12 metre, 8
litre BS IV
11 litre BS IV
330 BS IV CRDI
Volvo D 11C
synchromesh manual, with inbuilt hydrodynamic retarder
i-shift 12 speed AMT, with built-in hydrodynamic retarder
No. of cylinders
12 X 3.6 X
14.5 X 3.6
Gross vehicle weight
ESP and hiss start aid
No. of doors
door 1 at front LHS with RHS emergency exit door
Remember the days of yore when bus rides were a trip to hell
in India? While we blamed potholed roads for those uncomfortable back breaking
journeys, we never really blamed the obsolete technology that went with the
buses of those days. Nobody really knew that buses in India were built on truck
chassis, with engines mounted in the front, with both sound and fury and smoke
and heat, all dissipating within the passenger cabin, sending many of the
passengers into bouts of nausea and sickness.
All that changed when Swedish truck and bus maker Volvo came
into India at the turn of the 21st century. People in India then
realised that travelling in a bus meant a journey to heaven. For the first time
Indian bus rides were undertaken in buses built on bus chassis which gave as
much comfort as travelling in your favourite sedans. Not only passengers were
happy with their rides, but drivers too were pleasantly surprised with the ease
at which the buses handled and the incredible steering response generated while
driving the buses.
Thus, when Volvo Buses invited us to drive two of their
mammoth luxury coaches that were launched recently, we readily agreed. The test
was conducted at a track within their plant in Hoskote in Karnataka.
I drove the 12 metre 8 litre vehicle first. The engine was
mated to a 6 speed synchromesh manual transmission. Except for getting used to
its size, there was almost nothing that was different from an ordinary sedan.
It offered power steering, adjustable steering wheel, and a whole host of
controls that aided driving and braking well. All one had to get used to was
how to corner the vehicle, which ultimately proved easy thanks to those massive
outside rear view mirrors. Driving on a straight road was as easy as pedalling
a bicycle in a park. The same went for the 14.5 metre bus which was powered by
an 11 litre diesel engine. This engine was mated to an I-shift 12 speed
automatic transmission. And driving an automatic bus was as effortless and
easy. Here one had to be a tad more careful because of its massive length. But
power steering coupled with features like hill start aid, EBS and ESP, it
matched the ease provided by a sedan.
After driving a couple of times around the track, I certainly felt as
though I have been driving buses all my life.
To prove that the company is ahead of the curve in terms of
technology, one must keep in mind that the engines powering these buses are
Euro V emission ready and these are built in India along with Euro VI engines
at the VECV Pithampur plant and exported to the outside world. Since India does
not have norms for Euro V engines, these very same engines are being certified
for BS IV norms!
While driving these luxury coaches was rather effortless, it
was the interiors which offered a slew of comfort features. Reclining and
cushioned seats offer top notch seating comfort for the passengers. Features
like your own charging points next to your seats for your mobiles and other gizmos
come quite handy in long distance travelling. The 14.5 metre bus even has a
small chemical toilet for passengers. I particularly did not like its location
as it was built somewhere in the middle of the bus. This could inconvenience
passengers seated close to the toilet. Ideally this should have been situated
at the rear of the bus, away from where the passengers were seated.
The long bus also has a small pantry area with a coffee
maker attached. Long journey in such a bus would definitely be a treat. But what
makes these new Volvo buses a lot more endearing is that fact they are very
safe. From the luggage area to the engine compartments, Volvo has fitted
sensors that can detect fire, smoke and rising temperatures. In case of fire or
smoke, fire extinguishers get activated, preventing any mishap. Volvo has also
ensured several escape routes for passengers in case of any kind of mishap, by providing hammers,
foldable ladders etc. Many of its large window panes comes with emergency
buttons which when pressed during crisis can shatter the tempered glass,
ensuring that you can escape through these large windows.
There is no denying the fact that Volvo has established a
benchmark in the bus segment in terms of quality, safety, passenger comfort, features
and driving ease, ever since they have started doing business in India. With
the introduction of these two new buses, the 14.5 metre one and the 12 metre
one, Volvo Buses benchmark has gone a notch higher. As for my overall
experience with these two mammoth vehicles from Volvo Buses, I must admit I had
a whale of time!
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