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Scania’s Irizar i6S remains a stylish and modern option. JONATHAN WELCH

Continuing our look at the range of PSVAR-compliant coaches on the market, Jonathan Welch takes the wheel of a Scania Irizar i6S

Just a few weeks ago, we reviewed the latest PSVAR-ready incarnation of Scania’s Touring. For those who want the familiarity of Scania’s chassis and the support of its dealer network, but are seeking a coach which is a little less Nordic and a little more southern-European, with a dash of Spanish flair, yet still striking and purposeful-looking, there is another option available: the Irizar i6S. Positioned at a higher price point than the Touring, the i6S still delivers a lot of coach for the money, and combines the style and presence of Irizar’s coachwork with the familiarity of a Scania chassis, giving operators who prefer the marque additional choice when it comes to new – or used – coaches.
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The i6S, along with its sisters in Irizar’s touring coach line up, is a familiar sight on the roads today. Its lineage can be traced back to the PB, which I was surprised to learn was first conceived back in 1998, and launched to the press in 2001. Its i6 and i6S successors have maintained those strong family looks, sharpening them slightly whilst retaining the striking and still-modern lines of the original; it has to be said, the design which first introduced the trademark large gull-wing mirrors to the coach industry continues to stand up well against the competition.

For this test, we looked at the 12.9m-long i6S on a Scania K360 4×2 chassis, fitted with Scania’s DC09 Euro VI engine, delivering 360hp and mated to Scania’s fully automated Opticruise gearbox: an excellent all-round combination which should suit many operators’ needs, and in its latest factory-built PSVAR configuration, it will be equally able to fulfil the needs of most passengers.

Before we go for a drive, let’s start on the outside and have a walk around the i6S. Even in the plain white of our test vehicle, the coach has presence – anyone unsure of what it is only has to glance at the large Scania and Irizar badges on the nose – the manufacturers are clearly proud to display their names, and with good reason. Looking up, the LED destination screen of our test coach equally proudly displays the coach’s PSVAR credentials. As with the Touring, the white LEDs look much classier than traditional orange ones, as befits the status of a quality product such as this, as well as being easier to read.

Looking downwards, the familiar Irizar headlight units feature LED strip day running lights, with individual round fog lights mounted below. All external lighting, from headlights to number plate lamps and tailswing markers, is by means of LEDs.

Moving around to the offside, the coach is fitted with a third mirror in addition to the large gull-wing pair. I have to say that this is a feature I like. Whereas some coaches or manufacturers opt for a sun blind with cut-out to enable the driver to see the upper mirror, this allows a full sun blind to be fitted, meaning less glare. In truth, even with the blind up, I still find myself preferring the lower one on the offside, probably using it 60-40 with the upper/wide angle one.

Below this, two lockers contain electrical equipment and the adblue tank, whilst a fuel filler is located above the wheel – a feature replicated on the nearside, meaning no worries for drivers about which pump to use! The coach rides on Michelin 295/80 R 22.5 tyres as standard, mounted on ever-popular Durabright aluminium wheels, saving valuable weight as well as adding to the look of the coach. Wheels seem to often be overlooked, but a smart set of rims always seems to me like the coach equivalent of a nice pair of shoes.

Hidden behind the wheels is Scania’s own independent front suspension, whilst the vehicle is capable of kneeling at the front, as well as being fitted with a ferry lift capability, as one would expect from a coach expected to spend a large part of its life ‘across the water.’ Further along, we come to the electrically-operated parallel-lift offside luggage locker door. Inside, the wheelchair ramp restricts space somewhat, as does the centre sunken toilet and continental door, meaning that most access to the luggage hold will be from the nearside: in reality, this is likely to be the case any way of course.

Looking in through the continental door, the toilet and washroom is to the right, whilst on the left is a lockable cupboard – useful for storing items such as drinks, within easy reach. An LED light in the step well ensures passengers can see their footing at night. Behind the rear wheel, a smaller top-hinged storage compartment provides useful space for a driver’s belongings and equipment when away on tour, with space for a couple of small cases or bags.

Arriving at the rear, there is easy access to Scania’s 360hp Euro VI engine through the side panels, as well as the rear bonnet door. Continuing down the nearside, we come to the wheelchair lift which is housed behind a separate flap at the bottom of the front locker, and covered by a sturdy-looking raised section of flooring, which keeps everything neat and tidy. The remainder of the luggage space, though reduced by the lift and sunken toilet, should still prove ample for many applications.

The lift itself is a Masats KS7 unit, a type which will be familiar to many operators already, and which is simple and effective in operation. A hand-held control unit stowed alongside makes for easy use, and the operation is accompanied by a loud warning tone as well as flashing orange lights to warn others nearby. Sturdy-looking yellow handrails fold up manually from the base to provide protection to either side.

Stepping aboard
For ambulant passengers, I find the entrance area to be one of the best I have come across for a good while in a coach. I found it hard to pinpoint, but it has a feeling of spaciousness and ease of entry, with well-spaced steps to make ascent and descent easy, and a pleasant ‘flow’ as you pass through. The step well is nicely illuminated, and the steps are edged with a patterned grip trim.

Integrated into the dashboard to the left is a 35-litre fridge, whilst on the right the courier seat unfolds neatly to form a comfortable place for a guide or co-driver, with microphone and air vent in easy reach. Turning into the saloon, one of the first things I noticed was that the 53 i6 Plus seats looked comfortable, thanks to the effect of the deep padding and stitching, plus synthetic leather bolsters at each side. It has to be said, they seemed to live up to that expectation too on our short drive.

As one might expect, folding armrests are fitted as standard, along with three-point seat belts, and while the seats recline, they do not have a sideways movement facility. Seat-back tables are fitted, as are footrests, whilst above the seats can be found LED reading lamps. As with the exterior, all internal lighting is by means of LEDs, including low-level lighting in the carpeted aisle.
Grey ceiling panels and overhead units make for a light and airy feel, whilst curtains are fitted throughout – unusually alternating between red and grey at each double-glazed and tinted side window. Mounted above the centre toilet unit is a small servery, with hot water tap and cup holders.

Passenger comfort is further taken care of by the dual-zone Hispacold air-conditioning system, along with convector heaters mounted below the seats. Once passengers are comfortable, entertainment is provided by a pair of Bosch monitors – 19” at the front, 15” in the centre – coupled to a Bosch DVD player and Smart Series audio equipment.

Driving environment
Back at the front, and making myself at home in the Isri 6860 drivers seat, the driver’s cab provides a very pleasant working environment, a step above the already well-appointed Touring I drove recently for CBW, which is to be expected considering the i6S’s slightly higher price point.

Storage I found to be ample, with a good sized pocket for documents within easy reach. This coach was fitted with Scania’s multiplex wiring, which means that the traditional bank of switches is replaced by a soft-touch switch panel, and the heavy wiring loon much reduced to just a handful of wires, saving valuable weight.

On the whole, I found it easy to use, but with some foibles which might take a little getting used to. I found it easy to inadvertently touch the offside locker open button when opening the door, for example, whilst the electric mirror adjustment was less finely controllable than via the rotary switch of the Touring. Irizar’s body diagnostics panel is situated prominently and within easy reach ahead of this, which struck me as a little odd considering how often it will likely be required by a driver, compared to some more common controls. In fact, beyond brightness and language, there is little a driver can use it for.

Nonetheless, the cab area felt ergonomic and well laid out. A neat tray is provided to the driver’s left atop the dashboard, and a cup-holder on the A-pillar, making it easy to keep things like change for tolls or a water bottle at hand.

On the road
Manoeuvring out of Scania’s Worksop premises, the large mirrors came into their own. No matter how many test drives we do here at CBW, it is always more nerve-wracking driving someone else’s coach, so easy visibility is a boon. The standard Scania steering wheel has a quality feel to it, and those who are keen on image will appreciate the prominent Scania badge in the centre.

If this were a Rolls Royce, I might write that the power was ‘sufficient’ – but it isn’t, so I can say that as we headed out onto the A-roads of north Nottinghamshire, the 360hp on tap was more than sufficient to propel us along at a suitable rate of knots. The Opticruise automated manual gearbox again handled the power in its stride, giving smooth changes and responding well to my driving style and control inputs. As ever with this kind of ‘box, drivers need to be willing to adopt a more relaxed way of driving to get the most from it.

Despite snow laying on the ground at the time of our test, the skies were blue and the low winter sun meant the electric blinds were a boon, as was the manual blind on the side window. As passengers and potential purchasers might expect, the coach was composed and rode well in all conditions, which during the drive ranged from dry and sunny to brief heavy flurries of snow. The suspension soaked up the bumps and uneven surfaces as well as anyone could reasonably expect, and the interior was pleasingly free from noise and rattles, with no additional sound apparent from the extra bodyside door, nor the under-floor lift, no doubt helped by the soft coverings of surfaces within the luggage area.

It will come as no surprise to those who read my review of the Touring that I found the retarder to be excellent, capable of bringing the i6S’s speed down quickly and smoothly from motorway speeds, whilst remaining powerful in the lower speed ranges. Even after just a short drive, I felt confident in its use.

Almost like beacons for the safety systems fitted, two sets of sensors mounted in the centre of the windscreen feed data to features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking, which are fitted as standard to the model.

Overall, I found the Scania Irizar i6S – just like its predecessor the PB – to be a highly competent and capable coach which continues to stand out on the road. Operators seeking a quality all-rounder, capable of taking a group on a tour to Europe during the week, and then earning its keep on more mundane rail replacement work at the weekend, would do well to take a closer look – Scania has a number of PSVAR-ready coaches available at its base in Worksop.

Subscribe to the CBW YouTube channel for more footage of the i6S on test, including a driver’s eye view.