The Iveco Eurorider/Marcopolo Audace is a new school-charter coach combination
If only all tourist destinations could be as coach-friendly as this one.
The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel – on a cliff top overlooking the Megalong Valley at Medlow Bath in New South Wales – knows how to look after its coach tourists and drivers.
Integral to the recent $30 million redevelopment of the famous old Hydro has been consideration for coaches.
For a start, the drop-off point is a very large turning circle outside the pavilion main entrance of a complex which is built in varying architectural styles and stretches for more than a kilometre. An old garden bed in the middle of the turning area has been removed to make manoeuvring easier.
Then there are at least five coach parking spaces in the nearby car park, with much more space available outside the main gate if necessary.
Visitors can disembark safely and enjoy a history tour followed by lunch, a 1920s-style high tea or an oriental high tea.
The new Iveco/Marcopolo Audace school-charter coach is targeted at just this sort of day trip, for anyone from the blue-rinse set to overseas tourists to school kids on excursion checking out a rich tourism history dating back well over a century.
Mind you, the younger kids might have to be shielded from some of the early 20th century high-life stories.
“The Hydro was a hideaway for the big bosses to cheat on their wives with their secretaries,” says Ralf Bruegger, general manager of the Escarpment Group of properties, which owns the Hydro.
Getting down to the nuts and bolts of this bus, the Iveco Eurorider 4×2 chassis has an 8 litre Cursor engine putting out 330 horsepower (243kW) and 1500Nm of torque.
The Cursor is matched to a six speed fully automatic ZF gearbox, and it’s all put together in a factory in France. The two fuel tanks add up to 500 litres, and the AdBlue tank holds 60 litres.
The chassis is then shipped to China where the Brazilian designed and engineered Audace body (pronounced “Ordarsi”) is built.
Framing is triple-treated tubular galvanised steel, with aluminium side panels and fibreglass front, rear and roof.
Brazil-based Marcopolo is one of the oldest and biggest bus and coach body builders in the world, and owns Australia’s Volgren.
Its Audace body is 12.3 metres long; has 57 non-reclining Marcopolo seats; and the reversing camera is supplemented by radar-controlled parking sensors as standard, which we can imagine being particularly handy at night.
The system emits a beeping sound which gets more frequent as you back closer to something behind you. We didn’t try to find out what sound it makes when you actually hit something.
But we did take the bus for a good run from the Iveco dealership at Arndell Park in Sydney’s west, along the M4 Motorway and then up to nearly the top of the Blue Mountains.
That was on the optional alloy wheels, with steel being the standard for this chassis.
What I was most impressed with in this Iveco/Audace is the grunt from the 8 litre engine, which is relatively small for a coach.
It wasn’t too often that we had to drop below the maximum speed limit of 80 km/h through the Mountains. Up the steep Lapstone Hill at the bottom, we didn’t get below 65 km/h.
At the same time, at 100 km/h on the freeway the engine was only sitting on 1400rpm. Iveco says operators on school run can expect fuel consumption in the low 30s in terms of litres per 100 kilometres.
The ride is very good. A very comfortable Isri suspension seat helps, but the Iveco chassis has ZF independent front suspension which no doubt plays a significant role.
On the rear ZF axle are four airbags, four dual-effect shockies, an anti-roll bar and levelling valves.
There is also a “parallelogram-shaped section for fixing the axle to the chassis, with two lower longitudinally-positioned reaction bars and two upper reaction bars in a ‘V’ configuration” – not sure what that all means but it sounds pretty good.
The six stage ZF hydraulic transmission retarder, manually operated by a wand to the right of the steering wheel, is so strong that you basically don’t have to use the brakes.
Associated with that, this bus has downhill cruise control, so that when you are going downhill the retarder will automatically kick in to keep you at your speed limit.
But if you don’t want to go over by a couple of kilometres an hour, you need to set it at a couple of kilometres an hour less than the desired speed, because there is a slight lag between the system realising you have reached that speed and starting to slow the coach down. It’s the same in other downhill cruise control systems.
The DCC nicely kept us at the 60 km/h truck and bus speed limit going down Lapstone Hill on the return leg.
The cruise control itself is the easiest to operate that I’ve ever experienced in a bus or truck. All you do is press a button at the end of the transmission retarder wand and away you go. If you want to go faster you press it again, if you want to go slower you press the bottom part of the button. If you want to drop out of cruise control altogether, you just pull down slightly on the retarder wand.
Another positive of the cruise control is that it can be set well below that needed for 40 km/h school zones.
The Iveco has disc brakes and EBS – electronic braking system – which is of course increasingly common these days. However the EBS doesn’t include electronic stability control (ESC) as standard, reflecting what Iveco says is low consumer demand for the proven safety technology.
However Iveco says the 2016 batch of these coaches will have ESC as standard, which can only be a good thing. In the meantime, you can order stability control as an option.
Down the back of the coach, engine and retarder noise levels are pretty good.
Bells and whistles include a new multiplex system; front and rear fog lamps; mirror demisters and a front TV monitor with the option of a second.
It might seem like a minor thing, but Marcopolo claims an industry-leading owner’s manual for the body.
And if anything does go wrong that the operator can’t fix themselves, this unit has backup service and support from both the national Volgren and Iveco networks in Australia.
NOT SO GOOD THINGS
There are limited options available with this coach. But if you’re only wanting to pay $305,000 plus GST, which is of course an extremely competitive price, you can’t have everything.
The most obvious thing that’s lacking in my book is no factory option of a side spotter mirror. On the other hand, there are plenty of operators who don’t like spotters; and if you’re particularly keen you can always buy a couple of small ones down at Repco and stick them on yourself.
The non-reclining APM seats are okay but your backside tends to want to slide forward in them a little. There’s not the leg space you would want if you’re on a touring coach either.
So as a passenger a couple of hours would be long enough in this coach, but in any case it’s not going to be doing line-haul from capital city to capital city.
Befitting of one of its main intended purposes, there is one other seat option – the McConnell Educator 2/3 school model.
I had a few other minor quibbles with this coach, beginning with a bit of wind noise somewhere in the front right hand corner – perhaps from the outside drainage channel.
The speedo is rather distractingly to the left as you look through the steering wheel, with small numerals, and an inside band of numerals in miles per hour which we obviously don’t need in Australia. There is a digital display in the middle of the dash, but annoyingly it doesn’t include a speed option.
There’s some diff whine up the back, but Iveco says it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
MAKE/MODEL: Iveco Eurorider/Marcopolo Audace
ENGINE: 8 litre Cursor
OUTPUTS: 330hp (243kW); 1500Nm
EMISSIONS CONTROL: Selective catalytic reduction
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed ZF automatic
SEATS: 57 Marcopolo non-reclining
STATS: 12.3m long; GVM 19t
AIR CONDITIONING: Aerosphere 355
PRICE: $305,000 plus GST
+ Gutsy engine for its size
+ Parking sensors; downhill cruise control
+ Price and support
– Limited options
– Stability control only an option
– Short-range seats
Video: Barry Ashenhurst