Torsus is a European bus and van maker that creates 4x4 people haulers and campers that can go anywhere.
Torsus wants to come into the US market but needs a partner to help it meet US specs and to provide sales and service here.
Prices would likely start in the low six figures by as early as 2025.
The thing about pies in the sky is that they are soooooo delicious.
Consider the Torsus 4x4s. Currently they’re on sale in Europe and seeing heavy duty everywhere from humanitarian work in Ukraine to regularly hauling tourists up and down the volcanic steeps of Mount Etna in Italy.
They are surely the largest, meatiest four-wheel-drive buses and campers in the world, unless you count those repurposed ex-military vehicles you sometimes see at the Overlanding Expo, and maybe even then.
Torsus has been in business since 2016, in partnership with both MAN and VW, on whose four-wheel-drive platforms Torsus constructs its heaving four-bys. Torsus just this morning announced an expanded cooperation with MAN to keep building the big buses.
Most of those big brutes, dubbed the Torsus Praetorian as if they were Greek gods of off-roading, are 35-passenger buses for those times when you say to your passengers, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” There are lots of places all over the world where you could use a fleet of these.
Torsus says they will deliver “to the nearest seaport,” after which, presumably, they’d be driven wherever they needed to go—road or no road. If you owned a ski resort or an adventure glamping resort, or a far distant mining or oil exploration conglomerate, you’d want a fleet of these.
The biggest bus, the Praetorian, is based on the upgraded heavy-duty MAN TGM chassis, which is built in the MAN plant in Krakow, Poland, and transferred to Torsus’ Starachowice plant, also in Poland.
There, Torsus adds 780 components, including 900 feet of welded, shaped steel tubing and 775 pounds of formed sheetmetal to take the raw chassis and powertrain from MAN and transform it into the world’s most capable bus, ambulance, mining rig, camper or whatever you need it to be. The Torsus website has several camper layouts for the big bus, making whatever Class A motorhome you just dropped a half-million dollars on obsolete, at least off-road.
Those rigs are currently powered by the 6.9-liter MAN diesel, ride on air suspension, with air brakes, and feature front and rear lockers riding on over a foot and a half of ground clearance for virtual desert dirt indomitability.
The other setup is based on Volkswagen’s Euro-spec Crafter 4Motion chassis, which is sort of similar to the Mercedes Sprinter van in size, shape, and purpose. Many of these are converted to campers (or glampers if you add enough stuff to them), but Torsus can make them into anything you want.
However—and here comes the fly in this off-road ointment—these things might never make it to our shores. But don’t let that stop you.
“We’re really investigating how to get into the US market,” said Vakhtang Dzhukashvili, the CEO of Torsus. “Certification is one story, but also we want to make it in the right way—we will have no second chance to make the first impression. So that’s why we want to find the partner with whom we’re going to do it.
“Not only sending the vehicles here from Europe… we want to have the proper certification for the engine, emission certification... to meet all the US standards. And we want to find the right partner for aftersales and sales itself. Because without aftersales, you know, it can be a nice story, but not very long-lasting. So that’s why now we’re mainly focused on finding the right partner. And with this partner, we want to go for the full scope of certification.”
One potential corporate hookup in the US for the large bus is Navistar.
“It’s not decided for the moment, but there are some discussions with them on how to stitch together their chassis on our body,” Dzhukashvili said.
At the same time, there’s the electric possibility. “Yes, for sure, Torsus will eventually be fully electric,” Dzhukashvili said. “We are working on this in the background, but due to the general hard condition of vehicle usage, it requires longer testing and different types of testing than normal fully road-going electric vehicles.”
MAN several years ago announced it plans to convert all its heavy-duty vehicles to electric drive, with electric buses and trucks for all applications, thus making US EPA regulations easier to pass. Likewise, Volkswagen has been making an all-electric e-Crafter vans since 2018, which would also meet any US EPA requirements for emissions, at least.
As it’s set up now, the e-Crafter is made for around-town commercial work, with a small 35.8-kWh battery giving the VW e-Crafter a range of just 100 miles, and a 134-hp motor good for a top speed of just over 60 mph. That’s also with a 3760-pound payload and 3930 cubic feet of interior cargo space.
Any US-spec electric adventure vehicle would need a bigger battery, stronger electric motor, and many other improvements, but other applications such as local buses, ambulances or other commercial vehicles could, at least potentially, work on an existing e-Crafter. It would just have to be converted to US specs to be sold here. A date for such a conversion is not announced yet, but “...e-Terrastorm will be confirmed for sure and it will come slightly earlier than an e-Praetorian,” Dzhukashvili said.
So while EPA clearance is at least plausible, DOT crash certification is a whole ‘nother enchilada, with all those different side marker lights and specific airbags and offset frontal collision standards to meet.
And even if electric drives are not the case, the Torsus vans and buses could still be made with diesel powertrains if a suitable US-spec-conforming partner could be found.
While the US market has huge potential for all the Torsus bodies, we do love our campers here in the States.
“We see high potential in US market and it is funny, but (the Torsus Terrastorm camper) is generating as much traffic from United States on our webpage, as from the whole rest of the world combined.”
So here’s hoping something can be worked out. Who knows? Maybe by 2025 all those overlanders will be clamoring for Terrastorms and Praetorians. Here’s hoping. And camping.