Friday 19 March 2021 9:13 am

‘Unstoppable’ Torsus off-road bus coming to UK: CEO speaks

When the apocalypse comes, only two vehicles will survive: the Toyota Hilux and the Torsus Praetorian. The Toyota was declared indestructible by Jeremy Clarkson, after his ever-more-inventive attempts to kill it. The Torsus proves its worth in places even Top Gear fears to tread, from remote gas pipelines to conflict zones. Now it’s heading for the UK.

Torsus describes its products as the ‘world’s toughest heavy-duty off-road buses’. Founded in 2017, the company has a headquarters in the Czech Republic and a factory in Slovakia. Its first offering was the 37-seat Praetorian coach (from £131,000), but a second model – the nine-seat Terrastorm minibus (from £49,000) – has since joined the range. A fully electric vehicle is being developed, too.

We spoke to Vakhtang Dzhukashvili, co-owner and CEO of Torsus, about the company’s origins, present and future, including his plans to establish a UK dealer network.

Vakhtang Dzhukashvili

Give us a bit of background…

“Our parent company, Pulsar Expo, started out doing lots of one-off custom truck conversions – Man, Iveco and Toyota models, mainly. We worked with many large organisations that operate in challenging terrain, such as the United Nations, aid agencies and mining companies.

“We soon discovered that these clients were using fleets of SUVs or pick-up trucks to move people from place to place. Nobody was making large off-road vehicles suitable for this task. That’s where the idea for Torsus was born.”

Torsus Praetorian

Torsus Praetorian: the big one

“The Praetorian was our first baby and we think it’s unique. It’s based on a MAN coach and powered by a 6.9-litre diesel engine that delivers 290hp and 848lb ft of torque.

“You’ll need a special licence to drive it, because it seats 37 (including the driver) and weighs 13.5 tonnes. But if you have the right qualifications and the skills to drive it off-road, you’re unstoppable. Three differential locks, long-travel suspension and a 900mm wading depth see to that.

“The Praetorian also meets the required standards in terms of European certification, comfort and safety. For example, it has proper motorised bus doors, but we had to adapt them so they close with greater force when the vehicle detects it’s off-road.

“Other challenges included strengthening the chassis to counter twisting forces and relocating the lights. There’s a lot of engineering behind it.”

Torsus Terrastorm

Torsus Terrastorm: accessible adventure

“This is our second vehicle, based on the Volkswagen Crafter 4Motion. It uses a twin-turbo diesel engine – the figures are 177hp and 302lb ft of torque.

“We sell about seven Terrastorms for each Praetorian. Obviously it costs less, but it’s also more accessible. It was designed so anyone can drive; you don’t need special skills.

“The Terrastorm came about because one of our customers from the mining business wanted a vehicle that didn’t need a dedicated driver with a bus licence. This can be driven by any of the mine workers on a shift. And heavy-duty suspension and skid plates make it really hard to break…”

Torsus Terrastorm

Who are they aimed at?

“We have identified at least 12 industries where Torsus products could be in high demand, but five in particular.

“These are oil and gas mining, law enforcement (police, border guards and so on), tourism (as camping and expedition vehicles), extreme sports (rafting, mountain biking, freestyle skiing) and emergency relief (ambulances or evacuation vehicles).

“While our buses aren’t suitable for military combat, they can also work behind the front line, perhaps as a fully-equipped command centre. Both the Praetorian and Terrastorm can be customised to suit buyers’ needs.”

Torsus Praetorian

When will Torsus arrive in the UK?

“We don’t have any UK dealers yet, but we’re actively looking for a partner. That said, anyone in Britain can buy a Torsus now. They have the correct European certification and we already build many vehicles in right-hand-drive for Australia.

“Servicing is straightforward, too. The Praetorian can be maintained at any MAN trucks service centre, while the Terrastorm owner can visit a Volkswagen commercial dealer.

“You can order via the website and import a vehicle directly. Our sales team will sort the paperwork and make it happen.”

Torsus Terrastorm

Can they be more than simply working vehicles?

“Absolutely. The difference in price between a Terrastorm and a conventional minibus isn’t that great. And you’re potentially burying two vehicles in one.

“The owner of a film company I know owns a Terrastorm, for example. From Monday to Friday, it’s a bus for the film crew. Then at weekends he uses it for family camping trips. We offer a range of ‘smart camper’ accessories, including a fridge, bed, kitchen, tables and even a shower. The vehicle is big, and that space offers so many possibilities.

“We think there’s a lot of potential in the lifestyle market. You can use it for work and play, as many people do with their pick-up trucks, but it’s far more practical. A Torsus isn’t just for getting from A to B. You can also do something when you get to B.

Torsus Praetorian

What about the future?

“We’re looking at the feasibility of other powertrains. Diesel still works well for off-road expeditions, as it allows you to bring a lot of energy with you in your fuel tank. However, we’re already working on a fully electric Terrastorm for an environmentally-conscious client that needs a fleet of vehicles to maintain national parks.

“As for hybrid and hydrogen tech, if MAN introduces it, we’ll certainly be happy to incorporate it into the Praetorian. Watch this space.”

Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research