Executive travel

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To address the need for executive travel, SML Isuzu has introduced an executive coach based on its highly popular S7 platform.

Story & photos: Anirudh Raheja

With a 7500 kg gross vehicle weight, the SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach seats 19 people in high levels of comfort. If the push back luxury seats are replaced with semi-reclining seats, the coach can accommodate between 28 and 30 people. Based on SML Isuzu’s S7 platform, which has sprang numerous derivatives including a range of school buses, the executive coach incorporates the updates the Ropar-based commercial vehicle manufacturer has subjected its S7 platform too. The Executive LX Coach is thus a combination of new and familiar.

Appearance

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In terms of appearance, ‘modish’ could well be the word. A large windshield that extends way down dominates the front fascia. It also signals a clever use of glass to ensure good visibility ahead as well as add a dash of style to what would otherwise have been a boxy structure. Designed and engineered to accommodate as many people, the Executive LX Coach looks modern and smart. Its front FRP fascia, seems to strike a resemblance with an Executive LX bus built on the same, S7 platform, but with a shorter wheelbase of 2815 mm. The streaked, twin-beam head lamp assemblies add a touch of style, and as does the bumper. It is an integral part of the front fascia. SML Isuzu sources claim that the Executive LX Coach is aimed at tourist and staff transport. The good fit-finish levels will provide this coach an ability to attract both, the tourist and the staff bus commuters. Seeming to carry an amount of influence of the bigger Isuzu FR1318 bus, the Executive LX Coach flaunts fixed side windows. They are glued and provide a pillarless look, like that of the Isuzu FR1318! Measuring 8,291 mm in length, 2,262 mm in width and 3,060 mm in height, the Executive LX Coach looks well proportioned. Its wheelbase measures 4,240 mm. The body structure of the front-engine bus is made of reinforced steel. Riding on 16-inch wheels, the coach has an emergency exit door at the rear-right. Complying with the bus code, the rear fascia of the coach, sports a hatch with the tail lamp consoles on either side. There is a small windshield at the rear. Its functional value is however not clear. Opening the hatch hinged at the top provides access to the storage space. It is big enough to store the bags of all those who could ride this coach.

Air-conditioned

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If the fixed windows provide a clue, the Executive LX Coach is fitted with a Trans ACNR 25 kW roof top air-conditioner. Entry into the coach is through a pneumatically operated door on the left. The low step entry makes it easier to get into the bus and get down from the bus. The first impression upon climbing inside is the good fit-finish levels. This particular coach came fitted with 2×1 push-back seats. These were arranged across five rows. The seats have been procured from Harita Seating Systems, and come with padded arm rests and footrests. Each row of seats is provided with two mobile charging points to address the needs of commuters. The hat racks have air-con ducts running through them. Above each row are a bank of adjustable AC vents and reading lights. Also built into the hat rack are the speakers. A 19-inch, foldable LCD panel is built into the roof. For emergency evacuation, a red button has been placed in the passenger compartment. On the pillars is a hammer painted in red. This could be used to break the window glass in case of an emergency.

In-line with the other S7 (platform) variants, the Executive LX Coach does not have a full driver partition. The front passenger seat could be reached by stepping past the lid, which provides access to the engine compartment below. This lid is flush with the floor! Even the driver could choose to take this route to his cockpit or climb in through the dedicated door provided to him. Built at SML Isuzu’s bus building facility at Ropar, the driver cockpit of the Executive LX Coach will look familair to those who have been in an S7 (platform) bus, or have piloted one. It is not a complicated place to be in. It is not a place that is buzzing with a lot of electronics; digital stuff, that is.

At the wheel

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The driving position of the Executive Coach is commanding. The large front windshield provides a good view of all that lies in front. Ergonomically well engineered, the dashboard, as part of the driver’s cockpit is functional and simple. It flaunts a faux-wood and black surface finish. The instrument console is made up of a large speedometer, front and rear air pressure gauge, and fuel and engine temperature gauge. A strip at the bottom of what could be defined as a simple looking conolse, is a strip that contains the warning lamps. To the right of the instrument console is the head lamp height adjustment switch. The center console has an array of buttons followed by a music system and the AC controls. The three spoke steering wheel is a carry over from other S7 buses. Below the steering wheel, and to the left, is a blue coloured knob that switches on or off the pneumatic control system of the passenger door entry. Above the driver’s seat is a large mirror to help him quickly glance at the pasengers. For him to watch the traffic behind his bus or in the vicinity are the large external mirrors. The gear shifter is well placed and is within easy reach of the driver. In terms of ergonomics and comfort, the Executive LX Coach scores well.

On the road

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Turn the key; the SL T3 diesel motor fires to life. Available in BSIII and BSIV guise, the engine is located longitudinally at front with the drive going to the rear through a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission and a hypoid live axle. The 3455cc diesel engine produces 101 hp and 310 Nm of peak torque at 1500-1750 rpm. Good response translates into the coach smartly moving away from standstill. The SL T3 unit produces good torque from lower rpm. This helps to enhance tract-ability. Good insulation adds to the refined natire of the engine. The Executive LX Coach is a good place to be in. It is quiet and devoid of harshness. Switch to second gear, and the action, though not quite car-like, is smooth and predictable. Engage third gear, and the coach picks up speed. The lower ratios feel taller a shade taller than the higher ones. They ensure good supply of torque. With speeds in the region of 50 kmph attained easily, the coach displays good refinement. The driver area is not very noisy or a tough place to be in. It is reflective of the good sound insulation the company has deployed. The recirculating ball type power steering is light and offers good feedback. It helps to manoeuvre the coach with ease. The semi-elliptical multi leaf suspension along with hydraulic double acting and telescopic dampers at both, the front end and the rear end, support a pliant ride over a variety of surfaces. It does have a firm edge to it, but is pliant. The dual circuit vaccum assisted pneumatic brakes offer a good bite. They retard the coach, and provide a progressive feel. The air-conditioner cools the large area inside the bus effectively, and without robbing the engine of its ability to propel the vehicle at good speeds.

Bright future

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The Executive LX Coach follows the 11 m-long FR1318 in a territory were customer preferences are changing. Expectations about comfort, efficiency and safety are rising as much as they are changing. For SML Isuzu, which posted a growth of 18.8 per cent in the first half of FY2016-17, the Executive LX Coach does not signal a new territory. It has had a presence in the executive tourist and staff bus transport segments, albeit with its small wheelbase Executive bus. The Executive LX Coach promises better operating economics no doubt. Meeting the AIS 052 bus body code specifications, the Executive LX Coach from SML Isuzu points at a modern build and high standards of fit-finish. With the BSIV and CNG versions of the Executive LX Coach under certification, the future for this particular example looks bright. The Executive LX Coach extends the company’s possibilities to gain a greater pie of the market that is growing in.

Isuzu vehicles exempt from MV tax in AP

Isuzu Motors India has announced that the Government of Andhra Pradesh has issued an order, dated November 18, 2016, to exempt buyers of Isuzu vehicles manufactured in Andhra Pradesh from payment of Motor Vehicle Tax. This exemption is available for Isuzu vehicles purchased in Andhra Pradesh between November 18, 2016, and March 31, 2017. Isuzu Motors India has a manufacturing facility at Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, with an annual capacity of 50,000 units, which can be scaled up to 120,000 units in the future. The plant manufactures D-Max range of pickups.

Isuzu FR 1318, the premium coach

The Isuzu FR 1318 front-engine bus looks ‘premium’, and is refined and comfortable.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Photos by: Mahesh Reddy

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The view ahead is uninterrupted almost. The seating is high, and the large ORVMs that protrude ahead ensure that little is lost in terms of the view of what is in the vicinity. Behind the two-spoke steering wheel is an instrument cluster with a large speedo dial, a smaller rev counter and two smaller dials for fuel and temperature. There is a small digital display strip at the bottom of the speedo dial. The cluster is part of the sprawling driver console with a bank of switches and controls on the right. These include a switch to pneumatically close or open the passenger door, and to level the head lamps. Other bits include a toggle switch to adjust the ORVMs electrically. Warning lamps include a low coolant indicator. There’s an ABS switch too. On the left are two air brake pressure dials. Below them is an entertainment system head unit. The six-speed gear shifter is well within reach. It is indicative of an ergonomically well sorted driver compartment. The parking brake lever, as per the industry practice, is placed behind the driver’s seat. The seat is adjustable for height, reach and recline; is supportive and comfortable.

Impressive in appearance

Measuring 10.9 m in length and 2.6 m in width, the Isuzu FR 1318 is a front-engine bus that targets tourism as well as staff segments. It was introduced in 2015 with an ulterior motive to provide a high quality, fully built-up bus that meets the AIS052 Bus Code regulations. Drawing the attention of visitors at Auto Expo 2016, the FR 1318 measures 3.3 m in height. The wheelbase is 6260 mm. Flaunting a ‘mono’ look when viewed from the front, the FR 1318 is reflective of the high levels of fit and finish the bus industry is comming to imbibe upon. Putting up a ‘premium’ appearance, a large windshield brings the front up to speed. The head lamps are situated in what resembles a streak on either side of a simple horizontal slat grille. The fog lamps are situated in the bumper.

Walk over, and the large windows come into view. They are flush fitted, and contribute towards a ‘premium’ image the FR 1318 conveys. The side panels also reflect high standards of fit and finish. The appearance of the bus hints at a modern construction with tight panel gaps and a smooth surface finish. Lockable lids dot the lower portion. They provide access to storage compartments. There are two compartments between the axles. The one aft of the rear axle is the biggest, and can be accessed from the side as well as the rear. On either side of the rear lid are the tail lamps placed. They are a grey coloured enclosure. The tiny windshield at the top adds to the airy feel inside.

Inside

Open the driver’s door and climb up. There are steps built into the side. The passenger door is on the left. A foldable seat near the passenger door goes unnoticed almost. It adds to the seat count nevertheless. Separating the driver and passenger compartment is a partition. It plays an important role in curbing noise from entering into the passenger compartment. For passengers, the FR 1318 makes a refined and comfortable bus. This one was fitted with 39 seats of the push back (reclining) variety. The FR 1318, claim SML Isuzu sources, is capable of seating up to 41 people. Supplied to Mumbai-based Vigneshwar Travels, the 2×2 push back seats on this bus are of Harita make. The emergency door on the right (as per the bus code) necessitates more space between the third last and second last row of seats. Besides the emergency door, there are fixed windows marked as emergency exits. The glass can be broken with the help of hammers (painted in red) placed on the pillars if and when the need arises. Another safety feature is the roof hatch.

Ample glass area adds to the ‘premium’ feel the FR 1318 provides. The quality of fit and finish is good. A well designed hat rack has a console above every seat that contains air-con vents, individual reading lights, and their switches. Common lighting is in the form of bright LED light strips. At the front centre is a foldable video screen. The speakers are situated in the hat rack.

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Premium ride

Built at the SML Isuzu’s facility at Ropar, Chandigarh, the FR 1318 is a blend of Japanese technology and Indian craftsmanship. According to SML Isuzu sources, the bus enables the buyer to press it into service from the very moment he acquires it. He does not have to send the cowl chassis to a body builder and get it built to his preference as has been the practice in this segment largely. Bus Code compliant, the FR 1318 is claimed to be based on the Isuzu NQR series. It offers a fine ride. This was revealed on the Ahmedabad highway (on the outskirts of Mumbai). The Harita seats are supportive and comfortable. The low noise levels in the passenger compartment also contribute to the level of comfort. The suspension soaks up the irregularities well. The front suspension of the FR 1318 is made up of parabolic leaf springs (and hydraulic shock absorbers). Rear suspension is pneumatic in nature, and is made up of four bellows. If the flush fitted windows also contribute to lower the level of noise in the passenger cabin, the Denso supplied AC does a good job of cooling the cabin. The controls for the engine-driven compressor and blower are situated to the right of the steering wheel; below the bank of switches.

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The drive

Get into the driver’s seat, and the noise in the driver compartment is considerably higher than that of the passenger compartment. It is not intrusive. Devoid of vibrations, the bus comes across as refined. The power steering offers fair amount of feedback. At low speeds it may call for some more effort, on the highway, at good speeds, it feels light. The 173PS, 5-litre four-cylinder intercooled (BS III emission compliant) turbo-diesel engine is sourced from Japan along with the transmission and a few other bits including the engine wiring harness and the instrument cluster according to SML Isuzu sources. It is located longitudinally at the front with the drive going to the rear through a six-speed manual transmission. The engine is electronically governed, and makes the FR 1318 a powerful bus in its segment. Its four-cylinder engine is also claimed to be frugal. The local content, according to the sources, amounts to 70 per cent approximately. The live rear axle, for example, is sourced locally.

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The hydraulically controlled single plate diaphragm clutch is light to operate. The quality of gear shift is good. The tall first cog helps for an energetic start. The second cog helps to gather momentum; is useful in slow moving traffic conditions. The third and fourth cogs are what help to gather speed. Developing a peak torque of 706.5 Nm at 1500 rpm, the FR 1318 pulls well from lower revs. The spread of torque, it is clear, is wide, and starts from lower down. Above 2000 rpm, the engine does tend to get a bit vocal. It feels best in the 1200 rpm to 1500 rpm range. It is at these revs, that the bus makes for a pleasant mix of speed and refinement. 

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Market positioning

Capable of a top speed of 110 kmph, the FR 1318 impresses. Its 12.5-tonne GVW places it at the start of the 12- to 16-tonne bus segment. It is a competitive segment, both in terms of specifications and costs, and has been largely reliant on local and regional body builders. To this segment, SML Isuzu has been quick to offer a Bus Code compliant fully-built bus. It is powerful and fuel efficient. The 280-litre fuel tank should provide a good range between refills. Leveraging the capability and experience of Isuzu, Japan, the FR 1318 is equipped with pneumatically operated brakes and ABS. The brakes exert a strong bite. Priced at Rs.38 lakh approximately, the FR 1318 could be had without air-conditioning too, according to the SML Isuzu sources. It costs considerably less than this particular version, and is fitted with sliding windows instead of the fixed, flush fitted windows this bus has. Plans are in place to support the product as well as to ensure that it is marketed well. The fact that this particular bus, procured by Mumbai-based Vigneshwar Travels, will be deployed in the service of package tour operators should present an idea of how the FR 1318 is being positioned. Presenting a ‘premium’ feel, the Isuzu FR 1318 makes a lasting impression. 

Isuzu D-Max V-Cross at India 4X4 Week

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Isuzu Motors India will participate in the inaugural edition of India 4×4 Week 2016 to be held between July 22 and July 24. The company will arrange for a drive of its D-max V-cross on a 4×4 track designed to allow enthusiasts to test the capabilities of the adventure utility vehicle. Said Captain Shankar Srinivas, Senior General Manager – Communications, PR & External Affairs, Isuzu Motors India, that the visitors will get to experience the V-Cross first hand. “We are sure, in time, this vehicle will start a new trend in the adventure space in India, ” he added. “This is the first time that over 14 of India’s most prominent 4X4 clubs and institutions have collaborated with a national level convention, with an aim of bringing together the entire 4X4 community of India,” said Ashish Gupta, Founder and Director, Cougar Motorsport. India 4×4 Week is organised by Delhi-based Cougar Motorsport Pvt. Ltd. It is expected to host a range of activities from test tracks to off-road tracks and trails, to training and certification sessions.

Isuzu’s SriCity plant goes on stream

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Isuzu has commissioned its SriCity plant with an initial capacity of 50,000 units per annum.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Isuzu entered the Indian market in 2013 with the launch of the D-Max pick-up truck and the MU-7 SUV. Both shared a common platform and aimed at the commercial and pleasure end of the market respectively. For the assembly of vehicles, the company entered into an agreement with Hindustan Motors. The agreement to assemble the D-Max and MU-7 at Hindustan Motors’ Tiruvallur plant near Chennai was based on Isuzu’s earlier connection to manufacture the Trooper general utility vehicle under technical collaboration perhaps.

The commissioning of the SriCity Greenfield plant, 55 km from Chennai, marks a new chapter in Isuzu’s India journey. Built with an initial capacity to manufacture 50,000 vehicles per annum, the plant is part of a phased investment of Rs.3,000 crores. Spread across 107 acres, the plant is designed to support a hike in production to 1.2 lakh units as per the demand. Expecting to cross the 50,000 vehicles per annum target in the next three years, Isuzu aims to tap the sub-five tonne light commercial vehicle market with two key variants of the D-Max, the D-Max single cab and D-Max Crew Cab. A chassis version of the D-Max will also be on offer. The recently unveiled V-Cross double cab pick-up for pleasure use will also roll out of the new plant. Stress would be on localisation. Products rolling out of SriCity are expected to have 70 per cent local content. Isuzu India is working with 120 suppliers. For Just-In-Time (JIT) supply, some of the key suppliers are expected to set up a facility close by. Aiming at 100 per cent localisation in the next three years, Isuzu Motors, in latter 2015 set up an Isuzu Engineering Business Centre India (IEBCI). Responsible for sourcing parts for both domestic and global operations, IEBCI will also host research and development activities to enhance the quality and efficiency of products made in India. Exports are on the

cards too.

With the prime focus of safety and quality, the company would continue to assemble the MU-7 at the Hindustan Motors facility at Tiruvallur. Said Hiroyasu Miura, Chairman, Isuzu Motors India Pvt. Ltd., “High localisation strategy for our manufacturing operations in India is boosted by the Indian suppliers which we have found capable of meeting our global quality standards.” Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu expressed that his government is thinking of exempting road tax for every vehicle that rolls out of this facility and is sold in the state. Hoping to expand the dealership count to 60 from the current 26, Isuzu Motors India is looking at grabbing a share of the pie in the two-lakh unit strong pick-up market. The market is expected to surpass eight lakh units by 2023. The company has till date sold 3,000 units.

Isuzu sets up an engineering business company in India

Isuzu Motors Limited, Japan, has set up a new company, Isuzu Engineering Business Centre India Private Limited (IEBCI) in India. This company, as yet another business vertical of Isuzu, Japan, will be responsible for R&D and sourcing related activities. It will primarily focus on enhancing efficiency and quality levels of Isuzu Motors India (IMI) products, enabling the company to achieve 70 per cent localisation at the start of production, and achieve 100 per cent localisation in the future. IEBCI will also serve as the specialised hub for sourcing parts for Isuzu’s global operations. Naohiro Yamaguchi, Managing Director of Isuzu Motors India will also assume the role of Director, IEBCI with immediate effect. Isuzu Motors India manufactures the D-MAX range of pick-up trucks and MU-7 SUV in India.