DAF-based Turas driven

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Operators have never had so much choice in the midi-coach sector, and it is a buyers’ market at the moment. One key decision that you have to consider before anything else is whether to go for a front or rear-engine vehicle if you are thinking of a 33-seater or above. Richard Sharman has tested a new option on the market that might be just the ticket for operators of DAF coaches, or those looking for a new alternative

The Noone Turas 900s stands out in the City of Oxford. RICHARD SHARMAN

When you think of DAF you think of big engines used in coaches, such as the popular MX-11. There is now a new option to complement your DAF coach fleet with a midi-coach, or for those simply looking for something different. Either way, this could be the vehicle for you.

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In the UK, the new DAF LF/Noone Turas 900s is being sold and distributed by Midlands Bus and Coach Sales. Andy Garrett set up the recent venture to sell the full Noone Turas range; he also took on Steve Peck to be his Southern Account Manager. It was Steve who met me at Pear Tree Services in Oxford to show me the latest model. Many of you will know Steve from his former coach operation called Cedric’s of Wivenhoe; he later went on to work at Moseley.

Show example
The example I would be driving was the one exhibited at Euro Bus Expo 2018 at the NEC. I was at the show myself last year, and recall that this new DAF LF option in the Turas range received a large amount of attention during the show. I can see why. It is a brand-new option in a market that is already quite saturated, but it stands out; DAF has a long history and is a big brand.

Now that the vehicle has been through all its testing and got all of its certificates, it’s now ready to roll and take its place in the market. This particular demonstrator is only in the UK for a few weeks before heading back to Ireland, but Midlands Bus and Coach Sales has stock due imminently for the UK.

The Noone Turas product is a popular and well-respected model, with a large number of Mercedes-Benz and Iveco-based vehicles on the road. The 500 and 700 models are built in Portugal, whilst the 600 and 900 models are built in Turkey and sold by Brian Noone in Ireland and Midlands Bus and Coach in the UK.

The range was first introduced back in 2012 with the 800, with the 900 being launched in November 2014. Since then, the vehicles have had subtle styling tweaks to keep them looking sharp.

There will be two model variants for the DAF LF option: the 33-seater as tested has a wheelbase of 4,800mm, with a bodied length of 9,167mm and an U.W of 6,950kg. The 37-seater options, meanwhile, will have a 5,100mm wheelbase and a length of 9,590mm.

The chassis for the DAF LF is delivered for bodying without a chassis cab, meaning that Noone has been able to set the driver’s cab well back and opposite the passenger entry door.

First impressions

The 900s entry area has shallow steps, whilst the red button to the left is for the emergency engine stop. RICHARD SHARMAN

There is no doubting that the Turas range is well-styled and eye-catching, and the 900s is no exception. It has good road presence thanks to the angled nose and windscreen, which also allows it to have a low drag coefficient to increase fuel economy. From the rear, the angled LED rear light clusters look modern and the dark-tinted asymmetric rear window, incorporating the rear marker lights, looks the part.

Luggage capacity is good, with a large nearside locker, two offside lockers and a cavernous boot providing up to 6.2m3 of space. The 37-seater version has 6.7m3 of space.

Access to the engine is mainly through the engine cover in the saloon as it is quite set back in the vehicle, although engine belts are easily accessible due to the large gap between them and the radiator.

All that space in the engine bay does also allow easy access to the screen wash, coolant, oil dip stick, and wiper motors and linkages. The vehicle’s battery, air filter and exhaust system are all easily accessible through the two lockers behind the offside front wheel, which also have air vents built in to keep the exhaust system cool.

The emergency exit on the offside rear has two steps to ease exiting the vehicle, which fold out automatically. To shut the door, the driver needs to manually lift the lower step slightly.

High-quality interior
The 900s is equipped with a plug door for passenger entry, followed by four shallow steps. Noone has ensured that passengers have plenty of handrails for boarding and alighting passengers. The left hand side handrail is grey but also includes yellow inserts. A grab rail is also mounted to the courier seat, which is slightly set back and does not cause too much of an issue on boarding or alighting.

Importantly, there is no intrusion of the engine into the entry area. The engine cover does come back beyond the dashboard, but it is well-disguised and utilised with two drinks holders moulded into it.

The interior has a high quality feel and finish. RICHARD SHARMAN

As soon as you board the 900s you can immediately tell that it has been well put together – it has a high-quality feel about it. The roof and side panels are covered with grey velour trim, with the flooring finished in wood-effect vinyl. The luggage racks on either side of the vehicle are also of high quality, and their depth means they have plenty of room to store small bags.

The saloon is light and airy thanks to two large skylights made by ATS. As is the current trend with midi coaches, there are multiple options for interior lighting in the 900s. The options include roof-mounted lights, luggage rack-mounted up lighters, floor lighting and down lighting underneath each window in the saloon. All lighting is LED. The passenger service units are also well made, and feature dark blue lighting with white LED reading lights.

Seating is provided by the Sege 360T, a seat that has been specially designed for the Turas range. These are high-quality leather seats designed with a diamond pattern; the demonstration vehicle had black leather seating with white stitching and cream edging. Having tried them out, I can say that they are very comfortable. One thing to note though is that the handle to recline the seats is not located in the most obvious place – it is underneath the trim on the side of the seat. All seats include magazine nets and fold-out tables. Each seat also has USB ports built into the side wall, which are illuminated and finished off with Turas branding – a nice touch.

Talking of Turas branding, your passengers will certainly know they are in one thanks to the large chrome badges located at the front and rear of the vehicle at roof height.

Cabin cooling is provided by a high-capacity 22kW Spheros Revo 200 roof-mounted unit. Convector heating is fitted in the saloon. The air-conditioning was used on full throughout the test drive and proved very effective. Privacy glass and full draw curtains are also standard on the Turas range, helping to keep the vehicle cool in high temperatures.

The control panel for the suspension is on a separate control pad, which is tucked away in one of the many dash cubby holes.

Cab area
The cab area is well thought out and looks the part. The driver benefits from a large storage box in front of the entry door, although there is an option for this to be a fridge. That unit also incorporates the courier mic and a USB port.

The DAF dash binnacle is very clear, with the speedo being easy to keep an eye on whilst on the move. RICHARD SHARMAN

Access to the driver’s seat is OK, but if you are tall, you will find the gap between the driver’s seat base and the engine cover is not quite big enough. Once you are seated in the Sege driver’s seat (which is not the one that will be used in the production vehicles, an Isri seat with a slimmer seat back is to be used to increase passengers forward vision) you will find a vast array of switches in front of you. Many of these switches relate to the DAF LF side of the vehicle and include functions such as manual gear shift and various safety functions. These are all to the left of the dash.

Also on the left is the Bosch radio, digital tachograph, reversing camera and Spheros air-conditioning controls. The demister unit is also on the left, but on the pre-production model, it had no labeling to tell you what the functions do or where the air from the demister is being aimed. No doubt that will be addressed on the production vehicles.

All the body-related functions are to the right of the dashboard, including the controls for the electric sunblinds, driver’s window and the door. Carbon fibre trim is used throughout the dash and around the roof height passenger clock at the front of the vehicle. The OEM multi-function DAF steering wheel also includes a half carbon fibre effect, so it all works very well.

The DAF instrumentation is very car-like and stylish; the screen built into the binnacle for the vehicle information function is crystal clear and easily operated by a dial next to the handbrake. This screen provides many different information functions for the driver or engineer. Basic instrumentation includes the speedo, rev counter, engine temperature, fuel gauge, and a digital AdBlue gauge.

A pre-production feature is a unit mounted on the offside A-pillar that shows the warning panel for the body functions and the handy Mobileye display, which is constantly scanning the road for speed limit signs. It also tells you the distance you are driving to the vehicle in front of you. It is hoped that this will be built into the dash going forward.

A new driving experience

The Paccar engine is low mounted and set well back, although this allows good access to the engines belts, radiator and fluid top up points. RICHARD SHARMAN

There are two gearbox options for the 900s, either a manual ZF gearbox or the fully-automated ZF AS-Tronic six-speed. The AS-Tronic option was fitted to the vehicle I tested, and was a joy to drive once I got used to it.

Whilst this is still a ‘select gear and go’ vehicle, the ZF AS-Tronic lite is a manual gearbox with various function modules added to it that allow the gears to be changed electro-hydraulically. The transmission control unit engages the clutch and changes the gears. The reason for this gearbox being developed is to increase fuel economy and also to ensure that the vehicle is always in the correct gear, reducing wear on the gearbox components and the engine.

My first experience of this gearbox was an interesting one, straight out of the services and onto the busy Pear Tree roundabout which joins the A34 and A44. As technically this vehicle still has a clutch, you need to apply some acceleration before releasing the handbrake. Particularly on a hill, as in this case. Initial acceleration is not that impressive as the first few gears are quite short, and the gearbox is designed to always deliver economy and ensure less wear to it and the engine.

So, you know for certain that your drivers won’t be challenging any hot hatches off the traffic lights – it’s a smooth and refined start, not a fast a furious one! The allocated driver will also have to learn to judge junctions and roundabouts carefully.

Once you are out of the first few gears, acceleration is good and the gearbox continues to ensure that economy is maintained by low rev gear changes. There is a kickdown function, however, to quicken the pace slightly in higher gears. This seemed very prominent on the A34 dual carriageway, and as you go towards the top legal speed, the Paccar engine is smooth and refined. On the limiter in sixth gear the engine was only at 1,800rpm, still well within the green band.

Out on the road
Sitting in the Sege driver’s seat, all-around vision is perfect with the mirrors well placed and of a good size. The windscreen is quite raked back, but this caused no issues and I didn’t notice it once comfortable in the seat.

The rear and off side profile of the 900s, the only clue that this is a DAF-based vehicle are the wheel trim centres and the ‘Powered by DAF badge’ on the boot lid. RICHARD SHARMAN

As we went along the A44 towards Woodstock, I had started to get used to the gearbox and enjoy the drive. Roadholding was good, even though the weather on the day presented strong winds and heavy rain. As we turned off the A44 and through the village of Yarnton, I noticed that the interior was silent; there was not a rattle to be heard despite numerous speed humps and potholes.

Back on the A44 and towards dual carriageways, it was time to unleash the 213 horses from the four-cylinder Paccar engine for the first time. The quietness of the engine was very apparent, as was the lack of wind noise from the mirrors or the rubber seals around the entry door.

Once we had reached Woodstock it was time to test the body roll around Bladon roundabout. Taking it at a reasonable speed, the 900s remained stable and confident, with no body roll in evidence, despite it having quite a tall height of 3,195mm.

We then travelled back towards Oxford and the A34. By this time Steve had advised me that additional braking was available from the exhaust brake, operated automatically by activating it on the multi-function steering wheel. As the drive progressed I tried this function and found it a handy tool. Out onto the A34 dual carriageway, the DAF LF again felt comfortable and was happy in the outside lane overtaking HGVs. We exited at Botley and, heading for the city centre, I found the vehicle’s handling sharp and braking progressive whilst negotiating the city streets.

After an hour out on the road and just over 50 miles completed, the Paccar engine had achieved a very respectable 16mpg. This was completed with headlights, interior lighting and air-conditioning on full, and just under half of the 185-litre diesel tank full.

In conclusion, there is a market for the DAF product in this sector and Noone has done a good job of being the first to provide that with the LF. Operators of DAF coaches should certainly consider this option if they are looking for a 33 or 37-seater, and it should also be on the list of those thinking of a three-pointed star-based vehicle.

Technical specification

  • Price as tested: From £148,000
  • Length: 9167 mm
  • Width: 2400 mm
  • Height: 3195 mm (inc roof mounted A/C unit)
  • Passenger Capacity: 33+Courier+Driver
  • Luggage Capacity: Up to 6.2m3
  • Engine: DAF PACCAR PX5 4 Cylinder 213hp
  • Transmission: ZF AS-Tronic 6 Speed 7AS800 OD (as Tested) or ZF 6 Speed Manual
  • Brake System: ABS, ASR, AEBS, EBS
  • Tyres: Michelin X MULTI 245/70R 17.5 with Steel Rims and Chrome trims
  • Fuel Capacity: 185 Litres of Diesel, 25 Litres of AdBlue