Mercedes Metris Weekender brings some Euro camper van flavor to the US
It's shaping up to be a good time to be an American camper van shopper. Right on the tails of Hymer announcing its official return to the US market, Mercedes-Benz launches its first modern pop-top camper van for the US. It's not quite the luxurious, tech-packed Marco Polo that Mercedes sells in Europe, but the Metris Weekender is a capable camper van with breezy four-sleeper cabin, available pullout kitchen and available off-grid solar power. It'll be marketed and sold directly by Mercedes, and deliveries will begin toward the start of 2020 spring/summer camping season.
For several years, Mercedes has been watching its Sprinter van become one of the pillars of the American van life movement, the subject of countless conversions from luxury barges like the Winnebago Boldt to off-road customs like the Benchmark Swiss Army Sprinter. Simultaneously, it's been watching American buyers passionately reviving decades-old pop-tops to start their lives on the road. It didn't take much math to come to the conclusion that the time is ripe to jump into the small pop-top camper van market.
"Pop-up campers are iconic and highly functional vehicles," says Robert Veit, Mercedes-Benz USA Vans VP and managing director. “We have known for a long time that this market need was unmet as evidenced by the high demand for aging existing camper vans still on the road. With the help of our partners, Peace Vans and Driverge, we have utilized the Metris to create a product suited to those who seek adventure but also need a versatile and comfortable vehicle for their day-to-day lives."
Peace Vans itself identified that small pop-up van market several years ago, expanding out from restoring and repairing classic VW camper vans in 2017 to become one of the first American shops working in Metris van conversions, with components from German parts maker Reimo. Now it partners up with Mercedes-Benz, along with upfitter Driverge Vehicle Innovations, to bring to market an official three-point star-badged small camper van, the European-style factory pop-top that the US has been yearning for since the Volkswagen Eurovan, and new camper vans based on it, left the market in 2003.
If the Weekender name sounds familiar, it's because Peace Vans already offers a basic package by the same name, which was inspired directly by the Marco Polo Activity/Horizon and VW California Beach. That package serves as the starting point for the new Mercedes Metris Weekender which, as its name suggests, is a simple sleeper van for short overnighters and weekend adventures. It seats five people on the ride and sleeps four on a combination of pop-up roof bed and folding rear bench bed. Mounted to floor rails, the rear bench can be set in four different positions to find just the right mix of cargo space and legroom.
The base Mercedes Metris Weekender package also comes standard with swivel front seats and a removable swivel table to complete the living/dining area and a leisure battery for running the electrical at camp. The roof-top sleeping area includes USB ports to keep charged.
As a basic sleeper van, the base Weekender does not include an indoor kitchen. That might be a negative for some, but not only does that allow the van to double as a capable five-seat family van, it also leaves open an airy cabin with dual sliding doors, something that'll be handy both for everyday commuting and on hot, stuffy days at camp.
For buyers that want built-in cooking capabilities, Mercedes will offer an optional pull-out kitchen, a different direction than the driver-side interior kitchen Peace Vans offers on its own Metris conversions. Mercedes' announcement doesn't provide any additional details about the kitchen design. Peace Vans' supplier Reimo has its own Weekender (and electric Weekender) package with swivel-out side kitchen, but a rear slide-out seems better suited to this multipurpose van. Either way, so long as the kitchen can remove from the floor rails, it won't have to interfere with the Weekender's everyday driving/cargo-hauling capabilities.
Other camping equipment options will include an 8-foot awning, roof racks for carrying surfboards or skis, a rear annex tent, an off-grid solar power system and mosquito screens. Base van upgrades will also be available, and buyers will be able to opt for a 3M body wrap in any of 200 colors.
Mercedes does not currently offer an all-wheel drive option on the Metris, as it does with the V-Class and Vito in Europe, but it will offer a 1.5-in suspension lift to give the Weekender better off-road capability. Couple that with some all-terrain tires on the wheels, and owners should be able to handle the average #vanlife adventure.
Mercedes says deliveries will begin in spring but does not include pricing information in today's announcement. We've reached out to try to get a base price, along with more specifics about the kitchen, wheelbase and other details, and will update accordingly.
We do know that Peace Vans' Weekender package starts at US$25,000 and is based on a Metris passenger van, which starts around $32,550 new (Worker Passenger version), so $57,550+ for a brand-new Weekender sleeper van. If Mercedes is able to keep its base Weekender price in that general $50,000 to $60,000 range, it should have an intriguing camper van on its hands. Much higher than that, and the Weekender starts to lose appeal in comparison to a more fully equipped pop-top like the Pleasure-Way Tofino, which starts at $70,850 for the 2020 model year.