SML Isuzu has been around on Indian roads for a few decades now, and has built a reputation as reliable and cost effective workhorses best-suited for rigorous commercial operations. Recently, we got a taste of its flagship products – the `Executive´ range of premium coaches – that has given a whole new image to SML in the market.
Remember 1989 Hollywood movie `Field of Dreams´, in which Kevin Costner gets a spark in his mind while on a dream one night – “build it and they will come”? In a similar vein, SML sat down at the drawing board to design and build the `Executive´ range of buses that are aimed at the premium side of the travel and tour segment. If you are a 1990s born kid or younger, you must have been commuted to and fro to school or college in an SML bus by default! It is perhaps best known in the entry-level medium-size bus market in India that are mundane, while all the exclusivity and customization took place at the company´s body-building partners´ end. But, here are the `Executive´ travel buses right from the OEM´s anvil, and in doing so it has attracted a whole new clientele, now catering even to the selective tastes of various travel operators across the country.
Design and Styling
Built on the updated popular S7 platform that underpins SML´s quintessential school and staff buses, the Executive range consists of two models – the 6-metre (5,875mm) coach and the 8.3-metre `LX´ variant. Dressed in stylish garb like some American RVs, both the coaches make bold statements on the first sight. The 6m version, in particular, looks stunning and peppy, thanks to the dominating streaky twin-beam headlamp design and large windshield panel flanked by swayed side glass panels. In fact, the panoramic side glasses are the design USP of the coaches, they offer enhanced outside view for the seats – makes much sense for tours and sightseeing. Their side profiles are defined by flamboyant wheel arches and nicely proportioned silhouette, breaking away from the boxy impression of the past. The rear, on the other hand, boasts high-held rear windshield and prominent tail lamp assemblies that are smoked inside as the head lamps.
Inside the Cabin
When you enter the cabin through the pneumatically-operated automatic door, you are greeted with impressive levels of fit and finish. The fully reclining captain seats in 2×1 arrangement in both the models are top-notch. They offer individual arm rests and soothing thigh and lumber support, while the legroom and aisle are quite encompassing. There are mobile charging port for every seat, along with airplane-inspired over-head reading lights and adjustable AC vents. The hat-rack is spacious enough for hand baggage, also built into them are enclosures for first-aid kit, fire-extinguisher, and speakers. Moving ahead to the driver´s workspace, the dashboard looks tidy and utilitarian, although a bit mundane and familiar. The driver does get all the amenities as the passengers, except the glimpse of the 19-inch roof-mounted, foldable LCD screen plugged to a 2-DIN entertainment system for onboard AV show.
The 6m coach with a wheelbase of 2,815mm can seat up to 13 passengers with standard fully-reclining seats, excluding driver. The LX variant can accommodate 19 passengers in 2×1 layout, while can also choose semi-reclining seats for 28 passengers. It measures 8,291mm long, 2,262mm wide, and 3,060mm high, with a wheel base of 4,240mm. Both the coaches offer impressive boot space at the rear, the hatch door offers wider accessibility.
Jumping behind the wheel, all the driving paraphernalia are handy and easy to use. The 3-spoke power steering, though odd-looking, is great to hold and responsive at speeds. The gear-shifter is conveniently placed and is easy to row, while the instrumentation dials are easy to read. Power is sourced from SML´s 3.5-litre in-line `SL T3´ common-rail diesel engine (BS IV and CNG compliant) that is coupled to a turbocharger and inter-cooler. It generates 100 PS (75kW) of max power at 2,800 rpm and 310 Nm of torque around 1,500 rpm.
Turn on the starter, the cranking noise comes to a quick impasse and there is hardly any clattering thereafter. The cabin is impressively insolated for lower NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness) levels, very less heat and engine noise filters in even when the AC is turned-off. The ride quality is much-improved and pliant than any of SML buses so far, thanks to combinations of hydraulic shock absorbers and parabolic leaf spring suspension system depending on the variant. The coaches are certainly `sleep-friendly´ for passengers!
In terms of safety, the Executive buses are equipped with dual circuit vacuum-assisted pneumatic service brakes, with auto-slack adjusters. The braking system is assisted by Anti-Locking Brake (ABS) technology to prevent wheels from locking at hard braking, thereby ensuring stability even on slippery surfaces. Exhaust brake is provided too. On the inside, the 6m coach features an exclusive emergency door on the driver´s side right behind his seating enclosure. A resistless alarm blows off if that door is opened, would never stop until it is locked back! The LX bus, on the other hand, boasts the emergency door at the rear, along with hammers to break-open the side glass at the time of adversity. The buses do meet the stringent AIS 052 bus body code.
On the whole, the Executive range rightly sums up the brand´s slogan “Towards New Horizons”. These coaches are leap-ahead in terms of the company´s build-quality, design, comfort levels and safety. It is eye-ball grabbing, but there is more than that meets the eye – thoughtfully conceived cabin features, comfortable seating, interior space, and a fool-proof cabin. But that´s not all. The refinement and reliability of the engine are far superior, while improved fuel efficiency is also assured. The coaches throws a strong value proposition for private travel operators, along with customization options from SML to suit buyer´s unique needs. So, “the buck definitely stops with the `Executive´, marks a new beginning”!
SML Isuzu Executive 6-metre (13 seater) – Image Gallery
SML Isuzu Executive 6-metre (19/ 28 seater) – Image Gallery
*An edited version of this article has been published in the October 2017 issue of MotorIndia Magazine.