Remember a couple of blogs ago when I talked about the New Flyer hybrids, and I mentioned I “wanted to marry them?” Scratch that as the hybrids moved to second place. Xcelsior is now at the top of the list as favorite bus to drive. These buses are the Cadillac of all buses, and I really didn’t want to leave the seat this time. Luckily I was first to drive this morning and got stuck in rush hour traffic. Talk about a good 45 minutes in the seat!
Built in early 2016, these buses still look (and smell) brand new. The engine is quiet, the steering is just right (not loose or stiff), and the suspension is great. Going over the potholes in downtown was barely felt in this bus, whereas a Nova would hit every single one and rattle like maracas. Did I mention this bus has no rattling parts? Okay, the fare box is an exception as that’s expected in any bus.
The interior is spacious and open, has soft glow LED lights, and it’s also the only 40-foot bus in the fleet to have 40 seats (all others have around 35 to 37 seats). The Xcelsior was also the first bus in the VIA fleet to feature three-point wheelchair securement, which makes loading and unloading wheelchairs a lot easier, and quicker too. Other cool features include three-position bike rack, pedal control adjustments, and an amazing driver’s booster fan. There’s no way a driver will get hot this summer, even of they left the door open.
This bus handled pretty well when driving it. It got up to speed pretty quickly and was nice on turns. It was a little misty this morning so I did have to use the wipers, which were super quiet. The mirrors adjusted nicely and the dashboard looks less cluttered. I also didn’t have any troubles with blind spots on this bus. I’m trying really hard to think of anything negative about this bus.
Wait, I can think of one tiny little detail. So a while back I read somewhere online that the Xcelsior bus has the lowest ride height and kneel of any transit bus in North America. To prove that point, when walking up to the bus I asked my instructor if he had kneeled the bus when he parked it. He said no. I was surprised to see the front door lower to the ground than usual. Even when he demonstrated the kneel I was still shocked by how low it got to the ground (there was about 5-7 inches between the bus and the ground). While this isn’t a bad characteristic overall, it does make deploying the ramp hard at some bus stops, especially when you come up to a high curb and the bus sits way lower.
When I first saw Xcelsior in person, I knew it would be an amazing bus from the get go. Seeing it two years ago for the first time was love at first sight, and today’s experience just deepened that love further. Hopefully the next bus order will be more of these beauties.