Irizar’s first-class coach arrives in Africa

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Already one of the most critically acclaimed coaches in Europe, Irizar’s lavish PB was recently launched in South Africa. FOCUS examines this impressive vehicle that sets new standards in luxury and comfort

While the outside of Irizar’s PB is undoubtedly sleek, modern and imposing, it doesn’t nearly prepare you for what’s on the inside. That’s because the exterior of the vehicle is still recognisably that of a coach, albeit an obviously high-end one. The inside, however, offers a level of style and elegance that one would never expect to find in this kind of vehicle. Complete with leather-trimmed seats and LCD screens, the PB is a remarkable coach.

The difference is evident the moment you get aboard the PB. The vehicle’s access points are far wider and deeper than average, making entry and exit far less arduous. Once inside, the sophistication of the PB is instantly noticeable. Everything inside the coach has a fluid, space-age design that makes the interior of most similar vehicles seem depressingly bleak and austere by comparison.

The seats, for example, are ergonomically designed to provide the maximum level of comfort and support during long journeys, and can also be adapted to suit the needs of any customer. Seats are available in a variety of stylish finishes and offer a number of customisable options – such as a central armrest, foot rest, built-in audio and magazine holder – in order to guarantee that passengers are always comfortable.

In addition to the seating, comfort is ensured by a very effective HISPACOLD airconditioning system that circulates air throughout the entire coach. This ensures that the temperature inside the coach is always pleasant and constant throughout.

Another aspect of the PB that passengers are sure to notice is the astoundingly low noise level. Superior sound insulation means that the coach boasts road noise levels comparable with that of luxury passenger cars. According to Irizar, the PB’s noise is around 66 decibels – the same as an Audi A6, and significantly lower than many other upmarket sedans.

A NEW BENCHMARK

Focus on Bus and Coach
Focus on Bus and Coach
Inspecting the PB during its recent launch at Tintswalo at Waterfall in Johannesburg, we were very impressed by what Irizar’s new coach has to offer. It truly sets new standards for passenger comfort, technological innovation and sheer luxury in a coach.

Proof of the PB’s impressive design is the large number of industry accolades it has managed to collect in Europe. The vehicle was first launched there in 2001 – after three years and €18 million (R206 million) spent on research and development – and quickly became one of the most celebrated coaches on the road.

It was voted Coach of the Year in Spain soon after its launch and followed this up with an award for Best Coach in Show at the Birmingham Coach and Bus Fair in 2003. In 2004 the vehicle also won the coveted Coach of the Year Award for all of Europe, and last year it received the Hungarian Coach of the Year Award.

And now, after achieving this incredible success in Europe, the PB is also available in southern Africa. Bringing it here hasn’t been cheap – it has cost Irizar around €6 million (R68.5 million) to adapt the vehicle to the specific needs of the southern African market – but it appears set to be as big a success here as it has been in other parts of the world.

Of course, Irizar won’t sell thousands of these a year locally, but this is not the company’s goal. The PB is aimed squarely at the high-end market, specifically operators looking for a premium coach that can be used in a very specific capacity, and in this niche segment, the vehicle should do very well.

“The PB is primarily for special uses, so the market for it isn’t massive, but our aim has always been to be the best, not the biggest,” stated Gotzon Gómez Sarasola, managing director of Irizar Brazil and Irizar Southern Africa, at the official launch. “We believe that it completes our range in the local market and are very proud to be able to make it available to operators.”

EASY TO OPERATE

Cognisant of the high demands placed on a coach in this premium segment, Irizar has spent millions designing a vehicle that, in addition to catering for the needs of passengers, is as safe, reliable and economical as possible.

“During the design of the PB, a lot of emphasis was placed on making a coach that is stable at all times,” explained Manuel Neves Maria, Irizar’s industrial director at its plant in Brazil, in a presentation delivered at the launch. “A lower passenger centre of gravity, balanced axle load distribution, optimised aerodynamics for side winds and an increase in torsional stiffness were all incorporated into the vehicle’s design in order to ensure total stability on the road.”

Focus on Bus and Coach
Focus on Bus and Coach
Adjustments have also been made to sharpen the PB’s performance in the event of an emergency. According to Neves Maria, the rollover resistance, central impact resistance and bending stiffness on the latest PB body have all been slightly increased.

The design of the body also holds benefits in terms of cost effectiveness: the light, aerodynamic design results in substantial fuel savings, while access points incorporated into the bus body reduce downtime significantly. All of the chassis and bodywork systems are accessible from the outside, making it practical to operate and easy to maintain, and cutting down dramatically on service time.

But the safety and profitability of a vehicle is naturally dependent on the way in which it is driven, which is why Irizar has done everything in its power to enhance the driving experience. The driver’s cabin is spacious, ergonomically designed and offers excellent visibility. In addition, the cabin also has independent air-conditioning to guarantee that the driver is always as comfortable as his or her passengers.

While very well designed, instrumentation in the driver’s cabin is complex and more akin to that found in an airplane than a traditional coach. And because of this, Irizar will be assisting in training prospective PB drivers. “The coach is technologically very advanced, and consequently, drivers will benefit greatly from instruction on how to operate the PB efficiently. With this in mind we will definitely help operators in training new drivers.”

CONCLUSION

The Irizar PB is undoubtedly one of the finest coaches available at the moment. The emphasis placed on passenger comfort during design has resulted in a vehicle that can satisfy the demands of even the fussiest traveller. For operators who want to supply their passengers with an incomparable travelling experience, the PB will prove to be the obvious choice.

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