Eicher Skyline Pro 3009 L Staff Bus – Test Drive Report
Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles (VECV) has been going the distance in making its top-of-the-line ‘Skyline Pro’ premium midi buses meet industry-defining standards and expectations of the buyers in the domestic market. I took the brand’s latest 3009 L premium staff bus facelift for a quick spin to figure out whether the bus possesses that prospective ‘something’ that buyers are attracted to.
Seems as though charter bus fleets and business enterprises are more willing to invest on fully-built premium and mid-premium buses these days for their customers and staff passengers. We see bus manufacturers upping the ante in bringing ritzy products in all sub-segments, more so in the midibus category. It is bound to happen, as bus operators are looking for that certain ‘something’ to lure them and manufacturers are exploring everything with their products to decode what are they actually looking for.
Take for instance the new Eicher Skyline Pro series facelift. Eicher Trucks and Buses, an arm of VECV, considers that styling and looks are part of that ‘something’ corporate buyers and staff transportation operators are attracted to. The company has refreshed its styling over three times since its introduction, and the buses look impressive in their present avatar. The styling revisions include sleek integrated headlamps and revamped radiator grille enclosure up front, which now holds the brand name and logo in a presumptuous manner.
Large windshield and the opposing-arm wipers, together with mid-section and swayed bumper housing fog lamps, renders a simple-yet-elegant frontal styling to the bus. Over the side, the Skyline Pro’s peculiar trait is its glossy and lengthier appeal, especially with sealed glass window panes. While on the rear, the bus is made to look much bigger than it actually is, thanks to the high-held quadrilateral windshield and triple taillights. The ‘Skyline Pro’ 3D lettering is all sides except the front.
On the Inside
Not just exterior styling, Eicher is also mindful that uncluttered and ergonomically-designed interiors are admired by buyers. Enter into the 3009 L through pneumatically-operated ‘jack-knife’ door, the driver cockpit area looks orderly and gives a sense of roomy feeling. For instance, the embarking and stepping out of the bus remain very easy owing to spacious steps, thanks to a condensed arrangement of the dashboard and engine hood. In the saloon too, the aisle and gangways are adequate, even though the bus offers three extra seats as against that of its close rivals with 5.2-metre wheelbase.
In fact, the Skyline Pro 3009 L qualifies to be an ‘LPO’ bus, as the sheer extent of its front and rear overhangs is simply impressive. This gives a much ‘lengthier’ impression outside, while translating to a 8,752 metre saloon length on the inside, resulting in better space and additional number of seats than rival buses. As far as seating comfort is concerned, the high headrest seats are comfortable enough legroom, while the option of push-back seats comes integrated with USB-charging ports, seat belts, and collapsible armrests.
For better passenger utility, modular hatracks on either side feature dedicated air-con vents and reading lamps for each passenger, while integrated LED lamp strip offer good illumination inside. The bus we were given for the purpose of this review featured side-sliding windows instead of sealed panes despite being equipped with air-conditioning, although we were told that this isn’t the standard configuration. All essential safety features are in place, including a rear emergency door, Fire Detection and Alarm System (FDAS), fire extinguisher, and stop request switches. The 3009 L is also roll-over test certified and complies to AIS 153, AIS 0123 and AIS 063 standards.
Moving on, Eicher has given considerable attention on easing-out things for the driver. While trying to hop on to the driver seat, the full-length driver door offers great ease of access. The three-way adjustable driver seat is fairly large and offers enough thigh support. The chunky steering wheel is tilt and telescopic adjustable, while the gear stick is quite handy and well within reach. Generous windshield visibility and protruding side mirrors alleviate a good deal of blind spots. The instrumentation cluster is easy to read, although the driver info screen and various alert indications might take some used to.
Once ignited, the engine cranks instantly and settles for the idling rpm. There is some engine noise, but that’s quite normal in a front-mounted engine. The gear shift pattern is slightly odd, with an up-and-over path between first and second gears (Dog leg ‘6RUL’ pattern), but rowing gears is easy and doesn’t require much effort. The engine is very responsive, especially once past the initial lag in lower rpm, and offers adequate feedback even in 4rd and 5th gears. It is fairly easy to pick up speeds, but at higher gears, acceleration may demand few downshifts. It is very clear the engine is tuned for optimum fuel efficiency. But, there is a balanced delivery of power and torque as and when demanded, do remember that the engine is aided by Volvo Group’s Engine Management System (EMS 3.0)!
Two class-defining features help driving the Skyline Pro 3009 L to its utmost frugality. The ‘MBooster +’ technology offers three driving modes – Eco, Eco +, and Power – for the driver to choose depending on passenger occupancy and terrain conditions. The other tech is the real-time ‘Fuel Coaching’ guidance for the driver, in pursuit of healthy and frugal driving. The gestures in the instrumentation tell you when to shift up or down, the system even tells whether the way you accelerate between gears is appreciable or not. Say, for instance, the time when I stamped on the gas to the fullest at a higher gear at lower speeds, the system shows a big ‘thumbs down’. Once the driver understands these two features to the fullest, he can set himself to a sensible driving.
The steering is light, but the good amount of control and road feel it offers at higher speeds is quite impressive. Handling at corners and sudden braking at speeds as high as 60 kmph gives a great sense of control over the vehicle. The ride was bit stiff, as there were just a few passengers on board, but I’m sure passengers wouldn’t have too much to complain about it. On the whole, this Skyline Pro’s manners were pleasant and smooth, and the bus greatly impressed me with its ease of driving. I think, this feel-good factor is also a big part of that ‘something’ we are trying to decode.
The midibus is perhaps the most-trendsetting bus segment in the Indian market right now. With Eicher greatly improving the Skyline Pro staff bus on performance and comfort delivery and value-adding with premium equipment, the 3009 L is perhaps the class-leading bus in the midibus segment meant for staff transportation. And, it seems to have struck all the right cords in luring the buyers in this space. Its popularity says it all, the Skyline Pro has already gone great guns in the market, and with the new 3009 L, the series is likely to get stronger than ever!
|SPEC FOCUS – EICHER SKYLINE PRO 3009 L STAFF BUS (10.4-metre Midibus)|
|Engine and Performance||E494 4V CRS 3.8-litre Diesel with EGR (BS IV) Max Power: 101 kW (135 HP) @ 2,400 rpm Max Torque: 450 Nm @ 1400 1800 rpm|
|Transmission||ET40S6 6-Speed Synchromesh gearbox with Overdrive|
|Clutch||330 mm dia with Clutch Boosters|
|Brakes||Dual Circuit ‘S’ Cam Full Air Brakes|
|Suspension||Front: Parabolic Leaf with anti-roll bar Rear: Parabolic Leaf – 4 nos.|
|Dimensions in metres (L x B x H)||10.4 x 2.34 x 3.11|
|Front Overhang (mm)||2,009|
|Rear Overhang (mm)||3,134 (60 %)|
|Ground Clearance (mm)||165|
|Turning Circle Diameter (m)||18.5|
|Seating Capacity||44+D High Headrest Seats (2×2) 40+D Push back Seats (2×2)|
|Tyres||235/75R17.5 14PR Tubeless|
|Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres)||160|
*An edited version of this article was first published in the October 2019 edition of MotorIndia Magazine.