1996 Van Hool T845 vs. 1993 MCI 102DL3



Driver's Area/ Front

Here is a general overview of the driver's compartment on the T845.  Not pictured elsewhere, the instrument on the steering column includes the horn as a button on the end, the windshield washers as a sliding sleeve on the end, the wipers as a rotating sleeve, the turn indicators and brights as used typically in automotive applications.  Advantage: Van Hool.  The MCI's turn indicator is pretty flimsy.  It also has a tendency to indicate the opposite direction while completing a turn.  The Van Hool's electric wipers and speed settings are a big plus over the MCI's air wipers.

Also there are the three levers for the drivers area climate and defrost controls.  The lever on the right is for hot/cold, the one in the middle is for open/closed, and the one on the left is for dash/floor.  The front bumper release is to the left of these three levers.  Advantage: MCI.  There's no driver's A/C on the Van Hool which leads to serious windshield fogging.  Also, there are no easy to control vents that put climate controlled air onto the driver.


On the sides of the driver are the brake controls.  The parking brake is protected by a hard plastic cover which is important because it is right at floor level and a pax might accidentally step on it while disembarking.  Advantage: MCI.  The parking brake is even better hidden by a metal flap.

The emergency release is for an emergency supply of air that can hold the parking brake off if you need to move the bus a short distance in an emergency where you don't have enough air to do it normally.  Advantage: Van Hool.  This feature is not present on the MCI.





The cruise control is pretty strait forward and maybe a little easier to reach on the Van Hool.   The fast idle is set by hitting the "set/coast" button.  For the fast idle to come on, the cruise control has to be switched on, the transmission must be in neutral, the parking brake must be on, and the retarder control must be all the way off.  The fast idle will be cancelled if you step on the service brake or manipulate any of the pre-described items.  Advantage: MCI.  This confuses the heck out of new operators although it's easy if used to it.

The climate control is very basic.  The knob controls a pre-set temperature range and a thermostat decides the fan speed and whether the heat or a/c is on.  Advantage: MCI.  The Sütrak climate control system sucks.




1. The retarder control lever (similar for jakes).  This is pretty neat actually.  There are four or five settings with the top setting being off and the retarder application getting stronger with each setting lower.  In the current configuration (all the way up) the retarder will still apply off the brake (when the service brake is applied).  The lever will make it apply to varying degrees off the accelerator (when the accelerator is released).  For the retarder to be off completely, you have to engage switch #4.  The retarder control lever has to be all the way up for the cruise control to work and thus will cancel the cruise control if in use.  One of my favorite things to do is to exit the highway and smoothly come to a stop using the retarder without having to use my feet to apply the service brake until the very end of the off ramp.  Advantage: Van Hool.  The retarder on the Van Hool is more functional than the jake on the MCI and the lever is easier to use.

2. Ether start.  3. Instrument panel light dimmer.  5. Coach lowering and raising.  6. Tag axle air unload (for maneuvering).  7. Power mirror adjuster.  8. Duh.  But it's much too easy for pax to see.

9. Tachometer.  Advantage: Van Hool.  Not present on the MCI.

10. Oil pressure, air pressure, engine temperature, fuel indicator along with some warning and indicator lights.









11. Charge level.

12. Turbo indicator.  Advantage: Van Hool.  Not present on the MCI.

13. Duh.  14. Master Switch (1st thing on, last thing off).  15. overhead fans.  16. Defrost blower (3-position switch).  17. ??can't rememmber??  18. Mirror heat.  19. Hazards.  20. Upper windshield heat.

21. overhead driver light (3 position).  22. Pax cabin lights (3-pos.).  23. Pax reading lights (authorized/all off).  Advantage: Van Hool.  I didn't think the MCI had this.  If the kids are screwing with the reading lights, they all go off!  24. Luggage bay lights.  25. bathroom light authorize.  26. Upper windshield wiper enabled (works in-sync with the lower).

27. Headlights (3-pos.).  28. Clearance lights.  29. Driver's floor light.  30. Door switch.

Most of this stuff is optional so there's not much to say about it.  The computer can tell my boss how fast I've been going and if I've had any panic stops and stuff like that!  The Webasto controls are easy.

I don't know how the air system works on the MCI but it is nice to have these extra gauges for troubleshooting.  Advantage: Van Hool.








It seems in the Van Hool there's more places to put your stuff.  In the MCI you are pretty much using the overhead bin.  I didn't picture the Van Hool's overhead space, but it extends all the way to the front on both sides and there is good space to use.









Here's another storage place.










And another.










 And even more space in the cabinets.

Advantage: Van Hool  There's just more places to put supplies and belongings in the front of the Van Hool.













Luggage Area




I like how the fuel tank is near the front (more like a truck tractor) so you are a little more compatible with truck stops.  You can fill from both sides too, not sure if you can on the MCI.  I don't know how easily the MCI fuels, but with the Van Hool it's a bitch at truck stops because the fuel comes out so fast the tank can't take it in at that speed.  I usually try to track down a gas station with diesel pumps since they are slower and easier to deal with.   I also like the look it puts on other people's faces.




  I'd say the Van Hool wins in the under-floor storage department too. Advantage: Van Hool.  The main section is entirely open minus the structural supports whereas the MCI has its sections partitioned.  The flexibility is nice with odd-sized equipment and baggage.

The big ass 240 US Gallon tank (useable) is all the way in the front.  The only overweight problems I've had with this bus (at the damn toll booths in Ohio) were on the middle axle.  I fueled up in Indiana and had problems right after that going east into Ohio.  Went all the way to New York and coming back I had no trouble since I never took on any fuel between that time.  Got relieved near Toledo, Ohio and the relief driver fueled it all the way up and he had middle axle wight problems!  Had to have some kids walk forward to tip the scale.  So basically the fuel tank at front doesn't mess with that axle's weight limit.

This compartment at the rear of the Van Hool is great for segregating the driver's luggage and the motorcoach's supplies from the rest of the pax luggage in the main compartment.  Not present on the 40 ft Van Hools though.


Well, this run through is still in the works, I'll add to it when I have the opportunity.  Here's what I originally wrote about this:


There are some pluses and minuses compared to the Van Hools ('93-'96
T-series). Right now I'm leaning toward saying I like the Van Hools
better. I'll go drive one of the Van Hools here in a little bit so
I'll see how that goes and get a better idea.

+ Good "feel". The MCI seems to have a solid attachment to the road.
It is doesn't seem to sway as much as the Van Hools.

+ The engine and transmission on this particular MCI move it along
quite well.

+ The driver has better climate controls. Being that there is an A/C
for the driver, I wouldn't anticipate front window fogging like I
experienced on the Van Hools.

+ The window shades for the driver are much more effective. There is
actually a shade on the side!

+ The steering wheel adjusts much better.

+ The sightlines are much better all around. Since the driver is at
the same level as the pax, you can see out the side windows back from
the door, closing up a big "no-zone" that the Van Hools have on the
right side. It's also nice to sit higher.

+ The cruise control will still set even if the Jake is activated. On
the Van Hools, you have to have the retarder or Jake off (sort of--it
will still apply off the brake) for the cruise to set. Although the
Van Hools have a big handy lever for this, I always seemed to forget
and try to set the cruise only for it not to set.

+ The speedometer in the MCI was dead accurate according to my GPS
receiver. Not 3-4 mph conservative like on the Van Hools.

+ I didn't drive at night, but being that many of the gauges were sunk
in I would anticipate that the panel would not be such that its
reflection would make it hard to see out the window to the left side
mirror. That's why the never Van Hools have that little partition
worked into the blind spot by the left side mirror.

+ All of the switches are easy to get to without leaning too much like
you have to do to get over to the far side of the Van Hools' panel.

+ The steering tag axle is nice, so you don't get that awful skipping

+ Air locks on the luggage bay doors. No lock and key.

+ The boarding door closes and seals nicely on its own, unlike the
pantograph-style door on the Van Hools where you have to help it out

+ The digital readout on the climate control was nice. Especially if
you ever need to troubleshoot. In general, the a/c seemed to work
pretty good, better than on the Van Hools.

+ I never scrapped bottom leaving a steep driveway where I'm pretty
sure a Van Hool would have scraped.

And now for the minuses.....

- No tachometer. I missed it, even though it was an automatic. I
like being able to see at a glance if the fast idle is on and stuff
like that.

- No extra gauges for the brakes' air supply. Although maybe it comes
out of the main supply, I don't know. There can never be too many
indicator gauges for the driver to see, in my opinion.

- Microscopic text labeling on the switches!

- No air seat on that particular bus.

- The rubber around the wheels that sticks out so far is just asking
to get marked up and torn.

- The luggage bay is partitioned into sections and the A/C unit takes
up space down there, unlike the Van Hools where it's open save for the
structural supports.

- My understanding is that there are actually very few 96" wide D
series MCIs, so I hate how the front of the 102Ds is the narrower 96"
front. It makes it harder to get the entry placed near a curb since
it's at an angle. The export Van Hools are like this too though,
since the European coaches can't be as wide as 102".

- Here's the biggie. I'm pretty sure the turning radius is worse on
the MCI, even with the steering tag axle. Either the wheelbase is
longer or the front wheels can't turn as sharp or both. The day tour
I had out yesterday had some very tricky spots to visit, and I had to
stop and back up more than a couple times in places I didn't expect to
have to.

Of course I've only had a few hours on the MCI so part of my feelings
could be just that I'm still not comfortable with it. And I'm not a
mechanic of any sort, so I can't comment on overall long term quality
of the vehicle either. Comfort is important but the maneuverability
is my biggest concern being on the charter/tour side and going places
that I'm almost always not familiar with. I realize some of these
things might depend on how the vehicle was spec'd too. We'll see as
the weeks go by.



Note (8/31/03) I've driven the Van Hool a few times since driving the MCI, which I still have only driven once.  I still think I like the Van Hools better, and it isn't looking likely that I'll get into an MCI. anytime soon.  I'll have to get my old boss to get me into his 96A3 to continue the comparison.   :)    LOL.