BharatBenz Front-Engined Buses: Tech Specifications & Review
The Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) has already started rolling out buses from its plant in Chennai since last month, and has now announced that their sales will commence from next month onwards. BharatBenz, a fully-owned subsidiary of DICV, will be offering passenger vehicles of intermediate range (mid-premium, medium-size 9 tonne category) with front engine best suited for short distance travel targeting school, staff and tourist transportation.
These buses, jointly built by Daimler and Wrightbus (couch builder from Ireland), are the new entrants in the already expanding medium-sized passenger bus category. Indian brands like Tata Motors, Mahindra, Eicher, SML, Force Motors, and Ashok Leyland have long dominated this segment. BharatBenz, with its technical prowess derived from the mighty Daimler group, is keen on carving out a notable share from the sales pie with its new front-engined buses. With pricing yet to be announced, this post tries to sum-up the technical specifications, goodies and negatives of these brand new buses.
# Body and Cabin
As stated above, the BharatBenz buses will be offered in three variants – School Bus, Staff Bus, and Tourist Bus (with Air-Conditioning). All the three models are analogous in exterior design and share common mechanicals and engine technologies.
Thanks to the Fuso Fighter platform (of medium-duty trucks including BharatBenz 1617 range) that underpin these buses and the light weight ‘aluminique’ body structure, stability and handling is said to be superior due to a lower center of gravity of the vehicle. BharatBenz claims that the roll-over strength of the unique body structure is optimum.
However, the variants differ in their cabin features and seating layout to suit their respective utility. The school bus gets bench type (3 x 2 layout, 49+1) seats, while the premium Tourist version is fitted with individual push back (2 x 1 layout, 26+1) seats with armrests and bottle holder. The staff bus comes with 2 x 2 layout, 39+1 high head rest seats. The tourist bus comes with fixed window glass panels for AC efficiency.
# Comfort and Features
The buses are equipped with power steering with tiltable and adjustable function for comfortable driving position and a triple cone synchronizer rings in the gearbox for smooth gear shifts. The AC compressor in the Tourist bus is engine mounted and the cabin is better insulated to reduce engine noise, vibration and heat (for AC efficiency). This variant also bags individual, adjustable AC vents and reading lights for every seats, and optional features such as refrigerator, pantry and a microwave oven. However, the absence of GPS Navigation system and parking camera is a bit of let down.
# Safety Features
With an increased awareness on road and vehicular safety in the industry, CV makers show more interests in equipping their products with essential safety features. Anti-locking brake system (ABS) is one such development that is percolating into the passenger CV industry in a vibrant way.
All the three variants of BharatBenz buses come equipped with ABS as a standard fitment for optimum control in case of emergency braking. Electronic pressure sensors in brake chambers monitor required air pressure and minimize leakage. However, disc brakes, at least in front wheels, are discreetly absent in the tech-spec of these new buses. S-cam type drum brakes are used instead in all four wheels. A full-size emergency exit with retractable step is also common to all the variants. The rear and side window panels are breakable.
Additional safety features includes as individual seat belts, a fire extinguisher, and a first-aid kit. Optional features for all the variants include stop switches for alerting the driver, smoke detectors and a fire alarm.
# Engine and Transmission
BharatBenz buses are powered by 3.9-liter 4-cylinder, vertical in-line, inter-cooled, turbo-charged motor and is coupled with a 6-speed synchromesh manual gearbox (with overdrive function). It produces 140 hp of max power at 2500 rpm and 420 Nm of torque at 1500 rpm. This engine, codenamed 4D34i, is both BS III and BS IV compliant and is shared with BharatBenz 1617 range intermediate trucks. The fuel tank capacity is 160 litres.
# Axles and Suspension
The front axle of these buses are heavy-duty reverse elliot ‘I’ beam type, while the rear axles are of fully floating type. All the three bus variants share similar parabolic suspension at front and rear, with double-acting telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bars with stabilizers. The buses come fitted with 235/ 75 R 17.5 tubeless radial tyres.
# Competition / Rivals
While considering every other products that are currently on sale in the market covering school, staff and tourist transportation, the Tata Starbus Ultra range (previewed at 2015 BSVS) is both popular and competent enough to through up stiff competition with these new BharatBenz buses. Tata’s value-for-money approach and well-established dealer network make the Starbus a hot moving vehicle range in the segment. At the lower end of the spectrum, other desi products such as Mahindra Tourister, Force Traveller, SML, and the new Eicher Pro series endear buyers and fleet operators.
# N for Neutral
However, BharatBenz is a fast growing brand in the CV market and the company has already reached a notable sales milestone and market share, more so in the South Indian regions. With attractive pricing and dealer-network expansion, the company can reach new markets and fleet operators. With shared platform advantage and tested-technologies from Daimler, the brand has a clear head start with respect to the commercial vehicles in India.