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Motor Boatin' - 2013 MCI J4500 Motor Coach

We Testdrive A 54,000-Pound Touring Coach

Mike McGlothlin
Apr 1, 2013
As part of our revamped Diesel Alternatives section, we’ve decided to consciously shy away from our predictable ¾- and 1-ton pickup roots and get behind the wheel of other diesel-powered vehicles. Thanks to Motor Coach Industries, we’re getting started with this 27-ton behemoth. After showing up, CDL in hand, at MCI’s Chicagoland service center, we took its all-new ’13 J4500 model motor coach for an afternoon cruise. This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. In future issues, we’ll be looking to pilot a diesel-powered monster truck, a Case IH Quadtrac, and maybe even a locomotive. Stay tuned…
Photo 2/10   |   motor Boatin 2013 Mci J4500 Motor Coach front Three Quarter
For the redesign of its ’13 J4500 and E4500 models, MCI enlisted BMW Group Designworks USA, which put together the initial renderings based on MCI’s goals and scope. The result is a vehicle with improved aerodynamics, functionality, and curb appeal. From an engineering standpoint (with heavy-duty, proven powertrain options and a solid foundation), it’s no wonder an estimated 40 percent (or more) of all motor coaches currently in service are MCI models. Below, you get an idea just how long the MCI J4500 really is—45.58 feet to be exact. Other worthwhile dimensions include a 315-inch wheelbase, 102-inch width, and a little less than 12 feet in overall height. Standard J4500s have a turning radius of 47 feet, but our model was able to perform the maneuver in 45 feet, thanks to being equipped with MCI’s steerable tag axle option. The as-tested price of the Detroit Diesel-powered J4500 we got to testdrive was $640,000.
Photo 3/10   |   DSLP 130400 BUS 001
Although snowflakes were rumored to be in the area the day of our testdrive, we weren’t graced with any hazardous weather. Luckily for us, though, it was particularly windy—so we were able to see (and certainly feel) how much of an effect the wind has on this giant bus’ driving characteristics—especially out on the open highway. Surprisingly, steering inputs were exceptionally sharp and accurate, yet a certain forgiveness (for lack of a better word) exists in the steering, which makes it possible to perform quick lane changes without over-correcting. To be sure, the J4500 is big, but it’s more nimble than it looks.
Photo 4/10   |   As far as engine selection goes, MCI customers have a tough choice to make: Cummins or Detroit Diesel. Whether you choose the standard 425hp Cummins ISX 11.9L or the optional 410hp Detroit Diesel DD13, you’re getting a proven engine. Both feature 2010-spec clean diesel emissions equipment (EGR, DPF, and SCR) and an engine brake and make 1,450 lb-ft of torque. Off idle, the DD13-powered model we drove had plenty of bottom end grunt. Well, as much as you’d expect from a 781ci engine powering a house on wheels.
After about 10 minutes of city driving, we realized the 18-inch air disc brakes at each wheel could stop us on a dime, and that the 410hp Detroit Diesel DD13 could get the 54,000-pound brick up and moving adequately. Armed with this comforting realization, our confidence level increased, which allowed us to stop driving on the balls of our feet and just relax and enjoy being behind the wheel. We wouldn’t bat an eye if we had to take this thing on a cross-country trip.
Photo 5/10   |   A six-speed Allison B500 transmission backs up the DD13 engine and comes with a prognostics capability (keeping an eye on the health of the fluid, filters, and other operating requirements and also forecasting service intervals). For optimum fuel economy, the B500 features a reduced engine load at stop (RELS) feature, which is pretty self-explanatory. Its shifts were silky smooth during our testdrive, and the Allison always seemed to be in the right gear.
Our best description of driving the J4500 would fall somewhere between a giant minivan and an overloaded FL80 Freightliner. Although, at 45½ feet long, we have to admit it’s the longest single vehicle we’ve ever piloted—and its length is most obvious when you need to make a lane change in traffic. But with a quick glance at the convex and flat mirrors at both front corners, objects alongside the coach are highly visible for the driver.
Photo 6/10   |   You’ll only find a spiral staircase entryway like this on an MCI coach. This is because the company patented the unique (to this segment) stairway.
As pickup truck enthusiasts, we’re obviously in no position to make an authoritative statement regarding touring coaches. But having said that, the J4500 rides like a Cadillac, and the entire vehicle reeks of refinement and quality engineering.
Photo 7/10   |   Long-lasting, ultra-bright LED lighting is present throughout the motor coach. LEDs are used to light up the interior, baggage compartments, low-speed cornering lights, and also the headlights and turn lights (shown).
Fast Specs
Vehicle Model: 2013 MCI J4500
Price (as tested): $640,000
Engine Type: 12.8L Detroit Diesel DD13 I-6
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Single turbocharger, intercooled
Mfg.’s hp at rpm: 410 hp at 1,800 rpm
Mfg.’s torque at rpm: 1,450 lb-ft at 1,100 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed Allison B500 (automatic)
Axle Ratio: 3.42
Suspension: Wide-ride system with KONI FSD shocks
Brakes: 18x1.8-inch Meritor all-wheel EX-225 air disc brakes
Wheels/Tires: 22.5x9-inch Alcoa aluminum/315/80R22.5 Firestone (L-rated)
Curb Weight: 54,000 pounds
Max Payload Capacity: 15,700 pounds
Luggage Compartment Volume: 595 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity: 183 gallons
DEF Capacity: 10 gallons
City/Hwy Mileage Estimates: 4 to 6 mpg/8.5 mpg


Motor Coach Industries


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