In November, Mercedes Benz invited me to visit Istanbul, Turkey, to check out the production of the Mercedes Tourrider. Fast forward six months, and now I am sitting in one of them smack dab in the corn fields of Central Illinois in the parking lot of Peoria Charter Coach, the bus company I work at.
Feel free to check out my time in Istanbul, Turkey, where I got to test drive a Tourrider right off the assembly line at their enclosed bus test track.
I’m sitting in one of the two demo buses that Mercedes sent us. We’ve had them for about a month now, and some of our drivers and I have taken the time to really get to know them. I’ve gotten some great feedback from some of our drivers that have gotten assigned to the Tourrider buses. There are some cool new features on these beauties that everyone loves, and there are also some things that have made the drivers cringe. I will review the perks and the quirks of the all-new 2023 Mercedes Benz Tourrider.
The specs. The Mercedes Tourrider is 45 feet, 8 inches long, or 13.9 meters. It has a width of 102 inches, or 2.6 meters. The premium version has a height of 12 feet,1 inch, or 3.7 meters, and the business version has a height of 11 feet, 11 inches, or 3.6 meters The Tourrider comes in a 56-passenger capacity configuration with the option of expanding to 60 passengers with reduced leg space. Both versions of the Tourrider are powered with a Mercedes Benz OM 471 engine, which is basically a European version of the North American Detroit DD13. It is an inline six-cylinder engine with an output of 450 horsepower and a max torque of 1,550 foot-pounds.The transmission is an Allison WTB 500 R with a retarder. Both trims come with an active steerable tag axle that allows this coach to have an impressive turning radius of 39 feet 11 inches. For a coach bus, I think that is a benchmark in North America. That is a hell of a tight turn. But watch your tail swing, because this thing definitely has a big ol’ booty.
The driver’s manual does not match the bus. I know I told you all to read the driver’s manual, and I still think that you should if you own or operate a Tourrider. But one thing that I noticed was … the driver’s manual for both the premium model and business model do not match the dash on either of the demo buses we have here. There seem to be a lot of missing buttons and features. Maybe it’s because these are demos? (I’ll have to do a followup video on theTourrider when we take delivery of ours.)
Engine bay door. One of the first things many of our drivers have struggled with is opening the rear engine door. There is no lever or mechanical handle. To open the rear engine door, you put your hands under the overhang glare shield where the license plate is and lift. It takes a bit of force, but once you pull it past a certain point, the spring will do the rest of the work. Also, a word of caution. Many new drivers assume the hatch will pull out and lift upwards vertically as the Prevost or Van Hool does. But Instead, the rear engine hatch of the Tourider opens outward like that of an MCI. And it does have a bit of a kick.
Luggage bay door. The luggage bay door handle is actually a mechanical lever. Once you pull on it, it will disengage the latch that keeps the door shut. But many drivers are still unable to open the bay doors after pulling on the mechanical handle. The doors are really heavy, and they require your other hand to pull outward from the top of the door. If you try to open the doors with one hand, you may end up ripping off the plastic handle. The smaller center luggage door may be doable with one hand, as it is lighter. Otherwise, opening the luggage bay doors of the Tourrider is definitely a two-handed job.
ADA lift door hinges. Several of our drivers who operated the wheelchair lifts on the new Tourriders couldn’t get the ADA lift door panel to shut properly on the premium model. When shuttling the door, the hinge looked like it was broken or bent because the door was still sticking out. But actually, it’s not. The door shuts on a two-position hinge, Once you shut the door panel, just simply push in on the door and the hinge will pop in. And definitely make sure you push the door in all the way, because the coach will not move unless the door is properly latched.
Fuel door panel. On the business model of the Tourrider, the fuel door is located right behind the main entry door. A few of the drivers couldn’t figure out how to open the fuel door, as there are no handles, keyholes or buttons on the dash to open it. To open the fuel door on the business model, you have to push inward on the door panel towards the right side, and it will cause the door to open from the left side. Once opened, you will see a giant cap to unscrew. The cap is chained to the fuel tank, so don’t try to pull it out too far once you open it; otherwise, it could swing out of your hand and ding the body panel.
Fuel door locks while the coach is running. In addition, one driver mentioned that the fuel door automatically locks if the engine of the coach is running. So if you can’t get the fuel door open, try to shut the engine off. I hope that sensor that keeps the fuel door lock doesn’t ever fail; otherwise, you won’t be able to refuel your coach.
Huge driver’s window. The driver’s window on the Tourrider is a giant piece of glass that opens as a whole when opening the window. Much like the Setra S417s that we used to have, these windows make it really nice for the driver to get some fresh air when driving or resting between trips. It also allows for the driver to interact with toll booths or individuals outside of the coach, because it’s huge. Now, Setra’s had the problem of these windows not being able to be properly shut while on the road. The windows were so large that the wind would bend them outward, not allowing them to fully retract. The drivers had to either leave them open until the bus came to a stop or deal with the horrible whistling noise caused by the gap between the window and seal. Don’t worry – the Tourrider has fixed that problem, and these drivers’ windows shut properly whether you are at a stop or going 70 miles an hour.
Fridge upfront. On the premium version, the Tourrider offers a refrigerator built into the dash next to the door so that passengers and the driver can store cool beverages and food while on the move. This is a brilliant idea that makes great use of otherwise wasted space. The cooler has a knob that allows you to adjust the temperature. I believe if you buy a business model, you can request to have this as an option. Definitely an awesome perk.
Easy-use camera monitor. The backup camera monitor has many view options. You can easily access them by touching the different selections on the camera screen. There is also a really nice top-down view on the camera to allow the driver full 360 situational awareness. Definitely a huge perk.
Where is the mic? Right off the bat, Mercedes has informed us that wireless mics are not available on Tourriders. This will definitely upset a few tour guides. But the front passenger side seat does have a mic available. On the business model, the driver does not have access to a mic at all, even though there is a button on the dash to activate a mic. On the premium model, the mic is mounted to the driver seat and can be pulled down into position via an adjustable arm, which is really neat. But on the business model, the seat-mounted mic seems to be missing and a handheld mic doesn’t seem to be present.
Unlock your bays next to the door. I absolutely love this feature. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stepped off the coach to open the luggage bay doors for my passengers to find out that I forgot to unlock them. But when I turn around to unlock them from my dash, the steps are occupied by the 50-plus passengers who are disembarking. And I have to wait for all of them to get off before I can open the bay doors… and then they are all waiting on me to get them their luggage. Well, some brilliant engineer at Mercedes put a luggage bay lock and unlock button right next to the entry door. Now I can simply reach around the door to unlock the luggage bay doors even while my passengers are disembarking!
Sweating in the driver’s seat? A few of our drivers complained that no matter how cool they set the temperatures on board, they are always really warm and sweating. They couldn’t figure out why. Well, the driver’s seat of the Tourrider is heated, and the button for the heated seat option is not on the dash. Instead, it is on the left side of the seat, tucked underneath the seat adjustment controls. This button can easily be bumped by a clipboard you put down there or your hand when adjusting your seat. And unless you know exactly where the button is, you are in for a hot ride. In the winter, I would consider this a perk. But if you can’t find the button because it’s in a hidden, odd place … it’s definitely a quirk, especially in the summer.
If you are a driver, I hope that these initial impressions have helped you. Check out my video to see the complete review.
Here’s what some of you had to say about my take on things a bus driver should never do. (See my video above for the full list.)
As we put more miles on these Tourriders, I will definitely be making more videos to update you on how they are performing.
Greg Huang: This is super exciting! I’ve been in Europe over the last few months, so I’ve seen and rode a lot of Mercedes-Benz buses lately. But it’s amazing to see them now come to the U.S.! Hoping they will be a success here.
J: I’m really glad that Peoria Charter got to test these demo buses, James. I can’t think of a better person to lead a technical review of them in the U.S. than you, and it’s all because of your devotion to buses. Watching from Denmark, I enjoyed this review.
Mistero4: The question is going to be … how do your mechanics like it? They’ll need to change where they’re getting their parts, and very different systems to do the same things. And yes, the brakes are weird in the 0500 series.