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• Optare has added a new, larger, midibus stablemate, — the StarRider — to its City Pacer and Inter City Pacer minibus models.
Unlike the smaller City Pacer range which is built on the Volkswagen LT55 chassis, the latest StarRider is based on the 4.85m-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz 7.5-tonne GVW turbocharged 811D truck chassis.
The StarRider will be available in a variety of configurations including bus, welfare and coach versions. The StarRider bus provides seating for 33 passengers, with standing room for a further eight.
Like its smaller City Pacer stable mates, the StarRider has an all-steel, welded, tubularsteel body structure with a mixture of aluminium and GRP exterior panels. It also shares the same rear moulding as the biggest (8.4m-long) City Pacer.
Power for the 8.4m-long StarRider is provided by a front-mounted four-cylinder turbocharged Mercedes 0M364A diesel, which develops a healthy 85kW (114hp) at 2,600rpm, and offers a peak torque of 380Nm (2801bft) at 1,500rpm.
StarRider buyers will be able to specify it with either a fivespeed manual gearbox or a fully automatic MBW4B035 four-speed transmission. Other standard features include 24 volt electics, front disc brakes and power steering.
As with the smaller City Pacer, the StarRider interior features soft trim throughout with carpeting, although a washable melamine finish can be fitted as an alternative.
Optare has provided the StarRider body with a convector radiator system along with a full-height entrance, driver's partitions, handrails and tinted windows. The sloping front end design also allows daily engine checks from the outside.
Although none of the original 811D's chassis cowl is retained in all configurations of the StarRider conversion, Optare has kept the main Mercedes instrument panel and fascia. The StarRider all-new GRP front panel is fitted with curving headlights similar to those used on the latest Ford Granada saloon car. The single piece, double-curvature windscreen is not as large as that fitted to the City Pacer.
By using the 811D chassis cowl as the basis for the StarRider conversion, Optare has achieved a low, flat floor, with the minimum of wheel arch intrusion. Like the City Pacer, the StarRider has two, low-rise entry steps into the main saloon providing easy access for all passengers, including the elderly and disabled.
Optare has placed the driving section immediately opposite the front entrance, making the StarRider a good choice for one-personoperation. While the driving position is retained from the original 811D chassis cowl, it is not as high as that of the City Pacer.
The 2.2 metre wide and 2.7m high StarRider should be able to operate more easily in housing estates than a full-size single-decker. It also has plenty of export potential for markets such as the Channel Islands.
On a brief demonstration run, Commercial Motor found the Mercedes-Benz/Optare combination an impressive one,
with the StarRider having low interior noise levels, despite the 811D's front-mounted engine. The midibus's insulated body sizes also help keep road noise to a minimum.
Following the pattern set with the City Pacer, Optare will be offering the StarRider with the option of a fixed-cost maintenance package, provided by 80 MB specialist service centres throughout the UK.
Fixed maintenance costs will vary from 2.55p/kilometre to 4.07p/kilometre (4.11 to 6.55/ mile), depending on the duration of the agreement and the vehicle's annual operating schedule.
Optare has also signed an agreement with Soc Gen Finance to offer a variety of leasing and other finance packages. These will be particularly attractive to those operators running a fixed-term contracted bus route service. Extended vehicle warranty schemes will also be offered for those StarRiders requiring servicing at 19,300km intervals.
Prices for the StarRider start at around £37,500 depending on final specification.
Optare reports that it has had a number of pre-launch orders for its StarRider with the two pre-production prototypes already sold. One is an automatic version for Yorkshire Rider in Leeds, while the other has gone to Bou1ton of Church Stretton. o The launch of the StarRider marks another phase in the continuing growth of Optare, which started production at the old Leyland Bus Charles Roe body plant in Leeds some three years ago.
Optare has an annual turnover approaching million and is continuing to increase its shareholder workforce. It is also about to restart production of Leyland Olympian-based double-decker buses as part of a deal with Leyland Bus.
It will also shortly be building buses for Reading Transport, and recentlyprivatised, former-NBC subsidiary Cambus.
The next addition to Optare's body range is expected to be a full-length single-deck bus body which could compete against the Leyland Lynx.