Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Metris van into a rolling toolbox

Mercedes-Benz had a tough road to the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. How to outdo last year’s mean, green Sprinter Extreme? We’re not sure it’s done it, but it’s definitely made quite an effort with a Metris van all dressed up like a toolbox on wheels, complete with carry handle. This Metris is ready to roll up its sleeves and get serious work done, everywhere work needs gettin’ done.


Once again, Mercedes worked with Renntech in designing a flamboyant Chicago show van. This time around, it went a little bit smaller but every bit as bold to showcase the Mercedes-Benz Vans MasterSolutions program it launched last summer. MasterSolutions is a turn-key professional upfitting service that can outfit any Mercedes or Freightliner van for virtually any type of work environment, adding shelves, organizational equipment, refrigeration, shuttle seating and more.

Mercedes didn’t hold back the upfitting with the Metris MasterSolutions Toolbox show van. Beyond its eye-grabbing wrapped exterior, complete with toolbox-style latches and carry handle, the concept van features an interior with removable grip-tile floor and shelves, cabinets and removable cases from Mercedes MasterSolutions partner companies. The swing-up side hatch provides access to the indoor/outdoor worktop and side storage. A clear plastic partition wall divides the workshop from the driver’s cab while letting occupants keep an eye on things in back.

In addition to the classic trades, we could see a MasterSolutions Toolbox-style van being useful for some more modern businesses. For instance, a mobile bicycle or consumer electronics repair service could roll itself to the demand without the overhead of a permanent shop.

The Metris Toolbox is based on the Metris Worker Cargo van and driven by a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbo four with 258 lb.ft (350 Nm). It offers 2,500 lb (1,134-kg) of payload and double that in towing capacity. The base van offers an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. It starts at $25,995, and just so there’s no possible confusion, that price is for the basic van, no interior storage systems or workspace, blue-and-silver wheels, toolbox hinges or carry handle.

Trucks cut costs and emissions at Skoda

Hot on the heels of supermarket chain Waitrose unveiling a fleet of compressed natural gas delivery lorries in the UK, Skoda has whipped the covers off four CNG-powered trucks for its factory in Mlada Boleslav. The lorries will be used to ferry parts around the factory site, promising to cut costs and carbon emissions in the process.

Having subjected the trucks to a two-month trial, three of the compressed natural gas lorries have been put into full-time service at Skoda HQ in the Czech Republic, while another completes a 120-km (75-mi) journey from the factory to Stráž nad Nisou 12 times per week. According to the company, this helps save 16 tonnes (17.6 tons) of CO2 compared to a standard diesel truck running the same route.

The 25-m (82-ft) lorries are able to carry 150 m3 (5,297 cu.ft) of goods, 50 percent more than a regular truck. That allows the drivers to make 18 fewer trips along their 292-km (181-mi) route every week, which equates to 250,000 fewer km (155,343 mi) driven over the course of 12 months – emitting 200 tonnes (220 tons) less CO2 in the process.

Not only do they emit significantly less CO2 than diesels, but the switch to CNG Gigaliners has also led to an 80-90 percent drop in nitric oxide (NOx) emissions and a 90 percent cut in carbon monoxide. The trucks use less than 50 kg (110 lb) of CNG per 100 km (62 mi) for around 95 percent less harmful particulate emissions than diesels, too.

Along with its shiny new fleet of CNG trucks, Skoda is also making a push toward battery-powered transporters at its factory. To try and make them more energy-efficient, a tractor towing two trailers full of solar panels is being put to the test on its 70-km (43-mi) route. By harvesting solar energy on its daily errands, Skoda expects it to lower its energy usage by around 10 percent annually. Should the trial be successful, the full fleet of battery-powered tractors at the factory will be kitted out with the solar chargers.

Although the fleet of CNG lorries is only made up of four trucks for now, Skoda is expecting most of the suppliers near its factory to make their deliveries using alternative energy sources.

Highlights from the 2017 Chicago Auto Show

The annual Chicago Auto Show is the most consumer-driven of the automotive spectacles that happen in the United States. Always fun to visit, the CAS also has more floor space and ride-and-drive events included than any other show. This year, along with blacked-out trim packages, famous race cars and new reveals, there was also something for Star Wars and Lego fans.

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show officially opened to the general public on Saturday, February 11. Here’s what you can look forward to if you attend CAS this year.

The Chicago show isn’t well-known as a big showcase for manufacturer’s new wares or concepts. Those are usually left for the Detroit and New Yorkshows and, more and more, the Consumer Electronics Show. Tucked in between these shows, CAS tends towards the consumer rather than the “wow!” Yet there are still some surprises in store.

Notably this year, Nissan unveiled its latest (and last) version of the Titan XD pickup truck that’s been trickling out over the past year or so. This one is a king cab configuration, ready for the jobsite or the driveway. With the expected suicide door configuration popular in this cab style, the king cab finishes the gamut of cab options for the Titan, which now span the regular (single), king, and crew (four-door) options. Nissan has finally made the Titan into a complete offering in the full-sized truck market.

Also unveiled were some special Mopar editions of the Dodge Challenger sports coupe. The Challenger is now Dodge’s premier sports car and is also the most-modified car by Mopar, the company’s tuning arm. Celebrating 80 years of muscle, the special edition Mopar Challenger is a big deal to Dodge.

Mercedes-Benz hit the Chicago Auto Show in force, covering the floor with work vans of all types. Unveiled at the show was a new Metris Mastersolutions Toolbox, a Mercedes van kitted out to look like a giant toolbox for kids. We fully expect to see scale versions of these on a toy store shelf soon.

Challenger lights the birthday candles for Mopar

The Chicago Auto Show might not have produced the same stack of big-ticket reveals as Detroit, but that doesn’t mean McCormick Place was completely devoid of cool new cars. Along with the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport and Toyota RAV4 Adventure, the show played host to the Dodge Challenger Mopar, a two-tone special designed to celebrate 80 years worth of big wings, hood scoops and antifreeze from Mopar.

In the Mopar Challenger, power comes from the same 392 HEMI V8 you’ll find in a base Challenger R/T 392 with the Scat Pack, which means it makes 485 hp (362 kW) and 644 Nm of torque. The motor is fitted with the Shaker Hood package which adds that gorgeous retro bonnet and badging to the nose. Dodge also says the pack provides “performance gains” compared to cars without it, but there’s no mention of any extra power or torque on the spec sheet, so we’re a little skeptical of just how much extra performance you get.

Although the Challenger isn’t really known as a sharp handler – in the muscle car world, it’s a good old fashioned straight line bruiser compared to the (relatively) light-footed Mustang and Camaro – Dodge has still tried to sharpen the Challenger Mopar. We aren’t sure if the strut tower brace and four-piston Brembo brakes will provide a meaningful improvement over stock, but it’s nice to see that Dodge has tried.

Beyond the mild performance improvements, the special edition Challenger is all about looks, with a special two-tone paint finish. Two versions will be available, one with the lower half of the car finished in Contusion Blue, the other in Billet Silver. The top half of both cars is finished in the Mopar Custom Shop for a deeper, darker look. Both versions have been treated to a hand-painted 392 logo on the flanks, and there are also 20-inch aluminum wheels fitted.

Inside, there are performance seats finished with embroidered logos and contrast stitching, while the dashboard and door panels are also finished in the same way. Not earth-shattering changes, but owners will be more interested in the special package that comes with the car. Along with the special badging and build plates fitted under the hood, owners will be given a welcome letter from Mopar, a sheet with all the build information about their specific car, and some special trinkets to commemorate the brand’s 80th anniversary.