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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.



2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris Review

2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris Review
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The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris makes sense as a right-size commercial van for many users, but we wouldn’t pick it as a family car.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris keeps odd company next to the fleet of luxury vehicles sold alongside it.

Available in fleet-oriented Worker and more configurable standard configurations, the Metris was designed primarily for the European market, but it has carved out a nice niche for itself here. We like the Metris well enough for what it does, but it has its limitations and rates 4.8 out of 10 points.

This year, Mercedes essentially has left its passenger and cargo vans alone.

The Metris’ three-pointed star is as much an asset for some customers as it is a liability for others. What’s it say when your plumber shows up in a Mercedes, for instance? But if you need a hauler for your high-end antique shop, the Metris will fit in well with your clients’ Bentleys.

The Metris is the smaller companion to Mercedes’ popular Sprinter vans. At 202.4 inches from head to toe, the Metris isn’t pint-size, but it is on par with minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica. But the two go about their business in decidedly different ways.

All Metris vans sold in the U.S. use a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed automatic transmission shuttles power to the rear wheels. Combined with its precise, well-weighted steering, the Metris has an athletic feel, although its boxy size and hefty weight keep it from being truly entertaining.

The passenger version of the Metris boasts good room for seven, albeit with two rear benches that are very heavy to remove and don’t fold. In its cargo configuration, the Metris is basically a blank slate ready for upfitting.

Both versions of the Metris are rated around 22 mpg combined, but their running costs are hefty since they require premium fuel. 

Aside from its big three-pointed star badge, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris is a predictably anonymous van.

Slightly more stylish than the box it came in, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris blends some passenger car cues with utilitarian squareness.

Both cargo and passenger versions of the Metris start with the same basic look. Their front ends are reasonably streamlined, but there’s no effort at vanity from the side or rear. Depending on its configuration, the Metris is available with either a massive lift-up tailgate or a pair of side-hinged doors that each have their own window and windshield wiper.

Inside, it’s business as usual—and nothing more. The symmetrical dashboard puts audio controls up high and climate controls slightly lower. Several cupholders are scattered about, including two shallow ones sized for skinny cans like Red Bull near the front of the dashboard.

Versions of the Metris can be swathed in a choice of durable vinyl or hard-wearing fabric upholstery.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris boasts great steering for a van, but it can feel ponderous and it's not exactly fast.

Performance may not be a big selling point for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris in the conventional sense, yet this van’s docile demeanor and remarkable composure makes it a terrific mobile office.

Every Metris uses a version of the automaker’s 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission. The turbo-4 is refined and works well with the standard stop-start system that cuts the engine out at traffic lights, but 208 ponies motivating upward of 4,300 pounds of minivan results in leisurely acceleration at best.
More impressive is the Metris’ accurate steering, which has little slack and communicates what the front wheels are up to better than many coupes and sedans. Moreover, the thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel is a delight to hold. But with a high center of gravity and a suspension tuned more to hold up to its maximum payload capacity of 2,500 pounds when configured as a cargo van, the Metris can feel floaty and confused when pushed hard through a curvy road.

Despite that hefty payload, the Metris rides well enough with an empty load and it is fairly quiet at speed even with the limited sound insulation found in cargo variants.

Although its rear-wheel drive won’t be a big selling point in wintry markets (winter tires are a good bet), that configuration does endow the Metris with a towing rating of 5,000 pounds.

Comfort & Quality
There's a lot of configurable room inside the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris, but it doesn't excel as a flexible passenger-hauler.

Those expecting luxury accommodations will be confused by the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris’ work-rated interior, but it is comfortable if not particularly flexible for a full load of passengers.

That figure reflects an extra point for roominess but two deductions for chintzy materials and, on passenger variants, two rear benches that are very heavy to remove.

As a work van, the Metris has 186 cubic feet of cargo space behind the two front seats. Configured as a passenger van, there’s still a solid 38 cubes aft of the third row. Mercedes offers numerous storage options for the cargo variant, too.

Up front, there’s excellent visibility from the firmly padded, all-day comfortable seats. An option worth considering for those in wintry climes are the available front seat heaters. Metris vans we’ve tested have felt well-screwed together, but most materials are hard plastics. Curiously, a passenger van we tested recently lacked power-adjustable mirrors and had unpainted bumpers, yet its cargo area was finished with beautiful carpeting like we’d expect in a six-figure S-Class sedan.

Passenger variants have seating for seven in a 2-2-3 front-to-rear configuration. There’s good room for everyone, but not much adjustability. The rear benches don’t fold flat or into the floor like in the Chrysler Pacifica, which is a major demerit for anyone planning to make a Metris into the perfect family cruiser. Instead, you’ll have to find a buddy or two to help pull the heavy benches out.

No crash-testing has been performed yet on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris, but it can be equipped with a number of valuble featuers.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris is available with an especially wide range of safety equipment for a commercial-oriented van, but it has not been crash-tested by either federal or independent agencies.

All versions of the Metris include a full complement of airbags—six for cargo vans and eight for passenger variants. Innovative features like a crosswind assistance that helps this boxy van behave less like a jib on a windy day and a drowsiness monitor that suggests when it’s time for a break are standard on all.

Optional equipment includes active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic emergency braking.

The basic 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris is just that, but many options can be added for a price.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris can be as basic or almost as decadent as you want it to be.

Keep the price low and there’s not much to look at, but the sky’s nearly the limit when it comes to optional equipment and the high level of customizability here.

First, you’ll want to select passenger or cargo body styles. From there, those interested in simplicity can pick the Worker trim level. This value-oriented trim is equipped with essential items like power windows, an audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port, and not much else. Three packages, but no individual options, are available that add features like cruise control, upgraded audio, alloy wheels, painted bumpers, a rear window defroster, and a power-sliding passenger side door.

Metris Workers are available in white, silver, or black.

If you’re looking for a more custom-tailored model, stick with the standard Metris. It’s similarly basic to start, but the cargo version offers numerous ways to trick things out in the cargo area and the passenger variant can be optioned up with a variety of individual options ranging from special interior lighting for work use to niceties like a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Be careful, though: a Metris with many boxes ticked easily crests $40,000. That’s a staggeringly large amount of money for something still not all that luxurious.

Regardless, all Metris vans are available with a choice of barn-style doors or a massive tailgate that’s hinged at the top.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris is fairly thrifty for a van, although it requires pricey premium fuel.

Despite its small engine and advanced 7-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Metris delivers average fuel economy.

The Metris is rated on the EPA scale at at 19 mpg city, 23 highway, 21 combined in passenger setup. Pick the slightly lighter cargo van and those figures improve slightly to 21/24/22 mpg.

All Metris models come with a stop-start system that reduces fuel consumption in stop-and-go traffic.

One major factor is that Mercedes says the 2.0-liter engine should run on premium fuel, which can run upward of 30 cents more per gallon than regular unleaded. For a business-oriented vehicle, that can add up quickly.

Most rivals are rated at 23 mpg or higher in the city and they all use less expensive regular unleaded.

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