With a focus on increasing luxury and the overall cost of operation as well as reliability and ride, MCI has made, or is in the process of completing, changes to both its J4500 and D-Series models and adding new options to the Setra S 417.
New 2014 Setra
Although it has been part of the North American motorcoach market for more than 25 years, the latest 2014 Setra S 417 model is attempting to bring its custom-tailored luxury, German engineering and European styling to the forefront for both U.S. and Canadian operators.
“European operators and passengers have long seen Daimler’s Setra as the most luxurious continental coach brand, offering even more style, amenities and customization than Daimler’s own Mercedes buses, both of which sit as sister brands under the EvoBus division of Daimler,” says Brent Maitland, VP, marketing and product planning. “What we want to do is bring the right type of features to benefit operators here in the U.S. and Canada.”
The new S 417 introduced earlier this year at the American Bus Association’s Marketplace and the United Motorcoach Association’s Expo at Travel Exchange feature a second-door option and high-end club corner seating; both new features to the North American market.
The availability of the two-door mid-mounted Setra S 417 gives operators fresh options for their upscale tour and charter business and includes a European-style lavatory.
The Setra S 417 can also be outfitted with such unique features as the TopSky glass roof, rear window, passenger electronics and an array of amenities. Setra designs its own seating and a range of interior and exterior features, with operators enjoying the opportunity to uniquely design, customize and collaborate on their operation’s vehicle.
“We view the Setra S 417 as the premier coach, and with it being in MCI’s stable, it is positioned at the very top,” says Maitland. “A Setra TopClass is clearly different with polished curb appeal and amazing interiors that can be tailored to meet customer preferences with millions of possible fabric, leather and trim combinations.”
MCI also markets the Setra S 407 as a premium value coach to meet the grueling demands of tour, charter and heavy-duty transportation applications while offering important commonality with the flagship 417 TopClass
Engineering, safety features
Although it is now part of the MCI family of vehicles, both Setra models are still designed and built in Neu-Ulm, Germany.
Setra’s integral, self-supporting structure provides a stellar platform for coach building, while its Mercedes BlueTec engine technology is both proven and popular, explains Maitland.
The Setra also includes several safety features, including a front collision guard behind the front bumper, which absorbs force in the case of a frontal impact and helps prevent front underrun.
Additionally, the S 417 features front cornering lights that come on with the turn signal, while automatic rain-sensor windshield wipers complete the suite of bad-weather safety features. A light sensor additionally turns on exterior lighting, enabling drivers to keep their eyes on the road. The cockpit is designed to keep other potential distractions to a minimum as well, from the steering wheel-mounted audio-video controls to the hands-free flexible boom microphone.
All six wheels on the S 417 have Knorr-Bremse disc brakes and the driver instrument panel monitors brake pad wear and replacement status.
Standard on all Setras are fire detection and tire-pressure monitoring systems, which use sensors to detect problems before safety is compromised. Additionally, the tire-pressure system helps operators optimize fuel economy through proper tire inflation.
Parts, service and support
In addition to Setra factory-trained technicians, MCI also has a dedicated Setra group in Service Parts to help fulfill Setra customers’ parts needs.
MCI also continues to boost its aftermarket support to Setra customers who have high expectations of the brand by leveraging all the resources, talents and strengths longtime MCI operators know well.
“A premium brand needs premium support,” adds Maitland. “We’re very fortunate to be able to tap the knowledge of former Setra employees who are now with MCI, and our strategy is to have a dedicated team focused on Setra from service to parts support.”
In November, MCI’s Technician Training division, led by Scott Crawford, held a weeklong Setra chassis workshop for MCI technicians at its Des Plaines, Ill., Service Center in hopes of solidifying product knowledge.
Additionally, MCI is also launching a more robust Setra website at www.setra-coaches.com, which includes a community blog designed especially for updates on Setra news.
Down the road, Maitland says MCI’s plan is to enhance the Setra brand and product roadmap, however, since bringing in new products is a very expensive and lengthy proposition, no new major product releases are imminent.
“We certainly need to keep advancing in terms of improvement and coach features,” he explains.
MCI model changes
Following a redesign to the exterior of the MCI J4500 in 2013, MCI engineers have gone under the hood for a substantive enhancement to the vehicle’s performance.
MCI will install the ZF axle system with Independent Front Suspension (IFS) and a Bendix braking system on its MCI J4500 in coming months, complementing a recently added MCI Dynamic Suspension System. MCI D-Series coaches will get similar treatment, but without the independent front-wheel suspension. These new systems promise a significantly tighter turning radius on the J4500, enhanced ride quality and easier serviceability.
“The ZF axle system, manufactured in the U.S., has been proven in many other coach and transit bus models around the world,” says Maitland. “The turning radius on the J4500 tightens from 45 feet, with rear axle suspension, to 40 feet, 11 inches. It also has a more efficient air system for faster rise times.”
Maitland says the system’s rise expediency is especially useful when a coach approaches steep inclines like those common in San Francisco.
The new Bendix ADB 22 X brake system, forthcoming on both the J4500 and D-Series coaches, offers excellent stopping distances. And yet, for drivers, its biggest benefit is pedal feel.
“Drivers will notice a more automotive-like brake feel,” Maitland explains.
The coach will feature another important Bendix system, Wingman, which includes adaptive cruise control that detects a coach’s position behind other vehicles and automatically reduces the throttle or applies the brakes to maintain a set following distance. In combination, these system improvements contribute payload gains of approximately 700 pounds, according to MCI.
Lowering cost of operations
MCI’s desire to lower its coaches’ cost of operation pushed the changes. Operators should see reduced tire wear because of the standard passive rear-steer tag and automatic tag axle. They will also likely see savings because the overall system has fewer parts.
Serviceability is enhanced in many ways, such as allowing operators to replace bearings rather than the entire hub and the use of a common brake rotor part rather than two parts.
MCI engineers began the system change project several years ago, when they were looking for a way to introduce more commonality in parts and components while improving the company’s models overall.
“Our major focus was on performance,” says Maitland. “We have selected the systems that are proven within our own industry on a global scale and adapted them with our engineering expertise. ZF has over 20 years of experience in this arena.”
To test the systems on its J4500 coach, MCI used the Bosch testing track, where an independent team simulated nearly one million miles. MCI has several pilot coaches featuring the ZF and Bendix systems in field tests with operators across the country in heavy-duty applications where cold weather, dust and long distances all come into play.
“Feedback is very good,” Maitland says.
Operators will get the chance to test-ride the J4500 during the MCI Reliability Rally held at race tracks and stadiums around the country. To view a complete schedule, visit www.mcicoach.com.