Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus

By: Gary Worrall


Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus
engien compartment Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus engien compartment Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus
driver's seat, steering wheel and dash on Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus driver's seat, steering wheel and dash on Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus
front grille on Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus front grille on Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus

Daewoo is looking to capture a slice of the Australian tour coach market with its new 3-axle BH117L4 Tour Bus, writes Gary Worrall.

Daewoo BH117L4 Tour Bus
Comfort is of paramount importance on Korean bus maker Daewoo's BH117L4 tour bus.

Daewoo's BH117L4 arrives in Australia as a buggy kit, despatched to local body builders where it is completed to customer specifications, and more often identified by the body than the chassis.

In the case of this model, the chassis arrives as a 4x2 from Korea, with the single tyre 'pusher' lazy axle installed by Asia Motors in Sydney, before the short chassis is sent away to be finished.

Brisbane body builder Coach Design penned a new installation for the Daewoo as a 54-seat tour bus, making use of the extra load capacity offered by the lazy axle, taking it out to a 22.5-tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM).

Coach Design Director Chryss Jamieson says the buggy kit is stretched to full length - in this case a 13.5m length is used - although it can be taken out to a maximum of 14.5m.

Acknowledging this is the first Daewoo his team has designed and built, Jamieson says they deliberately went for a high floor design, providing operator Stonestreets with a 1,500mm floor height, rather than the 1,250mm height previously available.

The immediate advantage is increased storage space in the luggage through-bins, which comes at almost no penalty as the overall height remains at 3,800mm, ensuring accessibility to virtually all sites.

Jamieson has installed a 600-litre fuel tank above the axles, with access via a panel at the rear of the luggage bins that is not only screwed in place but also has a rubber gap seal, to ensure no dust is able to enter the luggage compartment from the driveline.

Similarly, the rear light clusters use individual Hella LED brake, indicator and marker lamps, rather than a single free-form reflector, as it is easier and cheaper for an operator to replace individual lights than a whole reflector unit.

For the same reason, a two-piece front screen is used, so operators only need to replace a damaged section rather than a full width screen.

Daewoo Bus Queensland Manager Dick White says the next generation bus will use a three-piece front screen, with a full width top section over two smaller pieces, further reducing the cost of repairs.

Jamieson says he also installed additional noise and heat insulation above the engine. Although not required by law, the end result is enhanced passenger comfort.

In common with other major body builders, Coach Design use lift up panels to access all sub-floor compartments, including engine, luggage and ancillaries.

Interestingly, the fuel tanks have filler caps behind miniature flaps, with a filler nozzle on either side of the bus for quick filling, or to allow the tank to be filled from either side if there is a shortage of bowsers, however the AdBlue tank requires an entire panel to be lifted for access.

The central fuel tank also improves stability by keeping the weight distributed evenly along the centreline of the bus, rather than offset to either side, as well as helping lower the centre of gravity.

While the build quality is superlative, engine bay access is restricted by placement of the air-conditioning unit, with the compressor hoses squarely in front of the engine oil dipstick.

White says the dipstick can be relocated, however the problem should have been recognised by the air-conditioning fitter, rather than blocking the access.

Space for the engine oil and power steering fluid fillers are also restricted requiring a goose neck and pump, primarily due to the open angle of the V6 engine block, which is much wider than a comparable in-line engine.

 

ALL ABOARD

Designed from the outset as a tour bus, Jamieson ensures passenger comfort is paramount through the use of thinner, but thermally efficient, roof panels, creating a roomy passenger saloon without going over the 3,800mm overall height.

The single height centre aisle allows any passenger under 1.9m to stand upright without fear of hitting their head, all the way to the toilet cubicle in the back row of the bus.

The cubicle itself is no more cramped than an equivalent airline restroom, although it is definitely only intended to be used by one person at a time.

The seats are wide enough for even wide-bodied passengers to sit comfortably, with ample legroom for my 186cm frame to sit without being jammed against the seat in front.

The interior abounds with clever touches, given the long wheelbase and size limitations on the front-mounted television screen, Jamieson installed supplementary 'rack tv' units, airliner style, attached to the underside of the bag racks.

Although fixed in place for reliability, Jamieson says the units provide a better view for passengers near the back
of the bus, without impacting on headroom.

Coach Design use a Corethane sandwich panel on the upper body, a laminate of fibreglass outer layers over a thin sheet of Corethane, which is lighter than a multi-layer fibreglass body, but retaining the ease of repair of fibreglass reinforced panelling (FRP).

Jamieson says while he would like to use it on all panels, he keeps the aluminium lower section for the added strength, despite it being harder to fix.

The lighter weight also helps to reduce the centre of gravity, making the bus more stable on twisty roads and less prone to being affected by cross winds.

 

START ME UP

The 11-litre Doosan V6 is a mighty unit, producing 317kW (425hp) and 1,883Nm (1,388ft/lb) of torque, with peak torque at 1,200rpm.

Running through an Allison T450R 6-speed automatic transmission, the Daewoo is geared for 100km/h at 1,200rpm, so even with overdrive fifth and sixth gears (0.737:1 and 0.640:1 respectively) and a 3.909 final drive there is plenty in reserve for hill climbing and overtaking.

Thanks to the excellent body construction the engine is a muted rumble at the rear of the bus, although there is a slight vibration through the chassis but certainly no sign of body twist under acceleration.

Coach Design retain the original Daewoo driving position, including the excellent electronic dash layout with its analogue-style gauge display sitting comfortably with the LCD centre screen, all set in a fake walnut surround.

The dash layout has a European flavour, with a programmable information display allowing the driver to select preferred readouts, however any alert messages automatically take precedence, while low oil or air pressure or high coolant temperature warnings are accompanied by an audible buzzer.

The thickly padded steering wheel mounts thumb controls for the entertainment system on the left spoke and the instrument display on the right, allowing the driver to scroll through and select displays 'on the fly'.

Additional switches are fitted either side of the driver, including a three-button cruise control. Importantly, they are mounted so the driver's hand falls onto the controls, allowing options to be selected by braille, with driving controls to the right.

Although missing from the test unit, which was in the final stages of fit-out, Jamieson says a driver's drink holder will be fitted to all models, to complement existing storage spaces for wallets, log books and other personal effects.

With 1,883Nm on tap, the Daewoo is not short on acceleration, although a torque map was not available pre-test, throttle feel alone suggests more than 60 percent is available from 800rpm.

Power delivery feels linear, with no sudden spurts of power to dislodge passengers or spill cups of tea. Although only ever a background noise, the engine note remains a throaty grumble without any harshness.

The Allison auto includes an integrated six-stage retarder - hence the 'R' in the T450R - which supplies massive amounts of braking force, and can take some mastering to ensure passengers are not flung about accidentally.

White suggests 'Level 2' for general driving, with the extra stages only introduced in emergencies or for steep downhill runs where low speeds are a must. The retarder engages when the throttle is released, so that instant braking is applied on lift off, even as the driver clicks the 'wand' down for extra braking effort.

Late model Allison transmissions have rightfully earned a reputation for smooth shifting and the T450R is no different, even under full throttle there was no jerkiness between gears, only a continuous feeling of acceleration.

For steep descents the higher gears can be locked out with the control panel, so that the transmission will only shift between set gears, preventing the bus from 'running away' under the push of gravity.

Despite numerous good points, the Daewoo was not perfect. My size 11 boots found the pedal angle to be too steep, and while the driver's suspension seat and steering wheel can be altered to provide an ideal position, the pedal set-up did cause discomfort.

The other issue was a dead spot in the steering at the 'dead ahead' position that generated some oversteer in an attempt to make minor course corrections, while it was not always present, when it happened the bus would wander across its lane.

Despite this the steering was generally good, with a well-weighted feeling so that the driver is not hurling the bus from side to side, as well as offering a reasonable level of feedback, particularly during cornering, allowing the driver to hold a line through roundabouts and sharp corners, at all speeds.

Despite the front and rear overhangs, the Daewoo is otherwise vice-free to drive with virtually no wallowing or pitching over broken roads; the air suspension copes well with the bumps and corrugations of the regional road system.

With both Dick White and Chryss Jamieson on board for the test run there was no shortage of conversation, highlighting how well road noise is eliminated from the interior.

The only extraneous noise was a high-pitched whistle generated when the driver's hatch window was closed, which turned out to be the saloon pressurising due to the air-conditioning installation, with Jamieson identifying the cause and calling the installers to have the problem rectified at the end of the test.

 

FINAL DESTINATION

The Daewoo impresses on a number of fronts, including the prodigious engine output and its ability to accelerate in gear with seemingly limitless torque.

With some work to eliminate the steering vagueness and reposition the pedals the Daewoo could challenge the established players, especially when matched to the superb Coach Design body.

 

Good points
Exceptional build quality on body; impressive engine power, excellent acceleration, retarder virtually eliminates brakes in regular driving, smooth shifting Allison auto

Not so good points
Thick A-Pillar restricts peripheral vision, vagueness in steering at straight ahead, steep pedal angle uncomfortable

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