Advanced driveline gives a Tourliner to treasure

With ZF’s Traxon gearbox and MAN’s EfficientCruise and EfficientRoll fuel-saving tech, the Neoplan Tourliner is not lacking in tools to maximise its fuel efficiency. How does such a P20 example fare?

MAN is among the leaders in technological innovation in coaches. Its use of driver aids in the Neoplan Tourliner range has already been detailed, and the model also comes with fuel-saving items as standard when fitted with the ZF Traxon gearbox.

They are in the form of EfficientCruise and EfficientRoll. Both utilise an active GPS connection to identify where the coach is and the approaching terrain.

Between them, they allow hills – both shallow and steep – to be tackled in the most efficient manner.

That strategy includes reducing power on approaching the crest when cruise control is engaged, in the knowledge that speed will be regained afterwards. It also involves engagement of neutral when descending under some circumstances, removing driveline drag and optimising fuel consumption.

Each may be anathema to many drivers. But the Tourliner uses both functions effectively, and above all, safely. Speed drops only slightly when approaching a summit, and drive is immediately re-engaged if there is a danger of the coach overrunning downhill.

Traxon has displaced its predecessor AS-Tronic as the Tourliner’s automated manual gearbox option. It complements the EcoLife automatic, and retail prices for like-for-like coaches are identical. However, EcoLife is not compatible with EfficientCruise or EfficientRoll.

Each gearbox is paired with the 12.4-litre D26 engine. MAN builds stock coaches with the D26 at 420bhp and 460bhp; it is available at 500bhp strictly to a buyer’s specification. Each of those figures will rise by 10bhp when the D26 goes to Euro 6d for the 2020 model year. Torque output will rise by 100Nm at that time. EcoLife will remain compatible with both the 430bhp and 470bhp ratings of the next-generation D26.

MAN in the UK has a tri-axle Tourliner P20 demonstrator with a Traxon gearbox. It has been well-received by those that have tried it, with fuel returns bettering those of a comparable AS-Tronic-equipped coach. Operator demand meant that routeone was unable to view that demonstrator. Instead, MAN made a very similar stock example available for a Test Drive.

Brusa seats are fitted, although Kiel is an option; centre toilet and servery

The P20’s basics

The P20 is the smaller of two tri-axle Tourliners. It is 13.37m long; its sister the P22 is 13.91m. That additional length is within the wheelbase.

A 570-litre diesel tank is over the front axle. It has a single filler on the nearside. AdBlue is stored at the rear offside ahead of the exhaust. 35 litres is the capacity. When the D26 moves to Euro 6d that will rise to 65 litres, although EGR will be retained.

Now standard on tri-axle Tourliners is active rear steering. It is immediately noticeable and the coach is highly manoeuvrable, but the driver must be aware of the resultant tail swing.

Part of the package are LED headlights. They have an automatic setting, as do the windscreen wipers. Alcoa Dura-Bright polished alloy wheels are fitted and they are shod with Michelin X Multiway 3D all-year tyres.

All Tourliners are prepared for the installation of a tow bar. The radiator is on the nearside, while within the engine bay is a water and debris separator through which fuel passes before combustion. It protects the high-pressure common rail injection equipment.

The P20 is 2.55m wide and 3.84m tall. Its wheelbase between the first and second axles is 6.60m. It weighs 15,120kg unladen and its gross weight is 23,920kg.

In the cabin

As tested, the P20 has 55 Brusa seats, although Kiel is an alternative on coaches that are built to order. The Brusa product comes with drop-down tables, footrests, magazine nets, three-point belts and USB charging points beneath the base. 240v sockets can be specified.

The entrance has four steps leading to the platform and a further two into the aisle. The gangway is slightly sloped at the front, but from around the third row of seats it is flat.

That permits a lift to be installed where accessibility is desired. In tri-axle Tourliners, it is mounted over the nearside drive wheels; the two-axle P10 and P21 models differ in that it goes above the front axle for weight distribution.

Large servery comes with MAN’s fabled sausage boiler; fridge at the front

A centre sunken toilet is fitted. MAN’s trademark servery – complete with its fabled sausage boiler – is on the opposite side of the continental door. The servery also allows the preparation of hot drinks. Within the dash is a fridge.

Above the toilet is one of two fixed monitors. Both are connected to an entertainment system that incorporates a DVD player, but the centrepiece is a multimedia head unit.

Besides acting as a DAB digital radio, it provides satellite navigation and a feed from either the reversing camera or one above the centre door, when applicable. It can also be paired with two phones, and within the dash are sockets to allow connection of devices such as an iPad.

Climate control utilises a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit and perimeter heaters to maintain the chosen temperature. Additionally, an Eberspächer auxiliary coolant heater is fitted. It comes with a seven-day programming capability.

In the cab

The driver benefits from a logically laid out cab. Buttons are all on rocker switches and they are robust.

When selecting gears via a rotary switch, it must be remembered that drive is to the left and reverse is to the right – the opposite to some other configurations, particularly with AS-Tronic-equipped coaches from other manufacturers.

Storage for the driver is good. Various cubby-holes and compartments are around the cab, and there is a lockable section within the steps to the aisle. A safe can be specified, well hidden in the upper section of the underfloor luggage area. Access to the luggage bay is via parallel-lifting doors. They are manually operated, and no powered option is available. They can be locked using dash switches.

Useful is the bulb test function. When activated, the coach cycles through all external lights except those for reverse, allowing the driver to view them as part of their walk-round check. If any are inoperative, an audible warning sounds.

The cab is very well laid out, and the dashboard is a model of great clarity

An Isringhausen seat is fitted, complete with a hands-free microphone. It is heated, and as an option an integrated fan can be specified to cool the driver. For the same purpose, the coach is pre-wired to take a fan at the offside upper corner of the windscreen.

Adjustment of the steering wheel is very good, but the traditional small Neoplan pedals may not be to every driver’s taste. A one-piece windscreen blind is powered, as is the signalling window. The suspension has kneeling and squat capability.

In hilly territory

The main purpose of this Test Drive is to assess how the Traxon gearbox functions in the Tourliner. As has been found previously in other coaches, Traxon is superior to AS-Tronic. It is less hesitant, particularly so when dropping ratios.

That’s something that it does more often than may be expected. But that is not a criticism; it’s a result of MAN’s use of a high axle ratio, which leads to just 1,100rpm being recorded at the limited speed. As a result, the gearbox drops to 11th when traffic slows to much below 60mph.

Traxon works exceptionally well with EfficientRoll. Because the coach is so quiet, the only way to discern that neutral has been selected is via the tachometer. Trickier to do smoothly is reselecting drive, but it is achieved without any issue. Importantly, thanks to the coach’s GPS connectivity, power is reapplied before road speed can drop when approaching a climb.

Brusa seats come with USBs underneath, drop-down tables, and more

Combining EfficientCruise and EfficientRoll is clever. A coach travelling at 62mph has a great deal of momentum. The two driveline packages harness and use that to the benefit of fuel economy without greatly impacting driveability.

It’s true that if EfficientCruise is left to its own devices, speed drops slightly when approaching the crest of a hill. That can be undesirable if passing slower vehicles, so an occasional override by the driver may be beneficial. Other than that, it is a superb use of technology.

More mundane aspects of the driveline also impress. In particular, the 2,300Nm of torque, which is available over a wide peak starting below 1,000rpm, delivers effortless acceleration.

Traxon upshifts noticeably quicker than its predecessor. That was demonstrated when joining the M65 westbound at Hapton. The slip road climbs steeply from a standing start, but the Tourliner was able to take a block change from seventh to ninth gear without complaint.

A first-rate driveline

The Neoplan is a known quantity. It is a middle-of-the-road coach that is well suited to touring work. It is also now available on operating lease via MAN Financial Services.

Less familiar is its latest driveline. Although the EcoLife gearbox option will be favoured by some customers, Traxon is a highly competent automated manual alternative. Where Traxon comes into its own is when it is combined with EfficientCruise and EfficientRoll. The flexible D26 also makes a major contribution to what in driveline terms is up there with the industry’s best.

But when combined, do those components deliver the holy grail of fuel efficiency? Yes, is the answer. The Tourliner was driven from MAN’s Trafford Park base in a circle via the M60, M66, A56, M65 and M61. Flat roads are at a premium on such a routing, but at 11.5mpg, the result was highly credible.

Facts and figures

Retail price: £275,000
Engine: 12.4-litre six-cylinder MAN D26
Power: 338kW (460bhp) @1,800rpm
Torque: 2,300Nm @930-1,350rpm
Emissions: Euro 6 using EGR and SCR
Gearbox: ZF Traxon 12-speed automated manual
Tyres: 295/80 R22.5
Length: 13.37m
Height: 3.84m
Width: 2.55m
Wheelbase (axles 1-2): 6.06m
GVW: 23,920kg
UVW: 15,120kg
Fuel economy: 11.5mpg