2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris long-term wrap-up: Work before play
After a year of hard work as our video production vehicle, it’s time for our Metris to clock out.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris has been a hugely important part of Roadshow's long-term test fleet, but you might not see why at first. But take a look at all the review videos we've published over the last 12 months, and know that most of them wouldn't have been possible without our trusty Metris.
See, it takes a lot of gear to make a Roadshow video. Producers need to haul drones, tripods, sliders, microphones, lights, cameras and car-cleaning supplies. Most of our gear comes packed in large, hard-sided cases, so it's not always easy to squish and squeeze it into the trunk of a sedan or compact crossover.
Metris cargo van
, meanwhile, offers 183 cubic-feet of space behind its front seats, making it perfect for video production work. And with upright, flat body panels, the Metris allows us to mount cameras to its sides and back, so we can get those sweet car-to-car shots you viewers love.
Getting to work
Rather than having to stack our equipment in an SUV, we could load everything we needed onto the floor of the van, with space left over for camera setups, personal belongings, etc. Our Metris came equipped with an optional cargo protection package, which added LED lights to the cargo area, as well as lashing rails and D-rings to allow us to better secure our gear.
Loading gear is super easy, thanks to a sliding, passenger-side door, and double rear doors that open to 270 degrees. This easy-access setup wasn't just helpful for loading camera gear -- we put it to the test while moving, too.
"I didn't have to mess with the doors when I was putting boxes in," noted Roadshow's former social media editor, Donovan Farnham. "They were just out of sight and out of mind until I needed to close them."
Our San Francisco-based producers drove the Metris every week to multiple video shoots. Senior producer Marc Ganley said that, despite the van's 6-foot, 3-inch height, the standard cross-wind assist kept the van steady when he had to drive it through storms.
Our Metris came with additional driver's aids like collision assist and lane-keeping assist, both of which just offer audio and visual warnings. Our Metris didn't have a rear-view mirror -- since, you know, it doesn't have rear windows -- so we had to rely on the optional blind-spot monitoring and standard rear-view camera to get a glimpse of what was behind us. Associate producer Evan Miller noted that, while the camera was helpful, he would've liked it to be placed higher and have a wider aperture, for better visibility while maneuvering in parking lots.
The Metris is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A smooth, seven-speed automatic transmission manages that power, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters meant we could keep the Metris at steady speeds while traveling downhill during filming.
The big, open cargo area turned out to be perfect for camp duty, too -- Miller ventured off the beaten path with the Metris not long after its arrival in the Roadshow garage. "I wish the Metris had all-wheel drive, to really help you get out into nature," he noted. Alas, the Metris is only available with rear-wheel drive.
In general driving only, all staff members noted just how enjoyable the Metris was while tooling around. And hey, it even had heated seats, which I mostly used to stay warm and cozy while memorizing lines as the producers set up shots.
What we didn't like
Great as the Metris is for carrying cargo, both producers noted the rear, right door could not be opened to its full 270-degree aperture while the sliding door was open. In retrospect, we probably would have optioned the Metris with the single, roof-hinged rear door, also because it would've provided a bit of shelter on rainy days. A driver's side sliding door would've been a nice addition, too.
The biggest issue with the Metris, however, was the overall lack of tech. On the driver-assistance front, adaptive cruise control would've been lovely, especially while sitting in San Francisco's notorious stop-and-go traffic.
And then there's the infotainment system, which was pretty much terrible. We're not asking for the latest iteration of MBUX or anything, but the tiny, 5.8-inch screen offered only a rudimentary navigation system. No Apple CarPlay. No Android Auto. No Wi-Fi hotspot. The van only has one, single USB port, too.
All told, we put nearly 7,000 miles on the Metris during our year of testing, and averaged 24.5 miles per gallon. The EPA rates the Metris at 21 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 22 combined, so our little Metris beat the odds.
As a production vehicle and cargo hauler, the Metris absolutely excelled. It was easy to drive and offered a ton of usable space, and its relatively small size meant it could easily maneuver in tight parking garages and narrow city streets, like the ones near our San Francisco HQ.
We'll miss our van, which we lovingly named Wu-Tang Van during its 12 months in our hands. Really, it was just a proper infotainment system away from being perfect.