NUMBER ONE
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Millbrook 2019
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January 16 2019
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.


Tourismo tempts new buyers with 13m two-axle

More options came to the right-hand drive Mercedes-Benz Tourismo line-up in its latest form, including a 13m, two-axle variant. We test drive one of the model that has convinced many buyers of its worth

Bouden Travel has two Tourismo M/2s, including a stock 57-seat example

Daimler Buses built on the Mercedes-Benz Tourismo’s established success with the new model, which in the UK has doubled the Tourismo line-up to four variants. Of the two newcomers to right-hand drive, the most popular has been the 13.1m, two-axle M/2.

The M/2 takes the Tourismo into what has been a boom sector for UK sales. It is available with up to 57 seats with a toilet or 59 without, and to optimise carrying capacity the lighter 7.7-litre OM 936 engine rated at 350bhp complements the 10.7-litre OM 470.

Sales of the new Tourismo have been strong. 2018’s transition from the earlier variant to the latest model saw numbers finish at around 300 in UK and Irish markets combined for the year. 2019 has started well, with dealership EvoBus (UK) majoring on having stock coaches available quickly.

Among operators to have been wooed by the Tourismo is Birmingham-based Bouden Travel. It has two of the latest model, both M/2 examples. One is a standard coach and the other is a limited-number Edition 1, which was launched at Euro Bus Expo last year.

Part of the reasoning for Bouden’s decision to take new Tourismos to complement a single remaining earlier example was the model’s appeal to drivers. The prospect of piloting a new Mercedes-Benz is also a consideration for staff retention, it adds.

Bouden Travel kindly made its standard-specification Tourismo M/2 available for a routeone Test Drive recently. To gain an impression of how the new model has developed, driver Adrian Dawkins - who is familiar with other coaches in the fleet - came along.

Build

In keeping with its length, the M/2 has a wheelbase of 6.91m. That makes manoeuvrability challenging in some situations, but the trade-off is that underfloor locker space is extensive. Bouden Travel’s coach has manually-operated, top-hinged luggage bay doors that can be locked from the cab. On the offside, some space is occupied by the centre sunken toilet and the continental door.

Coach has Travel Star Eco seats; the red theme continues around saloon

As is customary, the fuel tank is over the front axle. Two fillers are provided and the flap on the offside also hides the Ad-Blue cap. The radiator, too, is mounted on the offside.

Unladen weight of the coach as tested is 13,802kg and its plated GVW is 11,111kg. Power comes from the OM 470 engine rated at 394bhp coupled to ZF’s six-speed EcoLife automatic gearbox.

Passenger access

The Tourismo’s entrance is well designed. Four steps take passengers to the platform and two more lead to the sunken gangway. A plaque with the Mercedes-Benz name is prominent on one of the initial steps.

Handrail provision is good on both sides of the doorway. It includes one on the underside of the courier seat base, which is locked in position when stowed. Additionally, the steps are very wide, and that aspect continues at the centre door.

There, the seats to the left when boarding extend on a ‘shelf’ into the stairwell by around a foot to maximise capacity, but even then, the width of the usable area is comparable with other coaches.

Continued from the earlier Tourismo is the presence of a horizontal rail along the length of the nearside luggage rack. While it may be acquired taste, there is no doubting that it provides a useful stabilising aid for taller passengers who are slightly infirm.

Passenger comfort

Bouden’s coach has Travel Star Eco seats. They are perfectly adequate, but the manufacturer also offers Travel Star Eco Plus, Softline and Luxline variants in the M/2. As fitted, all positions have a three-point belt, a drop-down table, a magazine net and  piping and headrest inserts in red leather. Aisle seats also come with slide-apart functionality. USB points are not fitted, but they are to the coach’s Edition 1 sister. Leg room varies depending on location.

Red is prominent throughout the saloon. The curtains are that colour, and it is also included as part of the velour on the underside of the luggage racks. The resulting overall effect is pleasing and it is further complemented by wood-effect flooring.

Among passenger amenities is a large top-loading dash-mounted fridge

Perimeter radiators are part of a climate control system that is governed by a unit in the dash. It allows an automatic setting and also finer control when required. On a very cold day, the saloon warmed up rapidly and with no cold spots.

Entertainment is handled through a multi-purpose system that includes satellite navigation and many other functions. It feeds to two fixed LCD screens. Illumination is via reading lights in the passenger service units and several individual roof-mounted lights.

A large top-loading fridge is within the dash and a small servery is above the toilet. Noise levels in the saloon are low and the ambience is further aided by two clear roof hatches.

Driver comfort

A two-piece powered windscreen blind is fitted. The large signalling window is also powered - albeit not with one-touch buttons - and it comes with both a heater element and demister vents.

Buttons are solid and will stand up to clumsier drivers, while the amount of storage around the cab is excellent. Various cubby holes are spread well - including a large one that will hold an A4 sheet - and space for a bag behind the Grammer seat is good.

The engine oil level is checked via the comprehensive dash computer that delivers much other information, and it even allows the driver to adjust the volume of the indicator warning tone.

Visibility is excellent, helped by pulled-back A-pillars. Adrian notes that while the mirror arrangement is otherwise good, the coach would benefit from a lower offside pane; Bouden’s limited-edition Tourismo has one, but the stock M/2 does not. However, that does not mar his overall view of the working environment. In particular, he praises the heater controls and the general visibility, and he also likes the instrument display. The ease of checking the Ad-Blue level is another positive.

“I also like the reversing camera, which displays a wider angle than before. The stereo is improved and the multi-function steering wheel, particularly the buttons relating to a phone, is also better,” he adds.

Ignition is keyless; the driver’s area is well laid-out and visibility is superb

Adjustment of the wheel is via a rocker switch, and Adrian also notes that the display on the dash that informs the driver of the distance between the coach and the vehicle ahead is useful.

When all is considered, there is very little basis to fault the Tourismo’s cab. It is spacious and well-appointed; the only aspect that needs possible improvement is fitment of the additional mirror. Wind noise is surprisingly loud, however, and it seems to come from the gullwing arms.

Performance

At 394bhp, the Bouden Travel coach has the OM 470 at one of its lower ratings. Acceleration is still rapid, although it will not keep up with some other comparable two-axle coaches that have an additional 50bhp (or more) on tap.

As is common with second-generation Euro 6 engines, torque is delivered at very low speeds. In this case, 1,900Nm comes in at 1,100rpm, and the gearbox and axle ratios take advantage of that.

At 62mph, the tachometer shows around 1,225rpm and top gear is thus not selected until almost 60mph. The EcoLife normally keeps engine speeds below 1,500rpm, but if the kickdown switch is activated it spins the OM 470 as far as 2,000rpm.

Regardless of that, shift quality remains consistently high. Adrian notes that the EcoLife’s torque converter gives excellent control when manoeuvring, particularly when in reverse, although the eight-speed Powershift 3 automated manual gearbox is available across the range.

The new Tourismo continues from where the old model left off in terms of roadholding. The ride is slightly firmer than with some other coaches, but that ensures that composure is retained when cornering. The M/2 can thus be pushed hard when necessary without concern.

A positive of the gullwing mirror arrangement is the view that is given of the lower front. Moving to the left in merging traffic can be tricky in a coach, but when the mirrors are set properly there is nothing to worry about. Everything can be seen, and that will be valued by drivers.

Regular driver rates new Tourismo highly; ‘is even better than old model’

Verdict

Pricing for the Tourismo is competitive, and EvoBus (UK) does not shy away from the fact that it takes advantage of the economies delivered by the model’s Turkish construction. But the Tourismo’s success in recent years cannot just be chalked up to that.

Further contributors become apparent when driving the coach. It is difficult to fault from either the driver or the passenger perspective. An additional mirror would be welcome, but the saloon is nicely specified even in stock specification and engine noise is low.

“The coach is a relaxing drive and it I feel at ease with it,” says Adrian. “It is comfortable for me and passengers have also complemented it. There was nothing wrong with the older Tourismo, but the new model is better.”

Where lots of luggage is carried it will be necessary to load the M/2 carefully, but for applications where weight tolerance is key, the tri-axle M/3 is available at the same length.

Alternatively, the M/2 when fitted with the OM 936 engine offers a potential weight reduction of around 1,000kg, Daimler Buses claims.  While the smaller engine is currently only offered with the Powershift 3 gearbox, work is underway to homologate it with the EcoLife.

That will be tempting for some buyers, particularly as those who have already taken OM 936-equipped coaches report excellent fuel consumption. That’s not to say that the OM 470 fails to deliver in that regard, however. As tested, the coach recorded an indicated 11.8mpg.

The M/2 makes the Tourismo range as a whole an even more compelling proposition. As a newcomer to right-hand drive, it allows EvoBus (UK) to expand its market reach, but there is no doubt that most of the M/2’s plus points will be echoed across other members of the line-up.

www.boudencoachtravel.co.uk

Facts and figures

Retail price: TBC
Engine: 10.7-litre six-cylinder OM 470
Power: 290kW (394bhp) @1,600rpm
Torque: 1,900Nm @1,100rpm
Emissions: Euro 6 using EGR and SCR
Gearbox: ZF EcoLife six-speed automatic
Tyres: 295/80 R22.5
Fuel economy: 11.8mpg
Acceleration 0-30mph: 9.0 sec; 0-50mph: 19.6 sec
Noise Front: 60dBa; middle: 59dBa; rear: 60dBa
Length: 13.12m
Height: 3.68m
Width: 2.55m
Wheelbase: 6.91m
GVW: TBC
UVW: 13,812kg



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