by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

The new Setra TopClass 500: travelling through Europe with elegance and flair

The TopClass 500 is ready. Whether for sightseeing in London, through picturesque villages in Provence, through the rolling landscape of Tuscany, or ascending the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Passengers in the new touring coaches of the Setra brand will experience their travels to the most beautiful places in Europe feeling more relaxed and comfortable than ever before – priceless group experiences and a literally 'heavenly' panoramic view included. The state-of-the-art three-axle coaches combine luxurious elegance with functional vehicle technology and farseeing safety systems.

With the TopClass 500, the Ulm brand of Stuttgart-based Daimler AG presents the new members of the Setra product family: the best of the best in the European bus and coach industry – for passengers, drivers and operators.

The touring coach for most exacting requirements

Passengers enter the new world of Setra travel very conveniently via the widened, curving entrance area. TopClass 500 means highest standards of travel. Comfortable touring seats, a large panorama glass roof, spacious galleys and state-of-the-art infotainment systems for information and entertainment – in the Setra TopClass 500 the passengers can enjoy a multitude of amenities in unheard-of luxury. With the TopClass 500 the best time of the year begins right at your doorstep. When travelling at night, the new LED lighting concept ensures pleasant ambient lighting and a cosy atmosphere. And should you run into bad weather, in the TopClass 500 you can sit back and relax because a pleasant interior temperature is guaranteed both in summer and winter – from the first seat row to the last.

Handsome and ergonomic – the new driver's workplace

The cockpit of the TopClass 500: the developers have created an ergonomic workplace where everything is in exactly the right place. An up-to-date operating system and the leather-covered multifunction steering wheel with a simple-to-operate steering-column lever are only two of the many advantages which make the driver's work as easy as possible – for the benefit of all occupants, who additionally can feel safe and secure thanks to the protection provided by advanced driver assistance systems. Safe to say: in the TopClass 500 the journey is the reward.

The calling card for exclusive coach companies

The new premium products represent the premier league of bus and coach construction and are calling cards for any operator offering an exclusive tour programme.

You can count on the TopClass 500. Not only do the three-axle S 515 HDH, S 516 HDH and S 517 HDH impress with the sporty elegance of genuine flag-ships, they boast the economically attractive genes of the ComfortClass 500 as well. These include the hybrid lightweight construction, a fuel-saving, environment-friendly drive system, and a host of other weight-reducing measures and improvements in the entire chassis. TopClass 500, this is the "best of" the European bus and coach industry.

II. On the road with the TopClass 500

The departure check routine is slightly different from the usual today. The driver opens the two doors of the new TopClass 500 and attentively switches on the interior lighting for his passengers from the outside prior to boarding. Rather than a magic wand, he uses the multifunction key of the TopClass 500. With its numerous functions, this key has more in common with a pocket-size high-tech smartphone than a traditional ignition key. From outside the super high-decker, the driver conveniently calls up the fuel and AdBlue levels, tyre pressure levels and other details on the display. The Setra also carries out a self-check on its headlamps and lights at the touch of a button. Any malfunctions are automatically shown on the display.

There is thus no need for the customary inspection walk around the touring coach before setting off - although the new TopClass 500 offers plenty to look at, from the finely accentuated headlamps through the new La Linea on the side to the meticulously designed engine flap in the aerodynamic rear end.

Copious space, plenty of stowage compartments, stylish steering wheel

The cockpit also offers a wealth of impressive features. The adjustment range of the driver's seat is ample, and there are numerous open and closed compartments to accommodate the customary equipment, drinks and papers on the left and right. Overhead there are stowage compartments in the roof, while one of the two steps in front of the centre aisle incorporates a safe for valuables. The lid over the refrigerator even offers sufficient space for an XL laptop.

The highly adjustable leather steering wheel is pleasant to the touch. Setra's long-standing traditions are highlighted in the centre of the wheel by the brand's signature "K" in a circle coloured in Setra's corporate red. After fastening his seat belt, the driver checks the four exterior mirrors, which show the area in front of the coach and offer good visibility towards the rear.

Perfect match of form and function in the cockpit

Essentially familiar from the ComfortClass 500, the instrument panel in the TopClass is tailored even more closely to the driver's needs. Setra has also further refined its design, and added a brilliant metallic surround for the central area. Form and function complement each other to perfection.

The clearly arranged buttons lie at the driver's fingertips, while the instruments and displays are located perfectly within his field of vision. After inserting the key, the ignition is switched on at the push of a button.The needles in the instruments swing around to their limits and then back to rest position. A second push of the button brings the six-cylinder in-line Mercedes-Benz OM 471 to life at the rear. This is barely audible, but the rev counter needle duly points to 600 rpm.

A glance at the new air conditioning display: driver's area and passenger compartment are set according to requirements and controlled separately. The system operates fully automatically. Individual adjustments are possible as necessary, including details such as the preheating settings: depending on the mode of use for the vehicle, the heater will warm up the engine only, the driver's area as well or the entire bus including the passenger compartment.

Powerful engine, gently and rapidly shifting transmission

The Mercedes PowerShift GO 250-8 transmission is fitted as standard, with the selector lever on the steering column. Shifting work is generally kept to a minimum, however: after turning the rotary switch to position D and releasing the parking brake with the ergonomically positioned lever, a gentle tap on the accelerator is sufficient to set the Setra in motion. The three-axle vehicle accelerates gently but swiftly. On a level surface upshifts take place at a maximum of 1600 rpm in the lower gears when driving at full throttle. In hallmark Setra style, the transmission shifts the gears both swiftly and smoothly.

The system selects the eighth and highest gear from a speed of 80 km/h. At a speed of 100 km/h the Setra coasts smoothly and majestically along at just under 1300 rpm. Shortly before it reaches cruising speed, the vehicle's body is imperceptibly lowered by several centimetres - this saves fuel.

PPC – anticipatory cruise control saves fuel

Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) also saves expensive diesel. This unique anticipatory cruise control system on board the touring coach is GPS-guided, providing it with a detailed knowledge of virtually all motorways and trunk roads in Europe. In addition to adjusting the speed to a preset value, PPC also intervenes in the powertrain. Example: cruise control set to 98 km/h, upper hysteresis up to 100 km/h permitted by pushbutton, lower hysteresis down to 95 km/h. The system shifts down in anticipation of the first steep uphill gradient. On the brow of the hill the accelerator is released in good time, slowing the Setra down slightly. On the following downhill gradient the Setra accelerates as a result of its mass, exploiting the permitted 100 km/h.

If it would prove beneficial, the system even disengages the clutch momentarily and imperceptibly when travelling downhill and shifts the transmission into neutral. This EcoRoll function is shown in the display by the rev counter needle dropping to idle. The system subsequently reengages the clutch in good time - without jolting and virtually inaudibly. Depending on the form of use for the coach, PPC can cut fuel consumption by up to two percent. The system operates without the driver or passengers noticing, as the TopClass 500 coasts majestically along.

The driver can override the system at any time to ensure that he remains in control of any situation. At no time does the Setra overtax the driver: all the main functions and all the key items of information are available at all times. All functions are operated according to the same organisational principle - from the display in the instrument panel through the air conditioning to the multifunction key.

Suspension, brakes and steering in line with Setra's high standards

All the other features and items of equipment also correspond to Setra's signature high standards. As usual, the driver operates the retarder via a steering-column lever.Retarder and foot brake are powerful and respond sensitively. The suspension effortlessly compensates road bumps. The steering operates with precision.

And not least, the three-axle super high decker is surprisingly agile, maintaining a manageable turning circle despite its considerable length. This results in impressive manoeuvrability - whether on winding coastal roads in the south of France or on the way to a hotel in the city. It is nevertheless good to know that all the currently available safety devices are on board, and will intervene should the need arise.

Excellent view for the passengers

The TopClass 500's effortless superiority automatically gives rise to a relaxed driving style. This benefits the passengers, who are able to take in their surroundings en route through the wide TopSky Panorama glass roof, the large side windows and the ample windscreen. The passengers sit on comfortable Setra Voyage Supreme seats with tastefully designed covers. They do not notice the air conditioning running discreetly and effectively in the background. Fine touches such as the leather trim on the air ducts or the exquisitely designed service sets catch the eye. This new top-of-the-range Setra offers travelling luxury for everyone - passengers and driver alike.

The key goes into action one last time

Manoeuvring the coach into position in the parking lane at the end of the trip proves easy work once again: the transmission's manoeuvring mode enables the driver to control the speed simply by means of the brake pedal, allowing him to devote his full attention to steering the super high-decker with absolute precision. A final press of the starter button cuts the engine. He removes the key, and it is time for everyone to disembark. All good things must come to an end, including this outing in the new Top Class 500. The multifunction key is used one last time - to close and lock the super high-decker's two doors by remote control.

III. The Setra TopClass 500 highlights

Luxury, quality and safety in a new dimension. The new TopClass 500 for the premium travel segment embodies the Setra brand values in its own very special way. Uncompromising and conscious of tradition, the exclusive long-distance coaches stand for the dynamic evolution of form and function. Powerfully built and featuring clear lines, after four years of development the vehicles confidently present themselves as the new flagships of the Setra product family and impress with unmistakable character features.

Dominant – Setra lettering with underlining

The new Setra simply looks great. The black header in the front with inverse panel gives the TopClass 500 a dynamic look and turns heads. Above the three-dimensional, underscored metallic Setra lettering a decorative strip creates a curving link with the LED direction indicators. The distinctive design of the new Setra face in combination with chrome trim elements emphasises value, functionality and reliability – the "floating" design elements convey lightness and dominance. The maintenance-friendly LED technology makes for improved illumination of the area in front of the vehicle.

La Linea – divided in two, and three-dimensional

A Setra TopClass 500 can be recognised at a glance. Like their predecessors, the vehicles have a distinctive design feature: La Linea. Formerly in a flat, single-section design, this character feature in the new coach generation now hugs the streamlined vehicle body in divided, three-dimensional form, culminating in an arrow-shaped light. La Linea and the beltline visually embrace the passenger compartment, while in the lower area the chrome rings on the wheel covers painted in the vehicle colour provide an attractive counterpoint.

Power unit in the strikingly designed aero rear-end

The "heart" of the TopClass 500 sits in the back. The shield-shaped engine compartment door unmistakably indicates the sheer power residing behind it. The Euro VI in-line six-cylinder OM 471 engine stands for optimum performance combined with low fuel consumption. The symmetrical air outlet signals power and dominance.

With its aerodynamic rear end, the TopClass 500 displays its muscles in design terms too. The striking design with its prominent spoiler lip reflects the typical brand feature of a continuous line at the C-pillar to symbolise dynamic forward movement. It's immediately clear: the new Setra flagship series is a leap into a profitable future.

Other highlights of the upgraded rear section include the newly designed lighting units, which are equipped with an additional light module. The light curtains of the modular tail and brake lights with an additional LED reversing light lend more width to the vehicle, and round off the rear end as stabilising features. Additional reversing lights in the area of the drive axle illuminate the vehicle's surroundings during manoeuvring. These models also bear the striking SETRA lettering in the lower area of the rear window, and its sculptured, free-floating appearance also immediately catches the eye from the rear.

Inviting – entry into the new world of TopClass travel

In the interior, the touring coaches in the TopClass 500 range keep the promise suggested by Setra's exterior design. The brand's new design features are harmoniously continued into the interior. A look at the front section confirms that the two partitions between the cockpit and passenger compartment echo the new design décor of the Setra face.

The elegant world of Setra TopClass 500 travel is entered through a widened, curving boarding area featuring spiral steps with high-sheen aluminium edges. A curved handrail with silver inserts guides passengers into the passenger compartment. The cockpit area with its fan-shaped layout and décor inserts extends up to the first stairway step at the space-saving entry area. This creates harmony and space for a coolbox as well as additional folding stowage space and stowage compartments.

Grey and beige – Setra combines these into the colour 'greige', which lends an additional warm and inviting look to the entry of the TopClass 500.
The electrically adjustable tour guide seats - either as individual or double seats - have height-adjustable three-point seat belts and are fully-fledged workplaces in the new touring coaches, with standard-fit stowage boxes.

The interior headroom of 2100 mm also makes for a feeling of maximum spaciousness in the passenger compartment. A level vehicle floor makes exclusive equipment variants such as the space-saving 2+1 seats possible.

More comfort for more safety – the new cockpit is closer to the driver

High-quality surfaces, flowing lines, pendant pedals and a leather steering wheel as standard – these are the features of the redesigned cockpit in the new TopClass generation. A metallic design element inspired by La Linea encompasses the redesigned control panel of the driver cockpit. For many years the brand has included the driver when striving for optimum comfort, with a focus on maximum ergonomics. Both the passengers and driver will feel more comfortable in the TopClass 500 – and safer. Easy access to the controls has always ensured that drivers are relaxed behind the wheel – for the benefit and protection of all passengers. This is all the more important on long-distance journeys. To this end the instrument panel of the completely newly designed cockpit, with an arrangement by function groups, has been moved 50 mm closer to the driver while allowing maximum freedom of movement. Moreover, the developers have provided additional stowage space and stowage compartments for mobile phones and bags and have repositioned the parking brake, which is now to the left of the driver at hip height. The elimination of the driver's door enables a much more ergonomic positioning of the controls to the left of the driver and permits permanent access to the stowage compartments located there.

Multifunctionality – wrapped in leather

The display instrument cluster has also been newly designed, with model-specific displays and an easy-to-clean facing in real glass. Steering and navigating without the driver's eyes leaving the road for even a second is guaranteed by the Stacks&Cards control and display concept, which has already proved very successful in the ComfortClass 500. The individual menus can be selected using the function keys on the leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel. The menus include current travel information and continuous vehicle checks, for example tyre pressure monitoring. Every function key is easily accessed without the driver's hands leaving the steering wheel – even when shifting gears. This is ensured by the steering-column lever, which is now much easier to operate.

High quality with a clear structure – the modern operating menu

Whether telephone, navigation, radio, DVD drive, audio CD or display of the images from the monitoring cameras: top levels of functionality for all infotainment equipment are also ensured by the intuitive and clearly arranged menu of the Coach Communication Center (CCC), designed to high quality and including a coach-specific dual mode for driver and passenger compartment settings.

A technical requirement only relevant in the bus sector. The Setra TopClass 500 has it. Designed according to the new operating concept, the radio, which can also be controlled by means of the menu of the Stacks&Cards system, has a clear display. A DVD drive is incorporated and permits playback of videos as well as mp3 formats. The driver has a central unit at his disposal which features a clear control structure with arrow buttons, a 10-key control panel for telephony and navigation, a Bluetooth connection, an audio jack and a USB connection. The microphone integrated in the driver's seat is operated by means of a separate "MIC" button.

As standard the TopClass 500 is equipped with a commercial-vehicle-specific navigation system which enables manual entry of the vehicle's height, width and length and suggests appropriate routes based on this data. The ultimate in convenience.

The TopClass 500 also obeys from a distance

The Stacks&Cards menu can also be used to operate the electronic multifunction ignition key, which coach drivers very soon will not want to be without. It makes manual locking of the steering wheel a thing of the past, and anti-theft protection is improved by an integrated drive authorisation system. From a distance – e.g. at a service area or hotel – bidirectional communication via wireless connection enables the driver among other things to ascertain the fuel and AdBlue level or the on-board electrical system voltage, carry out a lighting test prior to departure and regulate the interior temperature. Heated in winter and ventilated in summer, the interior to which the passengers return after a break is sure to have a pleasant temperature.

TopSky Panorama roof – a new dimension

The TopClass 500 provides an excellent view. Passengers entering the sporty and elegant three-axle coach very quickly direct their gaze upwards. Their eyes are drawn to the roof, where one of the most obvious new features of the TopClass 500 rises above seemingly free-floating monitor pods. Extended and widened by 56 cm, the tinted TopSky Panorama glass roof (13 m2 in the S 515 HDH) with one percent light transmission, available as an optional extra, is an innovation in European bus engineering. It extends to the front roof slope, and so from the front boarding area to the rear it provides an unprecedented feeling of spaciousness and an unrivalled view of the passing landscape.

Warm and white – pleasant ambience thanks to LED lighting scheme

In the front section of the coach, a clever, visually continuous ceiling design creates space for digital clock and temperature displays lit up on an elegant smoked glass panel. Additional stowage compartments for the DVD changer and FleetBoard computer are also neatly accommodated in the generous front section.

A sense of spaciousness is also provided by the open luggage racks, which are easy to access and open to view. No passenger is going to forget anything of value there. Along with the warm, white LED lights on the service sets, a continuous luminescent LED band provides indirect lighting in the passenger compartment. Exclusive ambient lighting gives the TopClass 500 a very special feeling of premium spaciousness.

Light beams with a 3D effect are created by the newly designed service sets, which are inset into curved décor features with high-quality clear glass facings and have glossy metal surrounds. These incorporate reading lamps directed precisely at the seats, and ensure a refreshing air flow with individual air nozzles. If required, the modular service tract can be adjusted to the seat layout in use. The leather connecting elements feature contrasting topstitching in silver - handmade by Setra. The message is clear: only the best of the best is to be found in the TopClass 500.

New underseat heating for cosy warmth

Whether for warmth or fresh air – you are always seated in the right place in the TopClass 500. Two separate control zones in the floor and ceiling circuits of the fully automatic integral air conditioning system with cross-flow ventilation ensure an even temperature distribution from the first to the last seat row.

An integral component of the TopClass 500 is the new control panel for heating, ventilation and climate control, with Stacks&Cards operation, new user interface and display. The HVAC control unit permits separate climate control settings for driver cockpit and passenger compartment. The integrated 2.8-inch colour display also shows the automatic climate control for the cockpit. The blower speed and flap adjustment are automatically regulated depending on the desired temperature setting.

Moreover, Setra is celebrating a world première with a further development of the axial fan heating system, which actively ventilates the footwell area – making sure that no passenger will get cold feet in future. Warm air is blown under each double seat via air ducts from the heat exchangers on the side walls.

The window sills of the TopClass 500 are brought to a pleasant temperature electrically, by means of heater foil, instead of heater water. This ensures automatic regulation and a constant temperature no matter what the outdoor temperature is.

Top fuel economy

The TopClass 500 combines luxury and efficiency in an unprecedented way. As was the case with the ComfortClass 500 presented in 2012, the aerodynamic shape of the new touring coaches was formed as part of a complex development process and extensive in-house wind tunnel tests in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. The optimised transitions from the front to the side wall, roof and rear end ensure significantly reduced noise levels in the TopClass 500, and therefore more comfort for the driver and passengers. The distinctive aerodynamic edge and other details help to give the exclusive long-distance athletes a Cd figure of 0.33 – enabling them to confidently take the top position in the European bus and coach industry also in terms of economy and low life cycle costs.

New driver assistance systems aid economy

The TopClass 500 is always on the driver's side when it comes to reaching the destination as economically and eco-friendly as possible. For example, the EcoDriver Feedback system aids driver awareness with continuous feedback of current vehicle data, contributing to a sustained reduction in component wear and fuel consumption.

This is also the effect of the GPS-equipped Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) shift programme, which accesses digital elevation profile data and intervenes in the powertrain to save fuel. On a slight downhill gradient, for example, the integrated EcoRoll system disengages the clutch when in PowerShift automatic mode and shifts the transmission into neutral, causing the vehicle to coast for longer without inner engine drag losses. The additional positive effect is noticeable: the predictive shift strategy reduces the number of gearshifts, which can also be executed more comfortably in the TopClass 500.

Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC)

PPC is the first automatic speed control with integrated transmission intervention. Geodesic data plus pinpointing the vehicle location using the Global Positioning System (GPS) make predictive cruise control operation possible. PPC primarily intervenes when negotiating uphill and downhill stretches. Apart from exercising control via the conventional speed control function, Predictive Powertrain Control also takes over gearshift management from case to case. This means that Predictive Powertrain Control is able to intervene in gear selection on the basis of exact route knowledge. In addition the system is able to expand the use of the already fuel-saving EcoRoll technology. As a result, gearshifts assessed as unnecessary by the predictive function are prevented, necessary multiple shifts are executed rather than several individual gearshifts, and use of EcoRoll is planned and initiated on a predictive basis.

Data from inside and outside

The overall Predictive Powertrain Control package includes the input data profiling the route ahead and the current GPS position of the vehicle. Data provided by the vehicle itself above all include the vehicle mass, the road speed, the engine torque and output, and the current gear in the PowerShift transmission. The decisive target value added to this mix is the desired cruising speed, input by the driver using the controls on the steering wheel.

Safety always comes first

In individual cases, armed with these data, the predictive cruise control therefore takes charge of the accelerator, permanent brake and transmission. Naturally, ultimate control still lies with the driver. And of course the package consisting of adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking function Active Brake Assist remains active and takes priority over Predictive Powertrain Control, in the interests of vehicle and traffic safety.

When driving a semitrailer/tractor combination loaded to 40 t on a comparative test route, truck journalists were able to achieve fuel savings of up to eight percent with the use of PPC.

Made longer for more luggage capacity

The TopClass 500 has been made longer. The 2550 mm wide and 3880 mm high vehicle bodies have been lengthened to achieve the best possible ride comfort and payload. At 12,495 mm the S 515 HDH is 195 mm longer than its predecessor, the S 516 HDH has increased in length by 135 mm to 13,325 mm, and the S 517 HDH has been lengthened by 115 mm to 14,165 mm.

Wheelbases increased by 110 mm (in the S 515 HDH), 50 mm (in the S 516 HDH) and 30 mm (in the S 517 HDH) have enabled the luggage compartment capacity of the TopClass 500 to be increased by up to 0.8 cubic metres. In addition, four stowage compartments with a total volume of 2.2 cubic metres and a payload of 220 kg are provided in the front area of the vehicle for additional equipment.

Systematic lightweight construction and safety

The drive system of the TopClass 500 combines high torque at low engine speeds with smooth ride comfort. This is also ensured by the intelligent lightweight construction concept, which is brought to perfection in the sixth Setra model series. The weight of the frame has been reduced by more than 150 kg. Nonetheless the new vehicle generation offers more rigidity at a lower weight. The further advanced Front Collision Guard (FCG) also improves passive safety – it is standard equipment in the new vehicle generation.

Active Brake Assist (BAS PLUS), Attention Assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system as optional equipment – in addition to these well-proven active safety systems, the TopClass 500 also has Start-Off Assist on board as standard, preventing the vehicle from unintentionally rolling forwards or backwards on gradients and making starting and slow manoeuvring easier – a considerable benefit in terms of comfort and safety.

Powerful acceleration – maximum fuel efficiency

Behind the engine compartment door of the TopClass 500, the OM 471 LA 6-cylinder in-line engine developing 350 kW (476 hp)/2300 Nm as standard and 375 kW (510 hp)/2500 Nm as an optional alternative is combined with the GO 250-8 PowerShift transmission and the Voith secondary water retarder for powerful acceleration plus maximum fuel efficiency.

In addition to complying with the Euro VI emission standard for new vehicles which goes into effect in 2014, the overall concept of the TopClass 500 already makes allowances for numerous safety regulations and legal provisions which will take effect in coming years. This includes the additional demands on driver assistance systems applicable from 2015 as well as directive ECE-R 66/01, which requires enhanced roll-over stability of touring coaches and comes into effect two years later.

AdBlue consumption down 40 percent

In the TopClass 500 the BlueTec engine technology with SCR technology and AdBlue injection, as already tried and tested in more than 100,000 vehicles, is combined with exhaust gas recirculation and a canned particulate filter.

The cooled exhaust gas recirculation gives rise to less nitrogen oxide when the fuel is burned – AdBlue consumption is reduced by as much as 40 percent compared with Euro V engines. The AdBlue is injected without air into the exhaust stream by the new metering unit. In the SCR catalytic converter the nitrogen oxides are almost completely converted into water and nitrogen. The exhaust system of the Euro VI engines additionally is equipped with an extremely effective diesel particulate filter that requires servicing in the Setra for the first time after 360,000 kilometres or three years, and then only every 240,000 kilometres (two years). To avoid increased backpressure in the exhaust system with its negative impact on fuel consumption, the entire exhaust gas aftertreatment system including oxidation catalytic converter, particulate filter and SCR catalytic converter features a two-pipe design. All components are combined in one housing.

Credits: Daimler AG

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