Mercedes Sprinter family Van

Mercedes Sprinter Grand Edition | Sweet Rides | Pinterest

It’s been a couple of banner years for advancements in the commercial-van market, and just when you thought the helter-skelter, shoot-first-ask-questions-later world of cargo-hauling work vehicles was ready to take a breather, Mercedes-Benz drops a hat trick of van news on already shellshocked fleet buyers. First came Mercedes-Benz’s 2015 announcement that it is spilling $500 million to build a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina, where it will assemble Sprinter and Metris vans from scratch here on U.S. soil. (Currently, to beat the 25 percent “chicken tax, ” all Sprinters are built outside the United States, broken down into subassemblies, shipped stateside, and put back together here.) Then, in July of this year, M-B unveiled the Metris Worker van in Passenger ($30, 990) and Cargo ($26, 990) variants, which are bare-bones, lower-cost models of the Metris mid-size van. Like its big brother, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Worker, the Metris Worker is aimed at buyers who value utility over creature comforts. Finally, Mercedes reported that the Metris cargo just posted a blistering sub-eight-minute lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Okay, we made up that last part. But cargo vans are a big and suddenly competitive business. Ford’s E-series vans basically owned the segment for eons, but the past decade has seen more van innovations and choices than the previous four combined. Ford now offers the Transit and the junior-size Transit Connect, Ram brings us the Fiat-derived ProMaster and ProMaster City, and Nissan touts the NV and the compact NV200 (the latter of which also is sold by Chevrolet as the City Express). It was Mercedes that essentially forced everyone else’s hand with these European-style vans when it began importing its Sprinter to the United States under the Freightliner and, later, the Mercedes-Benz and Dodge brands around the turn of the millennium. Now it adds the Metris. We performed an instrumented test on a 2016 Metris passenger van about a year ago and came away fairly impressed. To complete the circle, we recently snagged some seat time in a cargo version to see how the driving experience differs, if at all.

Underway, we were immediately impressed by the lack of boominess and extraneous noise that is typical of cargo vehicles. Some credit no doubt goes to the cargo divider, but it’s still an achievement to quell sonic vibrations in what’s essentially an echo chamber on wheels. The turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine—no diesel is available—shuttles its 208 horsepower through a seven-speed automatic transmission. With all 258 lb-ft of torque available from 1250 to 4000 rpm, the powertrain makes short work of getting to highway speed. The passenger model we tested previously got to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds; this may be yawnsville for a family sedan, but it’s decently quick for a van. Just for grins, we put the cargo model’s transmission in its Manual mode—Economy and Comfort are the other settings—and pulled some runs to redline with the standard paddle shifters. It was kind of fun, but we felt like dorks; suffice it to say that the Metris will get you to a plumbing emergency or back to the work site after a three-beer lunch at Hooters as quickly as any other work van on the market.

Mercedes-Benz knows that the majority of these vans will be purchased for work, so it has teamed up with suppliers such as Sortimo, Knapheide, and Ranger Design (to name just three) to outfit turnkey vehicles for sale to commercial buyers. Likewise, to streamline the ordering of factory options, they are bundled into some pretty comprehensive packages, such as the Driver Efficiency package (rearview camera, navigation system, cruise control, and other goodies); the Active Safety package (leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors, and a suite of safety options); and the Cold Weather package (heated windshield-washer system, heated seats, and an electric booster for the cabin-heating system). Basically, Mercedes-Benz has placed all the pieces of the ordering puzzle on the table. It’s up to you to put them together.

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