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Euro Bus Expo '06: New show, new vehicles

Euro Bus Expo '06: New show, new vehicles Centro makes its show debut on Volvo and VDL chassis. This 10.8m SB120 will be on Plaxton's stand.

It’s rare to attend a show where virtually every chassis manufacturer has something new to show, but with the onset of Euro 4, that’s exactly what’s happening at Euro Bus Expo. Two manufacturers, MAN and Scania, have backed EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) to meet Euro 4. All the rest are backing SCR (selective catalytic reduction).

Our advice? Listen to those manufacturers who promote their chosen method on its virtues. Ignore those who spend too much time explaining why the other method is not the best choice.

Looking first at buses, there’s the possibility of a head-to-head battle between Alexander Dennis and Plaxton on midibuses. Both manufacturers are showing vehicles which were launched earlier this year, but have not previously been at a major show. From Alexander Dennis there’s the Enviro200Dart. From Plaxton there’s the Centro.

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Important product from Alexander Dennis - the all-new
Enviro200Dart.

In fact the battle isn’t that straightforward. The Enviro200Dart is promoted as a complete bus covering lengths from 8.9 to 11.4m. The Centro is a body-on-chassis combination in lengths from 10.3 to 12m.

For Euro 4 Cummins has a new engine line-up, although somewhat confusingly the names remain the same. The ISBe used in the Enviro200Dart is now either a four-cylinder 4.5-litre unit (it used to be 3.9 litres) or a six-cylinder 6.7-litre (up from 5.9 litres). The choice of engine varies with the size of the bus, but most Enviro200Darts can be had with either unit.

The Centro was launched on the VDL SB120, but availability is being extended to MAN and Volvo chassis. The first Volvo B7RLE in the UK to be bodied by a builder other than Wrightbus will be a Plaxton Centro-bodied bus on Volvo’s stand. Plaxton will also be showing the first Centro on an SB200, another model previously only offered with Wrightbus body.

Wrightbus is responding with a new body on both the SB180 - which is the Euro 4 version of the SB120 - and the SB200, to replace the existing Cadet and Commander models which, attractive as they are, are based on styling which has been around since 1993.

Wrightbus is also exhibiting its revolutionary StreetCar. It is a highly-specialised vehicle, but it also demonstrates just what can be done with bus design to create an attractive environment for both passengers and drivers. Watch for some of StreetCar’s features spreading to other, more conventional buses.

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MAN enters UK double-deck market with East Lancs.

There’s a lot happening at MAN, and one focus of attention is going to be the first MAN double-decker for the UK. This has been developed in conjunction with East Lancs, and features a variant of East Lancs’ new Olympus body – also making its debut at the show – but with an MAN front end. A unique feature of the MAN is the use of wide single tyres on the rear, which should reduce wheelarch intrusion. The 6.9-litre engine is in the rear left-hand corner – shades of the Volvo B7L – and the use of a portal axle means a step-free floor from front to rear.

This is a big show for East Lancs, with two new bodies on display. The Esteem is the company’s new single-decker, and at the show there will be an example for Stagecoach on an MAN chassis – the first of an order for 16. The company’s new double-decker, the Olympus, is being shown on Volvo’s new B9TL chassis for Delaine of Bourne. The Olympus will also be available on Scania, VDL and Alexander Dennis chassis, as well as on the new MAN. All of East Lancs’ bodies use the Alcan system of aluminium extrusions.

There are new engines on all of the established double-deck designs. Where the Euro 3 Trident from Alexander Dennis used the 8.3-litre Cummins ISCe engine, the Euro 4 Enviro400 uses the 6.7-litre ISBe, the smallest engine used in a double-deck chassis. At Volvo out goes the B7TL and in comes the B9TL – the old engine was a 7.3-litre unit while the new one is 9.4-litres, the biggest engine in a UK double-decker. Scania still uses a 9-litre engine in its bus models, but this is a new five-cylinder model, replacing the six-cylinder engine used until now.

Elsewhere on buses watch out for the new-look Mercedes-Benz Citaro, with restyled front and rear, and an engine which can be offered to either Euro 4 or Euro 5 standards. Some Euro 5 models have been sold already and will be in service in Britain before the end of the year. There will also be a Citaro LE U on show, because it was voted Bus of the Year 2007, but it’s not a model currently being offered in the UK.

There are big changes coming in coaches too.

EvoBus UK is using the show to launch its new Tourismo, which will replace the Touro. The Touro was built in Portugal in a joint venture with Caetano. The Tourismo is built in Turkey. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking this is some slightly quirky product from a country which isn’t quite part of Europe. The Mercedes-Benz facility in Turkey is like a German factory transplanted to warmer climes, with high standards of build and quality control.

It’s almost an all-new product, but Touro operators will no doubt be pleased to know that the 12-litre OM457LA engine is carried across to the new model, but upgraded to meet Euro 4, of course.

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New Turkish-built Tourliner is the only UK model from
Neoplan.

Rival German builder Neoplan is offering only one model in the UK for 2007, the new Tourliner. This, like the Mercedes Tourismo, is built in Turkey. With low sales of Skyliners and Starliners in Britain the company has elected not to offer right-hand-drive versions of its Euro 4 versions of these models. The Tourliner is an attractive and more conventionally-styled coach than most Neoplans, and uses an MAN engine – which means EGR rather than SCR for Euro 4. There will be both two- and three-axle versions for the UK.

It’s always dangerous to predict a show star, but we reckon there’s going to be a lot of interest in the Jonckheere SHV. The Mistral was a perfectly nice coach, but hardly a head-turner. With the SHV Jonckheere has an all-new model which really is striking. It is only available on Volvo chassis, and it’s sure to put new life into Jonckheere sales.

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Head-turning Noge Titanium will be a talking point.

Another head-turning design is being launched by Noge. The Titanium is an all-new product based on an MAN underframe and it is such an unusually-styled vehicle that it is bound to be one of the talking points of the show. The retro-styled ‘radiator’ is, we reckon, going to polarise opinion – you’ll either love it or hate it. We reckon it’s a bit of stylistic fun, and it certainly shakes off the staid and chunky looks of the old Catalan. The Titanium will create new interest in Noge, and is sure to help boost MAN sales in the UK.

From Marcopolo there’s the face-lifted Viaggio III. The basic structure remains the same, but has been restyled to give the coach a crisper look with new lighting units and a slight angle to the first side pillar.

Plaxton celebrates its centenary next year and is using the show to unveil some special centenary specifications on its market-leading coach range. These can be seen on a 12.3m Panther which incorporates a wheelchair lift in the entrance.