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  • Mercedes-Benz Vans: Two Sizes, Endless Flavors

Mercedes-Benz Vans: Two Sizes, Endless Flavors

Sep 28, 2016
Photographers: Mercedes-Benz
“Born to Run.” That’s the slogan Mercedes-Benz uses to market its Sprinter and Metris work vans in the United States. And run they do, using the customer’s choice of either gasoline (Metris) or diesel (Sprinter).
While we would love to see a compact diesel engine under the Metris’ diminutive hood (and we dream of a firespitting V-8–powered Sprinter), the fact is Mercedes only offers its vans with one respective propulsion method. That means diesel devotees are stuck with the Sprinter and gas gurus get the Metris. However, as we learned on an extended test drive with each van family, both the Sprinter and the Metris are well suited to their engines.
Photo 2/11   |   We drove Mercedes-Benz’s lineup of vans at an event in scenic Charleston, South Carolina. The company operates a van manufacturing facility in nearby Ladson, and we spent a couple days exploring the small businesses in the area that use Benz vans to get work done.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (3.0L Turbodiesel V-6)


Our first stint behind the wheel was in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter powered by the company’s 3.0L turbodiesel V-6. Producing 188 hp and 325 lb-ft (from 1,400 to 2,400 rpm), the engine is torquey and smooth, producing good power throughout the rev range. Even under the hood of a large crew van like the one we were driving, it felt strong enough for easy freeway cruising and merging.
With a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds and a maximum payload rating of 5,496 pounds, the V-6–powered cargo van is capable of doing some pretty hard work. The Sprinter is also available in a passenger van (up to 12 passengers) and crew van (five passengers, with loads of cargo space). Furthermore, for really hard work, Mercedes-Benz builds a Sprinter chassis cab with a maximum payload capacity of 6,389 pounds and a tow rating of 7,500 pounds. And if the going gets rough, Mercedes offers a sophisticated 4x4 system on short-wheelbase Sprinters.
Driving the big van is also surprisingly easy, thanks to its good sightlines all around and wide, effective mirrors. Mercedes offers a parking assist system that beeps and illuminates sequential lights to tell the driver how close the van is to obstacles, and an optional high-mount rearview camera offers a bird’s-eye view of what’s on your six.
The Sprinter’s downsides include a low towing rating that gets eclipsed by many midsize pickups, plus the V-6’s five-speed automatic transmission that’s at least one gear down on the competition. There’s also some turbo lag thanks to the V-6’s big snail. However, working in the van’s favor is a comfortable, functional interior, refined powertrain operation, and a nice groundswell of useful power once the turbo lights up.
Photo 3/11   |   Although it was powered by the smaller 2.1L I-4 engine, this big, heavy stake-bed Sprinter was able to keep up with freeway and city traffic without a problem.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (2.1L Turbodiesel I-4)


Offering a very similar driving experience as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter V-6 is the base-model Sprinter, which comes with a 2.1L turbodiesel I-4. Although it produces far less power and torque (161 hp and 266 lb-ft), it also features a seven-speed automatic transmission. Those extra cogs almost completely make up for the smaller engine’s power deficit, bringing excellent fuel economy along for the ride. In our time with the 2.1L engine, we achieved around 20 mpg in extensively city-biased driving.
Photo 4/11   |   Interior quality is top-notch for a work vehicle, and the high-up seating position made the Sprinter feel big-rig tall. It was great for forward visibility and made for a fun driving experience.
Although some full-throttle performance loss was notable, for most drivers, the 2.1L engine will do just fine. It drives on the highway with the same composure as its larger-engined brother, and thanks to its lighter weight, the I-4 actually has a higher payload capacity (by 11 pounds) than the V-6. It’s available in almost all the same combinations as the V-6, with the exception being the V-6–only 4x4.
Downsides on the V-6 transition to the I-4 with the addition of some powertrain coarseness. Although the I-4 doesn’t transmit vibrations to the passengers, its gritty song at high revs is much less melodious than the impressively smooth V-6. Still, the seven-speed automatic does a good job shifting smoothly and keeping the engine in its powerband. Upsides port over as well, namely a decidedly composed, Teutonic take on the work van recipe.
Photo 5/11   |   Mercedes Benz Van Metris Front
Photo 6/11   |   Our drive took us to the Port of Charleston in South Carolina where we got to sample the Metris’ trim, midsized dimensions for several hours.

Mercedes-Benz Metris (2.0L Turbocharged Gas I-4)


Intended for those buyers for whom a Sprinter is too large and a compact van like the Ford Transit is too small, the Metris offers an in-between size that could be attractive to many professionals. Available in a cargo van or passenger van, the Metris has one roofline, one wheelbase, and one body length, with no chassis or cutaway cab options. We suspect most buyers won’t care, as both the cargo van and the eight-passenger variant do their jobs very well.
Underpinning both Metrises (Metres? Metri?) is a sturdy, rear-wheel-drive platform that gets its motivational force from a 2.0L turbocharged gasoline I-4. Its 208 hp is stouter than both Sprinter engines, with 258 lb-ft of useful torque coming along for the ride. There’s not much turbo lag to speak of either, which was a pleasant surprise. In fact, the engine was great fun, with a pleasant surge of power once the turbo hit full boost. Freeway passing was a non-issue, as was tooling around town.
Photo 7/11   |   The purpose behind Mercedes’ invitation was to publicize its new MasterSolutions program, which puts fleet buyers in contact with upfitters to build the perfect van for a vocation.
The Metris cargo van can carry up to 2,502 pounds of stuff or tow a 5,000-pound trailer. We’d be a bit leery loading it down that hard given the engine’s size, but it certainly handled the limited work we threw at it (moving an apartment across town) with aplomb. Our mileage was around 22 mpg in town, while we saw around 28 mpg on the highway.
Overall, the Metris and its gasoline engine make a good pair. The seven-speed automatic transmission keeps the turbo spooling well, and the fuel economy is impressive. Some grittiness can be felt from the tires and suspension on some roads, though, and the Metris isn’t as composed on the freeway as the Sprinter. Nevertheless, its budget pricing and stout, fun engine would make it a good match for small businesses in need of a good workhorse. Making the Metris even more attractive will be a steeper price cut for the ’17 model year thanks to the compact van’s forthcoming Worker trim level.
Photo 8/11   |   In contrast to the up-high Sprinter, the Metris sits down low, with a carlike interior whose highlights include an grippy, cool-looking optional steering wheel that’s identical to the one you’d find in a C-Class.

Parting Thoughts


If you’ve got your heart set on a Mercedes-Benz but don’t care about its fuel source, your choice is simple. If you’ve got big jobs to do, get the diesel Sprinter, but if you’d like to park it in a garage and don’t need to do a lot of hauling, the Metris will do just nicely. Likewise, fans of oil burners will love the Sprinter’s down-low torque and good fuel economy given its size, while others will appreciate the Metris’ responsive gas engine and efficient operation.
In fact, in spite of their different fueling systems, both vans share a lot: namely, excellent fuel economy and reasonable power given their intended purpose. Diesel’s ever-improving refinement and gasoline’s constant efficiency increases have yielded these vehicles. Each has a refined powertrain and reasonable green cred, and each would be a fine addition to a fleet.
Photo 9/11   |   MasterSolutions is available on both the Sprinter and Metris, with vocational options that include refrigerated vans, shelving units, and passenger shuttle configurations.

2016 Mercedes Benz Sprinter


Base Price: $32,495 (van); $36,095 (cab chassis)
Engine: 2.1L turbocharged I-4 diesel
Power: 161 hp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 1,400-2,400 rpm
Maxiumum Payload: 5,507 lbs (van); 6,400 lbs (cab chassis)
Maximum Towing: 5,000 lbs (van); 7,500 lbs (cab chassis)
Maximum Cargo Volume: 586.1 cubic feet
Maximum Passenger Capacity: 12 passengers

2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter


Base Price: $37,490 (van); $37,090 (cab chassis)
Engine: 3.0L turbocharged V-6 diesel
Power: 188 hp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 1,400-2,400 rpm
Maximum Payload: 5,496 lbs (van); 6,389 lbs (cab chassis)
Maximum Towing: 5,000 lbs (van); 7,500 lbs (cab chassis)
Maximum Cargo Volume: 586.1 cubic feet
Maximum Passenger Capacity: 12 passengers

2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris


Base Price: $28,950
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged gasoline I-4
Power: 208 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm
Maximum Payload: 2,502 lbs
Maximum Towing: 5,000 lbs
Maximum Cargo Volume: 186 cubic feet
Maximum Passenger Capacity: 8 passengers
Photo 10/11   |   Mercedes Benz Van Loading Dock
Photo 11/11   |   Mercedes Benz Van Driving

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