How is the new Setra MultiClass 500 like going to the theatre? Stefan Handt, head of design at Daimler Buses, explains the truly remarkable design of the Setra intercity bus model series.
Stall seating up front. A VIP box in the rear.
The unique design of the new MultiClass 500.
"This is Setra through and through", Stefan Handt begins his talk about the new model series. The vehicle for the world premiere, a twelve-metre S 515 LE, is glowing in metallic honey yellow. An intercity bus with the "wow!" factor.
The orchestration of the new MultiClass 500 design is another masterpiece by Stefan Handt. The head of design at Daimler Buses and his team have again shown their creative genius in the next-generation TopClass and ComfortClass 500.
A friendly face.
What you notice first: the MultiClass 500 has the same new distinctive Setra look introduced last year with the new generation of touring coaches. The iconic design features: chrome Setra logo, Kässbohrer badge and black headlamp surround. Everything has been fine-tuned to create harmony.
Handt shows the full LED lighting elements above the headlamps. They look like eyebrows, and integrate indicators, position lamps and daytime running lights. To demonstrate, Handt jumps into the cockpit and makes the fibre optics flash on either side.
Efficient: lighting elements are identical on the left and right and are the same as in the touring coaches. Consequently, just one component in two positions and three model series. “Shared design features make the brand stand out,” explains the designer. He adds: “using the same components of course also reduces costs and customer inventory.”
“The design of the new Setra MultiClass 500 is modern, unmistakable and at the same time timeless.”
Design at the highest level.
The Daimler Buses design team has broken new ground in body design. The MultiClass 500 is spectacular from the side. “We consistently incorporated the low-entry concept into the design process,” explains Handt. So it wasn't a case of hiding the typical stepped offset – low at the front, high at the back – with various gimmicks. Instead, it was deliberately emphasised in the new model series.
Handt shows an unmistakable panel between the two vehicle segments. Not adhesive foil, but an aluminium panel painted in the vehicle colour. It divides the side view into stall and box seating, a city bus at the front and a touring coach at the rear. Until now, no other has dared to work this functional separation into the vehicle design.
“This vehicle category is a bedrock of mobility and has earned the right to be designed with respect and passion.”
A floating roof.
“Design has to be fluid,” says Handt. Smooth transitions and proportions in harmony were important to him. The corners of the panel were therefore rounded, borrowing the typical regular-service bus edge from the Setra.
Together with the dark-edged, likewise rounded A-pillars at the front and the similarly shaped corner profiles at the rear, this creates a particular optical illusion. Stefan Handt: “the roof seems to float over the body.”
Truly: an airy and light design that is unique in the field – a contrast to the rigidity of conventional intercity buses.
Functionality as a design aspect.
The new Setra MultiClass 500 has a unique visual appearance. But there’s more: economic aspects also played a role from stem to stern. Besides the lighting elements, for example, the windscreen or the cover to the engine compartment and the rear bumper also come from the extensive range of Daimler Buses parts. The new rear lights have the familiar basic shape. All this helps to reduce repair costs and simplifies the spare part inventory. “Good design can even save money,” says Stefan Handt with a smile.
Ergonomic workplace design.
Setra MultiClass 500, that means a tailor-made intercity bus. This becomes evident from looking into the cockpit. The Cockpit Basic installed in the yellow S 515 LE is intended for intercity use and is already at touring coach level thanks to its shape and equipment. "There are three different cockpit versions. Every design reflects the quality of the Setra brand," the designer feels the need to emphasise.
But the functionality of the workplace is also a design issue. Extensive user tests were carried out in advance with bus drivers so that everything the driver does works properly. For example, the results were incorporated into the new design of the stowage spaces.
“We didn't want to hide the essence of the low-entry bus, but rather to bring out its character.”
From variable to comfortable: the interior.
In the passenger compartment as well, the emphasis is on a mix of comfort and practicality. The interior of the new MultiClass 500 is extremely flexible. Platforms, seating, luggage racks – everything is possible, nothing mandatory. And it looks good, designer Handt points to the mix of light and dark cladding.
On the showpiece model, Handt shows how a low-entry intercity bus, which is often rather utilitarian on the road, can be made functional, yet cosy. This S 515 LE welcomes its passengers with a floor in a muted wood look and handrails in bright stainless steel. Passengers take a seat on Setra Transit intercity seating with tasteful black and blue upholstery and headrests in composition deep black. Cosiness and colour are brought into the passenger compartment by the side wall panelling in “ocean” needle felt.
The new Setra MultiClass 500 is a functional and highly economical intercity bus. And yet “a bus with a feel-good effect,” according to Stefan Handt. “We want passengers to be keen to get on and enjoy the ride,” says the designer. “Whether at the front or the rear.”