Mercedes-Benz has two cars priced at $32,500.
The first is the GLA250. It’s one of those super hip, teeny-tiny crossovers everyone is into these days. With barely enough room for four adults, it’s aimed at customers who aren’t quite in a family way just yet.
The other is a minivan.
That’s right, Mercedes now sells one of those. It’s called the Metris, and on a cost-per-passenger basis, it’s the best buy on the lot. That is, if you can find it.
You likely won’t see the Metris parked next to the swanky SUVs and sedans the salesperson would rather put you in, since it’s primarily aimed at commercial buyers for whom a jumbo Sprinter van might be too much. To that end, there’s also a cargo version that starts at just $28,950. But if you need seating for eight, and don’t want to look too much like you run an airport shuttle service, the Metris is the only Mercedes for you.
The same length as a Chrysler Town and Country or Honda Odyssey, and few inches taller than both, the Metris is wide enough inside to swallow a pallet. Heck, you can probably drive that GLA right into it.
The cargo model has panel sides and an untrimmed hold, while the passenger van gets side windows, carpet and removable seats. They don’t flip and fold, or have TV screens built into them, and there aren’t even any cup holders in the second row, but your high school quarterback’s offensive line will fit just fine.
And don’t worry if they eat a big breakfast, this minivan is mighty. The passenger Metris has a payload capacity of 1,874 pounds, while the cargo version can lug 2,502 pounds, which would embarrass most half-ton pickups.
They can both tow nearly 5,000 pounds, but not very quickly. The rear-wheel-drive Metris has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a moderate 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque that’s also common with the GLA.
That’s with good reason. Hardly audible at low revs, it plays a nice rorty note when you gas it. The EPA says it gets 23 mpg highway, but I saw more than 27 mpg without taking it easy. I think Mercedes should ask for a recount.
You can shift the 7-speed automatic transmission just like a race car driver with the paddles behind the steering wheel, which can be wrapped in leather and only needs a light touch. It’s probably the nicest thing about the interior, which is otherwise industrial grade.
The dashboard is so black that it has an event horizon, and the little bit of chrome scattered about the cabin is from the options list. Cloth upholstery is standard, but you can also get the chairs done up in Mercedes’ immortal MBTex leatherette.
One thing you'll definitely notice about the Metris, compared to the mainstream-brand minivans, is how high you sit on its throne. Way up there, lording over the masses through panoramic acres of glass. Frankly, there’s not much else for you to do. The available stereo/navigation system is rudimentary, app-free and controlled through a clumsy array of buttons, with no touch screen to help. So, set it and forget it as you pull away.
If you get bored, the Metris does offer a suite of safety equipment that will wake you up if you start nodding off and alert you to any dangers lurking in your blind spots, if you’re drifting out of your lane, or about to rear end the vehicle in front of you.
It can also steer itself into parallel parking spaces, which is a trick that never gets old, and actually works well. I tried this feature many more times than I needed too, just for the chuckles.
The Metris is no S-Class, but it’s quiet, has a smooth ride, and feels solid as a rock. Loaded, it costs $43,570, which is on par with the top models from its potential competitors.
With its dearth of features, the Metris isn’t quite as flexible or family friendly as any of them, but if you’re more concerned about carrying things than coddling them, it might be worth brushing that salesman aside and looking for it.
Just don’t get lost if you do.
2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris
Base price: $32,500
As tested: $43,570
Type: 7-passenger, rear-wheel-drive minivan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 208 hp, 258 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
MPG: 20 city/23 hwy