Mercedes-Benz’s Tourismo has proved a hugely popular coach in Europe, with more than 17,000 built since it broke cover two decades ago.
That general popularity has been slightly muted in the UK, with fewer than 300 having been sold here, although interest among operators has grown recently. .
Until the advent of Euro 6 the Tourismo was strictly a two-axle coach in the UK.
Demand at the highest end of the market, for tri-axles, was met for EvoBus by Setra, but with the premium marque not coming to the UK at Euro 6 Mercedes has promoted the Tourismo M to pole position.
It was unveiled to operators and the press at a glitzy event at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey in November 2013, and was well received by those present.
The first production vehicles for the UK market have now started to come through from Turkey, and EvoBus (UK) Director, Mercedes-Benz Sales, Marcus Watts kindly made one available for a routeone Test Drive.
The Tourismo M is a chunky, well-built coach, tipping the scales unladen at 14,620kg. The test vehicle is to Touring specification, the middle of three options.
Travel is the most basic application â€“ although still well appointed â€“ and Touring+ is the range topper, specified as such. Maximum capacity declines as the range is climbed, thanks to more luxurious seats. The test vehicle is a 53-seater.
Externally, the coach has gullwing mirrors and a plug-type door, which is surprisingly fast in operation. The test vehicle’s large locker doors are manually operated and hinged at the top, although a parallel lift option is available.
Tourismo M comes with one standard engine, the 10.7-litre OM 470, which uses both EGR and SCR to reach Euro 6. Its displacement is perhaps slightly less than units in other tri-axles on the market, but clever technology means that ratings of 428bhp, and more importantly, 2,100Nm of torque, put it on a par with its peers.
Torque was put to the tarmac in the test vehicle by ZF’s six-speed EcoLife automatic gearbox, a rarity in a tri-axle. Expected to be of most interest to operators whose work regularly takes them into London, EvoBus predicts the most popular transmission option will be the eight-speed automated PowerShift.
Engine access is good, with a large top-hinged bonnet complemented by a folding lower section. A spare wheel is fitted as standard, mounted at the front below the platform. To access it, the front panel is hinged at the bottom. The wheel is held in place by a small ratchet strap.
Fuel is added via fillers at the front on both sides, and thanks to the nearside filler’s location, it’s not possible to add diesel with the door open. The AdBlue tank is positioned next to the offside diesel filler cap.
[tab title=”Passenger Access”]
Access is easy, with the initial step height of 350mm reducing to just 230mm if the suspension’s kneeling facility is used. A total of four steps lead to the platform and two more take passengers to the sunken gangway; apart from the initial climb from the kerb, none are taller than 170mm. At 860mm the door is easily wide enough, and the platform has ample space.
The gangway width is 355mm. All Tourismos come as standard with ‘slide apart’ seating, which while greatly increasing shoulder room for passengers, substantially reduces the gangway’s width, down to 230mm.
As the Tourismo is a touring coach, that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, although hostess service may be slightly awkward if all seats in the coach are slid apart.
Adjustable three-point belts are fitted, and all seats have hand-holds at the aisle-side top corner, giving less steady passengers plenty to hold on to when moving up and down the gangway. Additionally, a continuous handrail is fitted underneath the nearside luggage rack for further support.
[tab title=”Passenger Comfort”]
At the middle of three specification levels, the Tourismo tested provides a pleasant environment in which to travel. While it lacks such fittings as wooden aisle flooring and folding monitors â€“ they are fixed in this vehicle â€“ it is an eminently capable long-distance cruiser.
All seats are equipped with drop-down tables, magazine nets and footrests, while the ‘slide apart’ function mentioned above will no doubt add to the feel of luxury. An unusual rotating armrest arrangement, which means that when retracted it is completely out of the way, may not be easily understood by some passengers, but is undeniably effective.
The centre freshwater toilet is at the bottom of four steps which also lead to the offside door, and the toilet is of a typical size. A servery including boiler is above. The top half of this unit can be removed if required, and an additional pair of seats placed over the remaining part. Doing so boosts capacity to 55.
Besides the standard reading lights, six large ceiling-mounted lamps provide illumination. The luggage racks are open, but can be specified with aircraft-style doors if required; unusually, there are four lockable sections, two at the front and two amidships.
While those at the front are common on most coaches, the two mid-mounted lockers â€“ one on each side â€“ seem unusual. However, they provide useful and secure storage for items needed for the combined toilet and servery unit â€“ so it is good design.
Another unusual, but most useful, feature at the centre door is two flaps built in to the topmost step, which lead to removable bins located within the luggage area. One is marked for general rubbish, the other for recycling. Although unlikely to be noticed by passengers, they will be beneficial to the driver and courier when cleaning the coach at the end of the day.
Entertainment comes from a full Bosch system with DVD capability. As mentioned, the two monitors are fixed: one at the front, and the other to the offside above the servery and toilet unit. Full perimeter radiators provide heating, with a roof-mounted 32kW air conditioning unit also present. A 51-litre capacity fridge is mounted inconspicuously in the dash.
[tab title=”Driver Comfort”]
It goes without saying that the Tourismo M’s driver is made to feel at least as comfortable as his or her passengers. The standard Grammer seat includes an in-built, hands-free microphone and also has two armrests â€“ useful now gear sticks have become a thing of the past in modern coaches. An Isringhausen seat is optional.
The Tourismo’s seat and pedals are mounted more towards the centre of the vehicle than on other coaches. That delivers a number of benefits; the A pillar’s impact on the driver’s view is reduced and a good amount of storage space is found to the offside of the seat. Significantly, it also allows the handbrake lever to be relocated to the driver’s right, enhancing cab access.
Besides storage space around the cab area, the lower of the two steps from the platform to the gangway has a discreet, small cupboard. If required, this can be specified as a safe, giving secure storage for the crew’s valuables.
Visibility from the cab is further helped by the well-positioned mirrors, although as always on large coaches it is vital to take the time to make sure they’re correctly set. The saloon rear-view mirror, unusually, is mounted to the nearside above the door. Although strange at first, it gives a good view, helped by its convex nature.
A pair of electrically-operated blinds are fitted. They are ‘one touch’, both up and down. A bunk can be specified adjacent to the centre door, but on the test coach this was storage space.
Cab heating and air conditioning is controlled by a set of switches independent of the saloon’s, and the driver also benefits from their own CD and radio unit. Two USB ports are present on the dash: one for charging, the other for capturing a feed from iPods and similar, for the vehicle’s stereo system.
Mercedes’ OM 470 engine is all-new for Euro 6. It is a six-cylinder unit which produces its torque from exceptionally low revs, with 95% of the peak 2,100Nm available from just 800rpm onwards. Maximum output comes across an exceptionally wide band between 1,000 and 1,500rpm, meaning driveability and throttle response is excellent.
The six-speed EcoLife has only half the number of gears that some other coaches in this area of the market have. But thanks to the very flexible engine that simply doesn’t matter, and progress can be made as rapidly as the driver would like. It also shifts remarkably smoothly.
A relaxed style sees the ZF change up at very low engine speeds, typically in the region of 1,200-1,300rpm. It is also happy to let the revs drop below 1,000 should conditions allow, but not once during the almost 200 mile test did the coach feel as if it was ‘bogging down’.
50mph in sixth gear equates to 1,000rpm, but the EcoLife will drop one, or even two, gears as soon as it detects momentum beginning to wane. This is imperceptible from the cab thanks to muted noise levels.
EcoLife’s TopoDyn function also detects when the coach is attacking a severe hill with the throttle fully open, and is not afraid to let the engine spin all the way round to almost 2,000rpm in such a situation.
Controlling this ample power is simple. Mercedes’ standard variable limiter and cruise control is activated by a stalk on the right of the steering column, and its application is easier than in some other vehicles. Both settings can be fine-tuned in half km/h increments by either pulling or pushing the stalk. A five-stage gearbox retarder is fitted. It’s not as powerful as some other coaches’, but aims to prevent the Tourismo M rolling beyond either the 62mph limit, or the figure set by the driver via the variable stalk. Should the speed overrun considerably, it sounds a piercing audible warning, which if nothing else will shame the driver into easing off.
Apart from an exceptionally flexible engine, another particularly impressive aspect of the coach is its low noise levels, something which comes hand-in-hand with low engine speeds.
From the cab, mechanical noise is as good as undetectable unless it is working very hard, and even passengers sat at the rear will find that noise is muted, with just a soft rumble detectable when cruising at 50mph.
[tab title=”Verdict & Specs”]
The Tourismo M is a fine coach, and one which loyal Setra buyers will undoubtedly find to their taste. It is well finished inside and out, and its cabin is an exceptionally refined place in which to travel. Levels of on-board noise are similar to those found on an electric train.
Build quality is clearly good, and the coach has been intelligently thought out by its designers. They have included several very useful aspects which are not immediately obvious: ski lockers above both the front axle and the rear bogie, a fully-equipped toolbox should small running repairs be necessary on the road, and the integral bins, for example. It also looks the part. The test vehicle â€“ already sold by EvoBus â€“ came complete with Alcoa Dura-Bright wheels, and its styling â€“ including the larger rear grilles, necessary for Euro 6 â€“ gives a sleek and modern impression.
And as Mercedes operators already know, the value of that prominent three-pointed star on the dash is immeasurable.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the Tourismo M is its drivetrain. The moderately-sized OM 470 engine is incredibly willing, and the six-speed ZF automatic works very well with it.
It incurs a slight fuel penalty over the PowerShift automated set-up, but if your operation involves much city work, you won’t go far wrong with the ZF-equipped Tourismo M.