I happen to live near a couple of ‘Tours and Travels’ shops and I am accustomed to seeing scores of private buses parked by the side of the road, waiting for their passengers. Although I have seen Volga, Volva and Vologo buses, the folks sitting in the genuine rear-engined Volvo buses seem to have the broadest smiles on their faces. It appears that either they are happy to leave Mumbai or it’s something brought about by the buses they are sitting in. Ask any seasoned Mumbai-Pune traveller what his preferred mode of doing the distance is, and instantly, the word Volvo pops up – Volvo this and Volvo that. Walk to any inter-city bus stand and be ready to be heckled by touts of all shapes and sizes, screaming ‘Volvo, Pune Tayshion’ into your ears. Well, you do know by now that the Volvo B7R has proved itself many times over to passengers and bus owners alike. They are comfortable, reliable and pretty darn quick. And it’s been nearly eight years since the B7R first traversed our highways and already, these buses are given first preference by passengers who want to get to their destinations in relative comfort.
It makes sense then, if each Volvo bus could carry more passengers in a single trip, resulting in more availability of tickets, and of course better economics for the fleet owner. So the Swedish firm has introduced a gigantic new machine to supplement the B7R in the country. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new 9400 6x2 B9R Multi-Axle Coach. Since it’s almost car-like to drive, I decided to give this story the ‘Road Test’ treatment! Here goes...
LOOKS AND DESIGN
The B9R looks more or less like a bus, and that’s not a bad thing. Wait, let me explain. Sure, it’s soft around the edges and the front has a very typical Volvo snout. But then again, styling a bus to look like a 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ isn’t really possible. Buses look the way they do because they are more products of necessity as opposed to flights of fantasy. They are built to carry as many passengers as possible and are not designed to bang past the sound barrier and so, aerodynamics aren’t immensely important in the design brief. What Volvo has done with the B9R, however, is made the boxiness of the quintessential bus seem less boxy. The bright painted graphics, the curvy windshield and the pronounced wheel arches do a lot to make the B9R seem more suave and less utilitarian and dowdy, while still retaining the practicality of a true-blooded people carrier.