Daimler is planning a relaunch in North America. The global Mercedes-Benz brand is now coming into play after years of sales of the Setra brand.
The relaunch will be successful thanks to the Mercedes-Benz Tourrider model – complete with a double offer for customers. “We noticed early on that our vehicles in the USA are very quickly associated with the Mercedes-Benz brand and the three-pointed star. For some time, many customers have even been attaching the star logo to their Setra coaches,” explains the Head of Daimler Buses Till Oberwördert.
Daimler is not taking any risks with design of the coach and is primarily basing the design on the European Tourismo. But the Tourrider will boast a completely new front. The stylized radiator grill is much more graceful and of higher quality than the Tourismo grill, and it also features a central, vertical light edge adopted from the recently launched Intouro. The result is overwhelmingly successful, especially as it had to succeed in balancing all customer requirements. The brand that tends to be responsible for standard coaches in Europe had to span the range from a down-to-earth conservative American workhorse to a sophisticated European luxury coach.
In addition to their long-established two-brand platform strategy, the product strategists based in Stuttgart and Neu-Ulm have been endeavoring for some years to use specific design and equipment modifications for one vehicle to service two or more completely different applications and customer requirements.
Stephan Handt, who has been responsible for the design of Daimler coaches since 2019, took responsibility for heading up a new “from scratch” vehicle project for the first time. Naturally in compliance with US regulations. “These legal issues are a matter of course for us, regardless of whether we are designing a coach for Europe or North America. Our creativity is especially called for here, and we enjoy taking on these challenges without regarding them as limitations,” explains Handt. What is striking is that the entry-level model, known as the Tourrider Business, comes across as being decidedly more American than its upper-class brother: front and rear dome lights, powerful bumpers, classic mirrors and the Basic Plus coach cockpit from the European Tourismo model. The interior is somewhat more minimalist with Travel Star Eco seats, which are built to be much more stable, as they have to withstand forces of up to 20 g in the USA. The design culminates at the rear with a black-clad cover panel with louver slats.
By contrast, the Tourrider Premium boasts integrated clear-glass LED headlights and typical, optionally chrome-plated ‘bug wing’ mirrors, emulating the well-known feature of the Tourismo. It also features a higher-quality Comfort Plus cockpit with stacks-and-cards digital display, comfortable Travel Star Xtra seats with Luxline upholstery, and the optional ten-meter-long Top Sky panorama glass roof, which is exclusively reserved for the Setra TopClass in Europe. Thanks to the level floor, a 2+1 seating arrangement and two wheelchair places are available in both models. A particularly innovative feature is the color-changing LED ambient lighting, which for the first time lights up on the ceiling as well as below the window sill, as it does in cars.
Both models offer a sturdy diagonally installed rear toilet, typical for the North American market, which was first featured like this in the Setra S 531 DT. Passengers are entertained by five 19-inch, 21.5-inch or even 23-inch screens (HD-quality for the first time). They can also choose from three different multimedia systems on board. Both coaches have a traditional length of 45 feet without their impact-absorbing bumpers (13.72 meters), with one door (optionally two) and rear folding side windows. The coach features a two-section windshield within a rubber enclosure. The stainless steel frame is designed to be ultra-stable and corrosion-resistant in the long term – an explicit customer request in the USA.
The powertrain from the discontinued Setra TopClass is largely unchanged. The world engine Mercedes OM 471 in EPA-10 quality, also known as the “Detroit Diesel DD13” with an impressive 13-liter cubic capacity, delivers 450 hp and a torque of 2,100 Nm, significantly less than the Setra Top engine in Europe (510 hp/2,500 Nm). It is coupled to a typical US Allison six-speed torque converter gearbox without noticeable power interruptions. The powerful propulsion without gear shifting generally makes up for the minimal loss of torque. The Tourrider also sits 20 millimeters lower on the road surface at between 59 and 80 miles an hour (up to around 120 km/h) – further improving its drag coefficient of 0.40.
The safety features range from Front Collision Guard (FCG), Attention Assist and Side Guard Assist to the ABA5 Emergency Braking System, installed for the first time in a coach bus, which also reacts to moving or stationary pedestrians. A new 360-degree all-round bird’s eye view with a 10-inch split screen on the left of the modern cockpit is guaranteed to be a popular feature. The Mercedes is thus set to become the ‘one-and-only safety coach’ in the States, especially as its US competitors have been slow to introduce modern assist systems from 2015 onwards.