facility where the Vito and its higher-luxe V-class brother are born. To sidestep any potential controversy and to save future owners from countless weak attempts at humor—“Hey Vito, where’s your Italy and stuff?!”—Mercedes chose for our version the name “Metris, ” in reference to the metropolitan areas it figures most Metris owners will ply their trades in.

Not Another R-class

If you’re looking for a replacement to fill the shoes of the departed and largely unloved R-class luxury family hauler, this isn’t it. The Metris was born with work in mind, and its interior is austere, including in passenger versions like the seven-seat model tested here. That’s not to say it’s deficient; with most of its switchgear pulled from across the global Mercedes-Benz product portfolio, the interior is instantly familiar, if somewhat spartan in comparison to the automaker’s sedans. Slide into the driver’s seat—thanks to a low sill, there’s no climbing—and you’ll be greeted by a large swath of (hopefully) long-wearing black plastic.

Sitting in the center of the dash is a Becker Map Pilot navigation system with a 5.8-inch screen as part of the $1540 Driver Efficiency package (which also includes cruise control, a rearview camera, fog lamps, and lower-console storage). Combined with the dated appearance of its associated controls and keypad, the entire infotainment interface looks to be waiting for a Roger Moore–era James Bond to come along and disarm it. We assume hard-core delivery and passenger-transportation companies will equip their vehicles, or their drivers, with their own navigation hardware. The audio system, however, was particularly well tuned for a soundstage that essentially amounts to a steel box with some fabric, foam, and vinyl bits strewn about. The steering wheel appears to have been plucked for duty directly from the current C-class, and while it is adjustable for rake, telescoping action is not available, which seems a bit odd for a vehicle aimed at fleet buyers who might assign multiple drivers to a single vehicle.

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