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December 19 2018
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.


DAF makes midi debut with Noone Turas 900s

Brian Noone extended its Turas 900 range with the addition of the DAF LF chassis recently. It will be available at two GVWs and with up to 37 seats, all with a high standard specification. Is it a contender?

Noone Turas 900s prototype is built on a 10,000kg GVW DAF LF chassis

With the DAF LF-based Turas 900s, Brian Noone is offering an alternative to the front-engined midicoach status quo. The new product complements the existing and popular Turas 900 range of Mercedes-Benz Atego-based models.

From a passenger’s perspective, there is no obvious difference between the two chassis. The Turas body offers the same high standard specification and extensive option list regardless of which underframe is used.

Both Noone and its British representative Midlands Bus and Coach Sales (MBCS) expect the LF to record similar figures the Atego on volumes - and on fuel consumption. If the latter proves to be the case, 18mpg or more may be achievable in real-life usage.

“We already see the LF as a popular product with operators. DAF engines are established in the large coach market and customers tell us that they perform well. Extending the Turas 900 range to encompass the LF was a natural progression,” says Sales Director Mark Noone.

“From a technical aspect, the Mercedes-Benz and DAF chassis are very similar, but there are also a number of differences. Everything we can do on the Atego, we can do on the LF.”

The first Turas 900s is built on a 10,000kg GVW LF chassis. At that weight, a maximum of 33 seats plus courier is possible. In 2019, a 12,000kg GVW variant will be added; it will be slightly longer and it will carry up to 37 passengers and a courier. routeone was able to drive the prototype Turas 900s in Ireland recently prior to it coming to Britain for customer demonstration.

Build

At 10,000kg GVW, the length of the Turas 900s is 9.17m. It is 2.40m wide and 3.20m high; a 185-litre diesel tank is fitted along with a 25 litres of AdBlue storage. The 12,000kg GVW model will be 9.59m long and carry 50 litres of AdBlue. The LF chassis is built by DAF at Leyland and supplied to Noone at its Maynooth base without a cab. It then moves to Turkey for bodying. Because of the lack of a cab, a lane departure warning system is added later.

The chassis is built at Leyland and supplied to Noone with no cab present

The driving position, as with Atego-based Turas 900 models, is moved rearwards to deliver the bonneted arrangement. Part of the reasoning for that is to position the driver directly opposite the door.

Power is from a 4.5-litre, four-cylinder Paccar PX-5 engine. It is the same basic unit that is sold loose as the Cummins ISB4.5. On the prototype, it is coupled to a six-speed ZF AS-Tronic automated gearbox. A manual transmission from the same manufacturer is also available.

At both GVWs, the PX-5 develops 213bhp and 760Nm of torque. While Noone is not yet sure which of the two GVWs will account for the majority of Turas 900s sales, Mark points out that a lightweight chassis means that at 12,000kg in particular, the tolerance for luggage is “immense.”

But that is not not say that the lighter of the two does not pull its weight in that regard. It offers over 1,000kg of carrying capacity, which comes from both a large rear boot and side lockers. Usefully, the boot can be accessed from the nearside as well as from the rear.

Air suspension is fitted to the drive axle and parabolic springs are at the front.

Passenger access

Four steps lead to the platform and gangway. Handrail provision at the entry is good, with one on each side of the door. The courier seat is within the opening, but it is compact. A grab rail is mounted on its base, which is locked in position when upright.

The gangway is sunken, although Noone will offer accessible variants of the Turas 900s at both GVWs with the option of a flat floor. Two shallow steps are at the rear, and the luggage racks end at the penultimate row to allow sufficient headroom there.

An offside emergency door is fitted. Its seal is excellent; no wind noise or draughts enter the saloon. A neat drop-down set of steps lowers when the door opens, although they must be pushed back into position manually when it is closed.

Sege 3060T seats are fitted as standard; test coach has 33, in real leather

Passenger comfort

This is a strong point of the Turas 900s. Noone and MBCS are marketing the product on its passenger appeal, which is significant. The prototype has 33 Sege 3060T upgraded seats finished in real leather; the Turkish manufacturer custom-builds the product for the Turas range.

Three-point belts are fitted along with drop-down tables. Turas-branded USB charging points are within the side walls.

An inverter and 240v sockets can be fitted if required, and a 2+1 seating layout with captain’s chairs is available. The VIP segment has proven to be a worthwhile one for Noone, and while the prototype does not have them, all Turas 900s bodies are pre-wired for a drop-down monitor.

Wood-effect flooring is fitted throughout as standard, along with convector radiators. No auxiliary heater is fitted to the prototype, but one is an option.

A 22kW Valeo roof-mounted air-conditioning unit is part of the climate control package, and the driver is able to select a particular temperature and leave the system to do the rest.

Lighting is handled well. Step edges are lit with white LEDs, while roof-mounted strips do the majority of the work. A nice touch is downlighting below the window sills; while not over the top, it gives a pleasant ambience and highlights the wall-mounted USB points.

A fridge can be located ahead of the door, while a number of Turas 900 models have already entered service with toilets. The view for passengers is generally good, although those in the back row will find that the pillars there are substantial. Leg room is adequate for all but the tallest of travellers.

Driver comfort

The cab is nicely laid out, although in the prototype, room around the driver’s left foot is restricted. Noone has identified that, and it will resize the engine tunnel in production models to reduce its intrusion.

As the chassis is supplied without a cab, no driver’s seat is fitted. A Sege example that matches those in the saloon is thus added. It is a top-of-the-range product; it has air suspension, twin armrests and everything that would be expected by the driver of a premium full-sized coach.

Cab is laid out well; production models will have more room by left foot

Storage around the seat is not great, but there is just about enough room for a bag. Various smaller areas are dotted around the cab and the dash, with a document bin below the powered signalling window.

Mirrors are electrically heated and adjusted, while two USB points are within the cab. Switches controlling functions in the body are to the right of the steering wheel, and those governing the chassis are to the left. Twin powered windscreen sun blinds are fitted.

The steering wheel adjusts amply and buttons for the cruise control are mounted upon it. The handbrake is very well located immediately below the signalling window.

A reversing camera is fitted as standard, and it feeds to an integrated dash monitor to the driver’s left.

Performance

213bhp is a relatively modest rating for a midicoach of this size, but don’t let that deceive you. The PX-5 is a superb performer. The power available is more than sufficient to make good progress, both on high-speed roads and in rural situations.

A further plus is the chassis’ road manners. They are excellent, and it holds the surface in a manner that is uncanny for a vehicle with 17in wheels. When heading north from the N7 motorway to Maynooth it proved its worth on a damp surface; there was no hint of understeer.

Noone does not rule out offering the six-cylinder PX-7 engine in the LF should buyer demand dictate, but on this showing there is no obvious reason why it would be required, barring use in extreme terrain.

The six-speed AS-Tronic gearbox also performs well. In early incarnations in trucks it could lose its way occasionally, but in the LF it does not. In particular, it remained composed when accelerating uphill from a T-junction; the rapid loss of momentum in such situations when drive is disengaged for the first shift usually leads to a lumpy change, but that was not the case with the LF.

Turas 900s is a deceptively large midi; a 12,000kg GVW variant is coming

At 62mph in top gear, the engine is turning at around 1,400rpm. That is towards the bottom of the torque band, pointing further at good fuel returns.

Verdict

Going for a chassis that does not come with the three-pointed star is a brave move. If buyers can get over that, the DAF LF-based Turas 900s is at least the equal of its Atego-based contemporary.

Thanks to the lack of cab as delivered, it also comes with a cost benefit. That aside, everything else is on a par with the German chassis; road manners are excellent, fuel economy is set to be good, and the driving experience is positive.

“The first Turas 900s is a prototype. We will make a handful of minor changes on production models, but we believe that this vehicle sets a new standard for front-engined midicoaches,” says Mark.

That’s a big claim. And while the LF’s front engine still imports engine noise into the saloon, it is arguably at a lower level than its primary competitor.

Competition in the midicoach sector is keener than ever thanks to various front-engined products and a rear-engined import that continues to set the pace in its class. DAF is a new name in this segment, but it comes with an excellent pedigree. Its loose engines have performed extremely well in the full-size sector, and Noone plans to leverage that with the Turas 900s.

Combine that market acceptance with a body that delivers all of the established passenger-pleasers of the Turas range, and Brian Noone and MBCS may be on to a winner. The Turas 900s is a strong contender; it drives well, it rides well and it delivers a lot in the saloon.

Facts and figures

Retail price: £149,995
Engine: 4.5-litre, four-cylinder Paccar PX-5
Power: 157kW (213bhp) @2,400rpm
Torque: 760Nm @1,300-2,000rpm
Emissions: Euro 6 using EGR and SCR
Gearbox: Six-speed ZF AS-Tronic automated manual
Tyres: 245/70 R17.5
Fuel economy: 18mpg (expected figure)
Acceleration 0-30mph: 10.5sec; 0-50mph: 23.6sec
Noise front: 62dBa; middle: 61dBa; rear: 61dBa
Length: 9.17m
Height: 3.20m
Width: 2.40m
Wheelbase: 4.80m
Gross weight: 10,000kg
Unlade weight6,950kg



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