Buses – anyone who's ever lived in, worked in or visited a sizable city is quite familiar with them. These big, long boxes are a humble part of the urban backdrop you barely notice unless you're actively chasing after one. Well, no longer. Czech Republic-based startup Torsus is destroying that mold with a bus that's anything but humble, one you'll notice every time it's near. The all-new Praetorian 4x4 is a rugged off-road utility vehicle ... with a few dozen more seats than average. This muscular bus is ready to scale mountains, claw across ice fields and explore the unknown in support of the businesses and industries that demand it.
We found the Torsus Praetorian while reading auto headlines on our first morning in Germany for the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. With motorhomes and camping trailers on our mind, we at first mistook it for the latest off-road expedition RV, perhaps getting ready to appear alongside the Action Mobils and Bimobils of Düsseldorf. Upon reading a bit about it, we realized it was not an expedition motorhome, would not be on show in Düsseldorf, and is in fact a very different breed of oversized 4x4 that debuted at a very different type of show.
"When you need your people and gear on site and
working, Praetorian gets them there," Torsus advertises in its brochure. It's developed the rugged bus with heavy industries like forestry, mining and oil in mind, but it also notes it could be useful for emergency response and tourism and leisure purposes.
The big, mad 4x4 bus was first created to meet the demands of the customers of Torsus' Ukrainian parent company Pulsar Expo, a vehicle and technical service provider that counts governments and non-profits among its global clientele. Pulsar realized that a bus could take the place of a fleet of SUVs, saving customers money in shuttling staff and equipment over rough, unpaved ground. Of course, not any bus would be able to do that – what was needed was an all-new 4x4 off-road utility vehicle sized like a bus.
Pulsar got to work on just that type of ruggedized bus, taking it from initial sketch to working prototype in under 12 months. It now believes it's come up with something that blows existing 4x4 truck-bus conversions away.
The basic Plaetorian configuration features up to 35 seats, along with cargo space for equipment. The heavy-duty MAN chassis rides 15 in (389 mm) over top the ground on a 165-in (4,200-mm) wheelbase. Its four wheels are shod in Michelin XZL TL 395/85 R20 off-road tires.
Power comes from MAN's 6.9-liter six-cylinder diesel engine with 236 hp and 682 lb-ft of torque, paired with a MAN/ZF 12-speed semi-automatic transmission and a 4x4 system. Both axles are cushioned by parabolic leaf springs, and a front differential lock gets the front wheels spinning in unison to improve traction in slippery situations.
The Torsus is quite visually arresting due to its high stance and unique bodywork, often pictured with various levels of front-end protection. Torsus relies on composite body construction and protects specific components with a Line-X protective coating. The rugged styling is accentuated with plenty of tinted glass, contrast lower body work with sturdy wheel arches, and generous approach and departure angles. Torsus isn't shy about putting its name all over its creation, either.
The exterior is rugged and utilitarian, but the interior looks like a comfy coach, complete with centralized heating and AC and row after row of adjustable, seatbelt-equipped seats. Luggage racks run front to back above, and AC vent deflectors and personal lights lend a bit of personalized comfort. A centralized DVD system includes a front screen and speakers integrated into the luggage rack.
While the Torsus Praetorian isn't an expedition motorhome just yet, it may eventually fulfill that role. According to an article that originally appeared in Ukrainian business publication Epravda and was translated into English by Torsus, the company is exploring this possibility, with an eye toward the US market.
"When a person buys a camper, they want a bit of freedom," Pulsar Expo/Torsus CEO Vakhtang Dzukashvili told Epravda. "In a camper, people go to the forest or to the mountains. Yes, you have more freedom, but you are still limited by the wheel formula 4×2 and the disadvantages of a regular big bus. We offer the maximum freedom with our vehicle."
It's not hard imagining the Praetorian with its rows of seating stripped out for a full living set-up inside, maybe a slide-out outdoor kitchen area with grill just behind the rear wheels. But we reckon the young company will need to get some momentum going before we see anything like that.
Torsus held a world debut for the Praetorian at the Hillhead mining expo in the UK back in June. It's in the process of getting the bus certified in the European Union while simultaneously working to establish a global production and distribution network. Potential customers can configure their own vehicles and find more information about dealers and contacts at the Torsus website linked below.
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