With the Mercedes-Benz Tourrider, Daimler Coaches North America is looking to introduce a new standard of luxury to the North American motorcoach market.
The Tourrider, available in Business and Premium variants, is the company’s first motorcoach to be purpose-built for North America. Measuring 45 feet, the vehicle is available in two variants: Tourrider Business and Tourrider Premium. While both variants feature numerous aspects, the company describes the Tourrider Business as akin to “business class,” while the Tourrider Premium is better classified as “first class.”
The bus is manufactured in Turkey, manufactured at a facility in Hosdere where Daimler built an extension solely for the production of the Tourrider.
The vehicle is optimized for drivers and passengers, beginning with its signature Mercedes-Benz exterior. The bus is built on a stainless-steel frame, and its chrome-framed grill features the iconic Mercedes star. The black, V-shaped cover panel stretches back to the rear, where the trapezoidal rear window also features the integrated star.
The coach sports an aerodynamic shape intended to reduce fuel consumption, bringing added value to a North America market that continues to place high value on fuel efficiency and environmental impact.
The bus is powered by the inline six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz OM 471, and an Allison WTB 500R torque converter automatic transmission.
Daimler said that the Mercedes-Benz Tourrider’s cockpit is inspired by the company’s experience in luxury automobiles. With ergonomics and comfort in mind, the spacious driver’s area has an intelligent design that allows for easy access to the vehicle’s instrumentation and many safety features.
The Tourrider Business variant features the Cockpit Basic Plus, and the Tourrider Premium sports the Cockpit Comfort Plus. The dash allows for the driver to control many functions of the bus, from activating the electronic parking brake, to remotely locking the luggage compartment, to adjusting the cabin’s ambient lighting.
Entering the passengers’ area, the Tourrider sets a high standard for comfort in tourist or long-haul transportation. Optional LED ambient lighting sets the mood with 12 available colors, installed below the windows and below the overhead luggage racks. Acoustic insulation gives the coach a quieter ride than one would expect, allowing for best-in-class comfort.
The Tourrider Premium features an additional 2.36 inches of height, allowing for easy movement throughout the cabin.
The coach seats up to 60 passengers, and has the option to create space for two wheelchairs. The Tourrider is fully ADA compliant featuring a wheelchair lift by BraunAbility. The lift system can be remotely controlled by the driver, allowing for a quick and seamless boarding process for all passengers. When not in use, the wheelchair lift is tucked away above the drive axle, allowing for a maximization of space in the luggage compartment.
The Tourrider Business features Mercedes-Benz Travel Star Eco seats, while the Tourrider Premium is equipped with the luxury-style Travel Star Xtra seats with Luxline upholstery. As one of the leading seat manufacturers in Europe, Daimler was uniquely qualified to outfit the Tourrider models with top-of-the-line seating and comfort amenities. Passenger options include twin USB sockets and/or 110-volt sockets for charging.
The front of the coach can feature an optional built-in refrigerator for drinks and snacks, as well as a securely locked safe for paperwork and valuables.
First Class in Safety
In line with Daimler’s philosophy of designing above and beyond expectations, the Tourrider Business and Premium are equipped with a bevy of state of the art, high-tech safety features. Many of these features exist in some form in the North American market, and Daimler said the Tourrider takes them all a step further.
The Tourrider sports many safety features, including detection of pedestrians and cyclists whom the driver cannot see.
Perhaps the most striking is Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA 5), which provides automatic emergency braking in the event of an imminent collision, whether with an object or pedestrian. The system reacts immediately to pedestrians, whether or not the driver can see them. The ABA 5 system fuses radars and camera in order to react to potential collisions, whether at the front of the coach or because of other people/vehicles crossing into the coach’s lane. Furthermore, the system is always running.
Sideguard Assist, a radar-powered safety system , assists the driver in turning, cornering, and changing lanes on the coach’s curb side. The driver receives a yellow alert that provides information about moving people or vehicles beside and over the entire length of the coach. The system provides a red-alert warning, both on the dash and on the curbside mirror, if the situation becomes critical. At highway speeds, the system will alert the driver if there is a vehicle beside them or up to 50-feet behind them in the curb side lane.
The Tourrider also features a 360° camera system. The system, comprised of four cameras capturing the coach’s immediate surroundings (including all pedestrians and cyclists), feeds images directly to a 10-inch screen in the driver’s cockpit. The driver can cycle through five different views with the touch of a button, allowing them to see pedestrians and objects that would otherwise be invisible from the cockpit.
The “eyes” of the Tourrider also provide a major safety upgrade. The high beam assistant automatically switches high beams on or off depending on traffic, increasing driving comfort and safety by adapting to the brightness of the coach’s surroundings. Similarly, the rain-light sensor automatically detects rainy conditions and allows for individually adjustable and automated wiping.
Along with these features, the Tourrider is equipped with an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), BAS (or Brake Assist), and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Test-Driving the Tourrider
BUSRide met Gerold Autengruber, regional sales manager for Daimler Coaches North America, at a maintenance facility in Phoenix, Arizona, for the Road Test of the Mercedes-Benz Tourrider Premium. We enlisted the help of John Gustafson, veteran driver for VIA Trailways, to test drive the bus in and around the Phoenix area.
VIA Trailways, a family-owned business, has operated since 1982. VIA provides transportation for domestic and international tour groups, destination management companies, travel agencies, resorts/hotels, educational institutions, and other community organizations in the regions of Merced, Fresno (California), and Tempe (Arizona).
Gustafson has been driving buses since 1995 and has been driving for VIA Trailways for 25 years. He got his start in the industry as a ticket agent at the Greyhound terminal in Flagstaff, Arizona, then transitioned to being a driver tour guide for the Grand Canyon. When he moved to Phoenix in 1998, he started driving for VIA. Since then, he has safely transported hundreds of charter groups, tours, student athletes, and others to and from their destinations.
Gustafson pulled the Tourrider slowly out of the facility’s parking lot, being careful to maneuver around the other parked buses and vehicles. Pulling out of the lot onto Phoenix’s 19th Avenue, he began making his way toward the I-10 West – the closest interstate.
The dash allows for the driver to control many functions of the bus, from activating the electronic parking brake, to remotely locking the luggage compartment, to adjusting the cabin’s ambient lighting.
His first observations, naturally, were about the cockpit. He said the instrument layout was a bit different than the coaches he usually drives, but commented that he liked the “automotive” design. He similarly praised the raised buttons and switches, commenting that everything a driver needs is within easy reach.
He noted that the vehicle’s panoramic windshield and optional four front mirrors provided more visibility than he had previously seen in a motorcoach.
“Having more visibility in a motorcoach is always a good thing,” he said. “I also like that the camera screen is positioned at the A-pillar, because it doesn’t reduce the visibility.”
When Gustafson activated the left turn signal, he was happily surprised to see the 10-inch screen display a full camera view of the Tourrider’s left side.
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that – but it’s really nice,” he said. “This seems to me a way to prevent hidden cars or blind spots.”
Autengruber pointed out that the right side of the vehicle is also protected by the radar-powered Sideguard Assist.
“If you turn the wheel, the Sideguard Assist will realize if your circle is too tight and quickly warns the driver,” he said.
The Tourrider is fully ADA compliant featuring a wheelchair lift by BraunAbility.
As we approached the highway, and no vehicles were nearby, Gustafson tested out the Tourrider’s brake sensitivity and brake-to-stop distance. He executed a series of quick stops, simulating what he would do in an emergency braking situation. The coach moved quickly to a standstill, with minimal jostling of the passengers onboard.
“That’s a nice, smooth, and quick stop,” he said. “I noticed that the dashboard keeps a real-time measurement of the distance between the bus and the closest vehicle.”
The distance between vehicles is marked in yards and, if the coach gets too close, the driver’s seat will vibrate. If the driver does not react, the Tourrider starts to brake automatically.
The driver was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the Tourrider’s braking includes a retarder, noting that he had not driven a motorcoach with a retarder in almost 15 years.
Gustafson pulled the Tourrider onto the interstate and began heading west, before switching to the 303-North and heading out of Phoenix. A popular, scenic route for tourists, the 303 brought the bus out of Phoenix, through and past the communities of Surprise and Peoria.
“The ‘get up and go’ on this coach is very good,” Gustafson said. “It accelerates quite nicely and smooth, and the transmission seems to shift very, very smoothly.”
To bring the coach back to facility, Gustafson navigated off the 303 and into the Sonoran Preserve, a 9,600 desert preserve in the north of Phoenix. It was a very windy day in the Phoenix area, and Gustafson noted that the Tourrider’s design largely negated the crosswinds’ drag.
“The bus is getting hit with major gusts, but you hardly feel it,” he said. “There also isn’t much rattling or noise as we pick up speed, which would be nice for the customers.
Pulling back into the lot near downtown Phoenix, Gustafson was effusive in his assessment of the coach.
“This is certainly a great vehicle – and one that I’d like to drive again, honestly,” he said.
“This coach represents a major investment in the North American market,” Autengruber said. “We are confident that once more drivers can get behind the wheel of the Tourrider, they will quickly see how a full range of active and passive safety systems can help them arrive safely – no matter where they are going.”