Setra S 515 MD
Entry model with smart rear
Setra's S 515 MD is a budget-friendly entry model for the coach market. The first test confirms its qualities.
It doesn't always have to be the best of the best. This is also true in the coach sector, where the motto is usually go big or go home. But here too, absolute luxury is not always an absolute necessity. Not even at Setra, a brand that stands for luxury like no other. Two things that really cannot be done without are smart solutions and high-quality technology, not even for a vehicle designed as an entry model to the world of long-distance coaches.
Since the switch to the 500 series, the role of the previous GT-HD model of the 400 series has now been assumed by two "mid deck" models. These are intended more for the long-distance travel market than the GT-HD (see purchase advice in lastautoomnibus 8/2014, accessible via the QR code on page 58). From the outside, the coach is barely any different, apart from the straight line of the windows toward the back. With a height of 3.56 meters, it is even lower than the GT-HD. In the HD models, the window line swoops boldly downwards, giving it an unmistakable look.
Generous standing room in the interior
Inside, we see more smart design tricks. At 1.16 meters, the floor is another 16 centimeters deeper than in the GT-HD. This creates a generous standing room of 2.10 meters in the interior, as in the more mature HD counterparts.
But doesn't the lower floor mean less storage space, an important feature for a true long-distance coach? The short answer is yes. Compared to its predecessor, the loading volume shrinks to around 7.3 cubic meters. Taking the toilet into account, this leaves just 6.1 cubic meters.
In order to combat this common problem for mid-deck coaches, Setra has turned to an old idea that was standard until the 1970s: a rear entry with rear toilet. Today this feature is rare, but at Setra it is standard issue and can be ordered at no extra cost. This means that the continuous five-and-a-half-meter-long luggage space between the axles is bigger by two cubic meters, resulting in an impressive total storage space of eight cubic meters. That's almost as much as a high decker! Buyers who need even more space and who can put up with a turning circle that's two meters larger (23.35 meters instead of 21.25) would be better off looking at the 13-meter vehicle, which offers a larger underfloor compartment of 9.7 cubic meters.
Wide rear entry
The design adjustment at the rear means its best to judge the interior from the back forward. The wide entry is free of obstacles. The door is large enough for people up to 1.80 meters tall and does not present any risk of collision. A small step leads up to the toilet and kitchen, with the latter available in two variants. The smaller version also offers adjacent space for two more seats, although it's not exactly comfortable. The larger kitchen takes up four seats worth of space.
The rear area and spacious toilet both offer 1.86 meters of standing room, with a fabric cover in front of the door preventing a nasty bump on the head. This cover cannot by individually adapted, unlike the underside of the voluminous luggage racks (total volume 1.8 cubic meters).
Walking down the central gangway, which at 36 centimeters is a little on the tight side, we move through the screen-free passenger area toward the cockpit, where we discover another smart little trick.
Basic equipment in cockpit
One look in the monochrome basic cockpit is enough to see that this is no luxury model. The cockpit features neither the premium Coach Media System from Bosch nor a navigation system. Customers can, however, save around 5,000 euro here compared to the top-of-the-range cockpit. The large shelf next to the AC controls is a little rugged, but it does offer space for all kinds of accessories. All major control elements are well sorted in the cockpit itself and on the smart multi-functional steering wheel. Everything has its place, and operating the various controls is as intuitive as we've come to expect from Setra. The imposing color display between the intricate clocks is still impressive. The attendant's seat is not quite as smart as in the more premium cockpit version as fitted in the HD. The refrigerator is only available in a 54-liter variant, and the lack of air nozzles is also noticeable.
The noise level in the entire vehicle is excellent. There are hardly any wind noises in the cockpit, with low values in the middle (thanks to the lack of a door) and rear. From a purely subjective standpoint, we couldn't help but notice a slight rumbling noise at the rear. The Voith secondary water retarder also goes about its work in a way that is as
audible as it is powerful after a couple of seconds.
Not the most powerful engine
Another trick at the rear of the Setra is the engine – the OM 936 also fitted in the Citaro. This light, six-cylinder engine with 7.7 liters displacement is only available in the two MD models. It generates only 354 hp and 1,400 Nm, however. There are two optional OM-470 engines available, with 360 or 394 hp (1,700/1,900 Nm), although these also further increase the unladen weight of around 13 tons. Thanks to the relatively low axle ratio, the engine is lively enough on the test route. At cruising speed, however, the engine revs as fast as 1,427 rpm. The engine does somewhat run out of breath when conquering inclines fully loaded. The optional PowerShift eight-speed gearbox has to shift frequently to avoid losing too much speed. Drivers will also often use the gearbox's dynamic mode, which raises the shifting speed by 200 rpm.
The result? Diesel consumption of 24.3 liters per 100 kilometers is a very good figure, although this is not as different to the S 515 HD in Euro 6 (25.4 l/100 km) as one would expect (see lastauto omnibus 7/2013). There's also the significantly lower average speed to consider. Operators looking for a vehicle to master demanding topography should therefore go for the larger engine. Also worthy of mention are the Setra's driving characteristics and high levels of safety. The chassis is flawless and comfortable, with impacts from the road barely noticeable above. The ZF Servocom steering is very precise, if a little too firm in our test.
No adaptive cruise control
As an entry-level model, the test vehicle cannot be expected to ave the full range of assistants and safety systems on board. One thing we sorely miss is the optional adaptive cruise control with ABA3. The lane control and AEBS emergency brake assistant have been standard since June 2015, with an alertness assistant completing the active protection. Setra makes no compromises when it comes to safety, not even in this new entry-level mid-deck model.
Datum29. Oktober 2015