Competition is hotting up in the tri-axle coach market. There is no shortage of models from European manufacturers, and these were joined during 2012 by Chinese builder King Long’s XMQ6130. .
The XMQ6130’s main selling point is its price. At 229,950 on the road it is in some cases considerably cheaper than its competitors, yet depending on specification can offer at least the same degree of luxury as many of them.
Indeed, its standard-fit equipment list is longer than one might expect, so it’s not just in regards to physical size â€“ and the XMQ6130 is big â€“ where buyers get lots of coach for their money.
UK and Ireland importer Kinglong Direct has high hopes for the XMQ6130. Sales Director Paul Bicknell kindly provided a brand new example to test before its delivery to a Dublin operator.
The XMQ6130 is an imposing coach, and finished in a mint green livery the test vehicle would find it difficult to blend in anywhere. It is a heavyweight, tipping the scales at 17,700kg unladen.
Examination of the underfloor lockers shows a very sturdy-looking frame within, presumably a good indicator of the rest of the coach’s construction.
Power is from a Euro 5, 10.8-litre Cummins ISMe engine, which develops 440bhp and 2,100Nm of torque. It drives through a 12-speed ZF AS-Tronic automated transmission, which has a manual override function. ZF also provides the axles.
A 450-litre fuel tank is mounted at the front, with fillers on both sides. AdBlue is stored at the rear, which reduces the likelihood of any expensive mix-ups at the pumps.
The XMQ6130’s gross vehicle weight is 23,100kg. This gives a total load capacity of 5,400kg, which when carrying its full complement of 59 passengers, driver and courier should allow sufficient luggage to be carried.
If that’s not enough, its gross combination weight is 26,600kg, giving scope to tow a reasonably-sized trailer.
Physical luggage capacity is fine, helped by the high floor line. Ski lockers over the rear axles are of a good size, and when not required for sports equipment can hold small bags.
The main locker doors are powered and activated by a pair of dash switches, while the ski lockers are manually-operated, and secure. On the offside, one of the latter is partially occupied by an inverter unit the size of a small suitcase, which supplies the 240v power sockets present at every seat.
The third axle is hydraulically steered, its angle directly related to that of the front axle.
A crew bunk is provided in the centre of the coach, and can be accessed from the exterior or through an opening at the bottom of the offside centre stairs. It is heated, has a speaker connected to the coach’s entertainment system and a handset to communicate with the driver.
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A high floor means quite a climb up, and that’s the case with the XMQ6130.
The door is a plug type and 800mm wide, and three internal steps lead to the platform. A further three lead to the sunken gangway, which is 470mm across.
All steps, including the one up from the aisle, are lined in yellow, and the edges additionally have blue LED illumination when the vehicle’s headlights or interior lights are switched on. The initial step height is 360mm with the others as low as 200mm.
The offside door is accessed by four steep steps, but a useful touch is the addition of an external lip which slides out from under the body when the door is open.
The toilet is at the bottom of the centre staircase, and has been specified to allow a pair of seats to be mounted on top of it.
Although benefiting capacity, it renders the WC very difficult to use for an adult.
Unless these two seats are vital, it would be a better idea to drop them and specify a larger-headroom toilet.
As is customary, the centre door is complemented by breakable windows in its function as an emergency exit. The rear pane and two offside and three nearside windows are all equipped with hammers for this purpose.
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Passengers travel in a comfortable and pleasant environment on the XMQ6130. Its seats are made by Fainsa and are full leather as standard, and include a drop-down table, magazine net and footrest. Recline is adequate.
An Actia combined radio, CD and DVD unit sits in the lower centre of the dash, perhaps a little far from the driver. This is installed at Kinglong Direct’s Coventry premises and the test vehicle was yet to receive the unit, although it would prior to delivery.
Three LCD monitors are fitted. The fixed front unit is 432mm wide and two drop-down screens are each 381mm across. When activated by a dash switch, those in the test vehicle showed a King Long promotional picture, which allowed an assessment of display quality. It is good.
The all-important heating and air-conditioning is controlled from two separate units in the cab. Warmth comes from convection radiators, and a programmable Webasto pre-heater is fitted which operates via the engine’s coolant.
On a cold day, the interior quickly became comfortable, with no hot or cold spots detectable. Displays at the front of the coach show the internal and external temperature, time, date, and even the relative humidity on board.
Air-conditioning is from a roof-mounted King Long unit.
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The driver’s workstation is perhaps not quite as advanced in the XMQ6130 as it is in some European coaches. The Isringhausen seat, however, is perfectly adequate and finished in leather, with armrests on both sides.
Storage is reasonable, and two large bins are provided â€“ one above the door, the other above the signalling window.
On the dash, air and oil pressures and the AdBlue level are all displayed on an LCD screen. The handbrake lever is small, and requires the collar to be lifted when applying it. Visibility through the gullwing mirrors is good, but the coach would benefit from an additional, lower, offside mirror. Wipers are good and sweep all the way to the edges of the screen.
The signalling window is electrically lowered and heated; the door’s page window slides manually. Sunblinds for the windscreen and signalling window are present.
The latter is manually-operated, but the windscreen’s is powered and split into two pieces.
This is beneficial for passengers, as the driver need not block the forward view from both sides of the coach.
Dash-mounted switches are numerous. One aspect of them which could be better is that they include cruise control, instead of it being stalk- or wheel-mounted. It is awkward to activate and will probably be ignored by many drivers.
Pedals have a good feel and a chequer plate foot-rest is provided for the left leg. The brake, in particular, is wonderfully progressive and makes smooth stops simple, complemented by a stalk-activated, four-stage gearbox retarder. The latter is reasonably effective.
With 440bhp on tap the XMQ6130 lacks nothing in power. Its Cummins ISMe is a descendant of earlier L10 and M11 units, and shares one notable characteristic with them. It is a ‘lazy’ engine, and does not like to be rushed.
Acceleration is comparatively leisurely, but given the fuel figure returned over the course of the test this offers its own benefits. It was an excellent 14.2mpg across a variety of roads, although the air conditioning was not used.
The coach makes adequate progress, but the lack of an exhaust brake to rapidly reduce the engine’s speed means that upshifts are a little slower than some other models.
Change quality is universally good, either up or down the box. Engine speed is matched electronically, with the ECU blipping the throttle as necessary on downshifts.
Although the XMQ6130 moves away in a leisurely manner, in typical Cummins fashion the ISMe provides plenty of power when it’s needed. Once in the optimum gear for the situation, it settles happily at around 1,400rpm and is happy to slog away contentedly.
Compared with some other engines on the market in the tri-axle sector the Cummins requires a few more revs to do its thing, and the AS-Tronic’s software has evidently been programmed with this in mind. It starts in 3rd gear and block shifts two at a time as far as 9th, finishing sequentially.
Top gear is reached at between 50 and 55mph. When cruising at the legal maximum of 50mph on single-carriageway roads the transmission hunts between 11th and 12th; in this situation the driver would do well to manually select one or the other. 12th is suitable for easy running on a flat road, but when on undulating ground 11th would be wiser.
At the maximum limited speed, the engine is turning at 1,400rpm. On motorway sections of the test it rapidly picked up momentum on the unfortunately rare occasions that the middle lane was vacated by LGVs.
Drivers familiar with Cummins-powered coaches or trucks of old will quickly recognise the ISMe’s power delivery characteristics. It is well up to the job at hand and ideally suited to a relaxed, smooth and fuel-efficient style â€“ the hallmarks of a good coach driver.
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Kinglong Direct is tilting the XMQ6130 at the top end of the market. It has already supplied one luxuriously-specified example with just 33 seats; likewise others, such as the test vehicle, have been built for maximum capacity. Pretty much anything in between can be accommodated, Paul Bicknell confirms.
The importer has one rather large ace up its sleeve. It can supply Euro 5 XMQ6130s until the end of 2014, which gives a serious economic advantage. Not only is the additional cost of Euro 6 avoided, but the 229,950 sticker price is an attention-grabber on its own.
No question marks hang over its mechanical units. The Cummins engine and ZF gearbox and axles have proved themselves capable of many hundreds of thousands of miles’ hard work, and when parts are required they’re easy to come by. The coach certainly seems well put together and is well-equipped internally.
It is not a perfect vehicle, however. It would benefit from deeper windscreen sunblinds and an extra mirror on the offside, both of which are being looked in to by Kinglong Direct, and setting its cruise control is awkward.
But neither does the XMQ6130 fit the stereotype of Chinese-built vehicles. It may not quite compete with some European manufacturers’ top-of-the range tri-axles, but if a fuel-efficient and keenly-priced coach with plenty of equipment is what you’re looking for, it may tick the box.