Test Drive: Scania OmniExpress

Sometimes overshadowed by Scania’s other coach offerings, the OmniExpress is a competent mid-range vehicle bodied in Finland by Lahden. Keenly priced and well specified, it suits a surprising variety of roles. Tim Deakin test drives a Euro 6 two-axle.

Scania Great Britain prides itself on having a coach suitable for almost every requirement. It can offer everything from a high-capacity, low-height model through to a built-to-spec, top-end tourer, but one model which falls somewhere in between is the OmniExpress.

It is built in a variety of configurations, and includes two- and three-axle variants. While not the cheapest coach available, it is nevertheless keenly priced for a Scandinavian product.

At its heart are the same two chassis used in Scania’s other coaches, and engine options are the nine-litre DC09 and 12.7-litre DC13. At their most popular ratings of 360 and 410bhp respectively, neither require EGR to achieve Euro 6.

In a previous test, the DC13 returned excellent fuel consumption figures. “We’re trying to standardise on the 410bhp engine with eight-speed Opticruise gearbox,” says General Manager – Retail Sales Martin West.

“It’s the best performer on fuel, and with 53 seats on two axles we can still use the big engine while coming in at a reasonable unladen weight,” he adds.

“OmniExpress has always been built as a coach that comes with a good specification. All of our stock examples are to 3.65m height, although we will supply 3.45m high coaches to customer order.”

While never the most talked-about member of Scania’s diverse coach line-up, the OmniExpress will receive a boost in 2016.

Scania Great Britain has ordered a stock batch for delivery next year to a limited edition, higher-than-normal specification in both two- and three-axle form, and is keen to show to operators that the model is a competent tourer. It made one of the last OmniExpresses for 2015’s order available for a routeone Test Drive.

 

Build

The OmniExpress is a largely unassuming coach, and not as visually striking as the other members of Scania’s line-up. Despite this, beneath its relatively plain skin is a thoroughbred chassis.

The test vehicle has a 410bhp DC13 engine coupled to an eight-speed Opticruise automated gearbox. A 12-speed Opticruise can also be specified, while in coaches with the nine-litre engine, ZF’s automatic EcoLife gearbox is available.

The 12-speed Opticruise may be beneficial in a tri-axle working at or around full weight in testing terrain, but its four extra gears are unlikely to be of much additional value in an 18,000kg GVW two-axle coach, especially one with the DC13’s 2,150Nm of torque.

Pulling power comes in strongly from 1,000rpm, meaning that eight ratios are plenty, and two shifting strategies are available. The standard programme keeps engine speeds below 1,500rpm, but the power setting holds gears for longer and shifts more rapidly.

All members of Scania’s coach line-up delivered from 2016 onwards will include the builder’s suite of safety enhancements. They are adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and lane departure warning. The latter two will be mandated by law but adaptive cruise control will not.

OmniExpress body is built in Finland by Lahden; chassis is all Scania
OmniExpress body is built in Finland by Lahden; chassis is all Scania

 

Passenger access

The plug door leads to four steps to the platform, followed by one more into a sunken gangway, which is slightly sloped at the front before levelling out. The step up from the gangway to reach the seats is substantial, something that Scania is aware of and does not rule out improving in the future.

A front suspension kneeling facility is provided, and a full chassis ‘squat’ function is also part of the package, as is a ferry lift.

Within the five-step continental door well is the sunken toilet. In the test coach this is fixed, although a demountable variant is also available. All aisle seats have shoulder-height hand-holds, while steps at both doors each have a light within them.

Handhold provision at both doors is good, although the grey powder-coated rails may benefit from being made a little more obvious to partially-sighted passengers by the inclusion of an element of yellow.

Door is predominantly glazed, and not painted at all
Door is predominantly glazed, and not painted at all

 

Passenger comfort

Body manufacturer Lahden’s own seats carry 53 passengers. They include leather headrests and inserts, and have drop-down tables, footrests, magazine nets and three-point belts. If a demountable toilet is specified, a maximum of 55 seats is possible. Passenger service units are found above each seat pair. Those above the rear row are mounted in the ceiling coving because the luggage racks do not extend all the way to the rear.

Unlike some other coaches, the side view from the back row is as good as from any other position; the windows extend all the way to the rear bulkhead, and are not compromised by the pillars there.

Entertainment is from a Bosch Professional Line system which includes two monitors and DVD capability, while climate control is dealt with by a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit and perimeter radiators.

Temperature control in the saloon is automatic, although the driver can override it. Surprisingly no coolant pre-heater is fitted, although an area of the engine compartment is set aside for this purpose; the special edition coaches ordered by Scania will have a pre-heater.

Lighting includes a blue-hued night-time option to accompany brighter settings, while a 35-litre fridge is provided in the dash. Above the toilet – a freshwater model – is a hot water tap and small sink.

Even when the engine is under full load the saloon remains quiet. Passengers sitting at the rear will notice its presence; a muted turbo ‘shriek’ is the loudest component of the DC13’s sound envelope.

Respectable interior is perfectly adequate for touring duties
Respectable interior is perfectly adequate for touring duties

 

Driver comfort

The OmniExpress shares a standard Scania cab with other coaches in the manufacturer’s range and thus the driver’s workstation is a luxurious one.

One of the most noticeable parts of the cab, and one which demonstrates Scania’s attention to detail, is the position of the handbrake; adjacent to the signalling window, it is in just the right place.

That trend continues with the various dash buttons, which are well-located if numerous. The driver benefits from a comprehensive climate control system, although he or she will need to be aware of a radiator behind the seat.

There is a reasonable gap between the two, which may lead to a temptation to store a bag there. If that happens, the radiator will need to be turned off. The driver also has an external storage compartment behind the offside rear wheel and various smaller areas in the cab.

An LCD screen is used to control heating, and among other functions it also shows the fill levels of the toilet’s clean and waste water tanks. The reverse camera feed is also displayed here; it is beneath a pop-up flap to prevent dirt on the lens, and is revealed either when reverse is selected or the driver presses a button. A fabric-covered, heated Isringhausen seat is fitted, which rotates so the driver can face boarding passengers. The sliding signalling window is complemented by an unusual, almost diamond-shaped pane behind; while it looks odd, it is hugely beneficial and allows the driver to check over their shoulder with ease.

Dials on the dash are clearly laid out and highly visible, and the OmniExpress comes as standard with Scania’s Colour Plus display. It provides all manner of vehicle data including fuel consumption, along with generating various driver performance scores.

 Cab has everything to hand, and benefits from Scania's Colour Plus binnacle
Cab has everything to hand, and benefits from Scania’s Colour Plus binnacle

 

Performance

Even operating at its GVW, the OmniExpress as tested has a power-to-weight ratio of almost 23bhp/tonne, in excess of many other two-axle coaches.

That gives excellent performance while still delivering good fuel economy. In excess of 12mpg was returned over a varied 160 mile route, and AdBlue consumption was around five litres.

As previously reported, Opticruise works well. However, even in its normal shifting mode, it often holds gears a little longer when accelerating than an experienced driver may, and unless prompted manually via the dash stalk it very rarely allows the engine speed to drop to 1,000rpm, which is where peak torque begins.

Gears are selected via a rotary control on the right-hand stalk, and twisting the selector past the D position gives the power setting. A hill-hold is fitted, while clutch control is very good in both forward and reverse.

Cruise control buttons are on the steering wheel, although an on/off switch is separate. Also fitted is a downhill over-run control, which applies the retarder should a pre-set speed be exceeded when descending hills.

The retarder is also activated manually via the right-hand stalk, and is very powerful.

Road-holding, aided by the independent front suspension, is excellent, and the pedals have a good feel. Progress is made rapidly, with the coach remaining composed at all times.

The door – which is largely made up of glass – gives an excellent view to the nearside. Offside visibility, helped by the small window behind the driver’s shoulder, is just as good, and the two mirrors on this side of the coach adjust electrically in tandem – a useful inclusion. All of these make OmniExpress a pleasing coach to drive.

Test vehicle has 12.7-litre, 410bhp DC13 engine
Test vehicle has 12.7-litre, 410bhp DC13 engine

 

Verdict

The OmniExpress is not, as its name may suggest, a coach aimed at the scheduled service market. Instead it is a competent cruiser which comes with a high level of equipment as standard, plus the driver appeal which is a Scania trademark.

It is also proving a more popular buy than some may think. Scania Great Britain has registered around 200 in both two- and three-axle configuration since its introduction to the UK, and all of 2015’s order is now accounted for, says Martin, including the test coach.

“We have ordered a further batch for delivery from spring 2016, and the bonus with those is that they will be a limited edition variant, to a higher specification,” he adds.

“OmniExpress already comes with half-leather seats and independent front suspension, which help make it a good touring vehicle.

“On the limited edition coaches we will add a Bosch GPS system, side-adjustable seats and xenon headlights among others, and they will include our full suite of safety programmes: Emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.”

That’s good news for operators who may be in the market for a coach which has the Scania pedigree, a good specification and is keenly priced.

But even were Scania not to offer the limited edition models set for delivery next year, the OmniExpress would make a good buy for many tasks.

It is refined and fuel efficient, and benefits from the manufacturer’s extensive aftersales service, which can include a repair and maintenance contract.

It’s not the perfect coach; the step height up from the sunken gangway sees to that.

But based on the rest of its showing, the OmniExpress is sorely underrated by the market.

Facts and figures