The commercial vehicle segment is home to some real oddities. There are some old relics that are somehow still around like the Chevrolet Express and the GMC Savanna twins — and the old Ford Econoline in the form of a cutaway van. But there’s one van that presents even more of a quandary: it’s the Mercedes-Benz Metris — and I don’t understand why it isn’t available in the regular Mercedes-Benz lineup, rather than just in its commercial offerings.
I used to think the Metris was a direct competitor to the other compact commercial vans that are oddly, but practically, proportioned like the Ford Transit Connect, the Ram ProMaster City and the Nissan NV200. Those are tall vans with small footprints giving them generous cargo space with the driving dynamics of a compact car. But the Metris is something a little different. Take a closer look at the Metris, which Mercedes-Benz calls a midsize work van, and you’ll notice that this thing looks an awful lot like a regular minivan.
If the Metris was just a little wider and a little shorter by a few inches, it would have the same dimensions as minivans such as the Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey. Yet, Mercedes-Benz only markets the Metris as a commercial vehicle. It has two sliding doors, it can seat up to eight people and it has generous cargo space to boot. Why on Earth doesn’t MB make some changes to the van — fold-flat seats, a nice rear entertainment system, better technology — and have the distinction of being the one and only luxury brand that sells a minivan in the non-commercial retail space?
I think I know why and it’s probably because of the old, tired minivan stigma of being uncool. Yes, minivans absolutely are uncool — but they’re still the most practical vehicles on the market for a family of five to eight people. No luxury brand has the guts to sell a minivan, not even luxury brands like Lexus and Acura, which already have minivans in the non-luxury brands they’re affiliated with.
I think another part of the reason luxury brands don’t want to make minivans is because minivans are meant to be used and abused. They have a lot of plastic on the inside (even the really nice minivans) because a durable interior is one of the most important parts of a vehicle that is primarily used as a sturdy family hauler. Too much plastic inside of a Mercedes could be a drag on the brand’s reputation, sure. But I think a true luxury minivan from a true luxury brand could also be an attractive offering for affluent families — and it would be the only luxury minivan of its kind.
It might sound weird to take a work van and turn it into a luxury minivan, but Chrysler did just that when the commercial Ram C/V was basically the same thing as a Chrysler Town & Country. Whether the Town & Country can really be considered a luxury vehicle is debatable, but the point is, a commercial vehicle and a retail vehicle sharing a platform is nothing new — and it can be done with some upgrades.
The Metris wouldn’t need much more than a thorough upgrade to the interior, some upgraded technology and probably some mechanical tweaks to be ready for its usual clientele with luxurious expectations. One of those mechanical tweaks would probably be an upgrade to the engine, as the only engine available in the Metris is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four — and I think MB can do better than that for this luxury Metris I’ve made up for them. AMG minivan, anyone? Find a Mercedes-Benz Metris for sale