The Volvo is still far superior, when compared to its competitors, in fit and finish and overall aesthetics. Park a Volvo near a Volga, and even a blind mouse will be able to make out the Swedish coach from the impostor in a blink of an eye. Then of course, you can’t mistake that rear axle for anything else. I think this is the first time we are getting two rear axles in a bus, and that too, it’s retractable.
INTERIOR AND COMFORT
Stepping into the B9R and looking at the rear-most seats is like standing in Kanyakumari and trying to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas. The insides of this bus just seem to go on and on and on. The B9R seats 53, an increase of 8 seats over the B7R. The seats have recliners and the fabric is rich and much better than the green plasticky rexine most of the older Indian bus seats are covered with. The legroom is quite sufficient for most people but for six footers and plus, amputation of your lower limbs might be required. The handrests are foldable and move down out of sight and out of the way. The AC vents placed above the seats are easy to adjust and the lighting is subtle and adequate
Sitting in the driver’s throne, your view changes. The instrumentation for the driver can be easily mistaken for a sedan. An LCD screen provides information about the various systems on the bus and various switches do everything, from raising the suspension to ejecting pesky passengers out. Okay, the latter part is fictitious but if I were to buy a bus like this... And of course, the motorised rear view mirrors are a boon as no human hands can possibly reach out from within the bus and adjust them manually, unless you’re Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The 9-litre, six-cylinder engine puts out 340 bhp with about 166 kgm of torque. You might scoff at the ‘340 bhp’ bit, arguing that the last generation M3 puts out around 343 bhp from a 3.2-litre inline-six. Yeah, but did you notice the torque figure? The M3 seats two adults and two midgets while the B9R seats more than fifty people along with their luggage, including grandma’s walker and little Bunty’s sandbox. Torque is what buses need and, as you can see, the Volvo has plenty of that.
Expecting tyre shredding performance from a coach this size is like expecting a Sopwith Pup to do a Pugachev Cobra. Okay, if the aviation reference went, er, above your head, try this instead: it’s like getting an elephant to tap-dance. But yes, the Volvo is quick for its size. The B9R picks up speed pretty quickly and the top speed of the bus has been restricted to 100 kph, as Volvo feels that this speed is good enough for our highway conditions.
The gearshift was very, very hard. Hard to the extent of me needing the assistance of the Volvo Driver Training in-charge, Hari Babu, to help me get the cog into place. But there is an explanation due here. The bus I drove was brand new, I could even smell the paint. It does take time for any gearbox to free up and I was told that this was the case here too. I have never seen Volvo bus drivers jump off their seats and start heaving the gearshift lever into the next gear and so, I know that this explanation holds true. B9R: ****