Tourliner takes two: The evolution of a Neoplan

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Hotly-anticipated was the right-hand drive debut of Neoplan’s new Tourliner, which made its global first appearnce at last year’s IAA show in Hanover. How does it perform? Tim Deakin puts it to the test

Styling the most obvious change, but much else is different on new model

MAN created quite a stir at the UK Coach Rally last month when the revamped Neoplan Tourliner made its right-hand drive debut.

MAN makes a big claim about new model’s fuel efficiency, with talk of a significant improvement over the outgoing Tourliner.

What is clear is that the new model is a development of the existing coach and not an all-new product. It has been restyled to bring it in line with other Neoplan offerings, but much remains the same; the entrance arrangement is identical, for example.

Some things have changed significantly, however. Apart from the styling, the most obvious is an aisle that is now flat.

That delivers two benefits: It noticeably improves underfloor luggage space, and it also permits wheelchair access, a first for a coach sold by MAN in the UK.

The new Tourliner comes out of the blocks with MAN’s Euro 6c driveline. It utilises the 12.4-litre D2676 engine at 420 and 460bhp in two- and three-axle form respectively coupled to the TipMatic automated gearbox.

As found in the existing Tourliner at Euro 6c (routeone/Test Drive/5 April), this is an exceptional engine. It delivers a level of driveability that is hard to beat, and MAN’s standard EfficientCruise and EfficientRoll software aids fuel consumption.

Just one new Tourliner is here until August, when the first stock examples arrive. It is busy on demonstration until December, and its most recent operator, Glen Valley Tours, kindly spared the coach for a routeone Test Drive.

Mirror arm is completely new, but ‘flash’ obstructs view from front seats

Build

The new Tourliner comes at three lengths: 12.1m on two axles and 13.2m and 13.9m on three.

The demonstrator is the longest of these. It is 3.82m high and weighs 16,680kg unladen, and it seats 59; the maximum is 63, still with a centre toilet.

Glen Valley Tours has recently purchased a current model Tourliner, which gives the opportunity to compare the two variants side-by-side.

There are a number of external differences: Frontal styling is obvious, but the rear aspect is entirely different, and Neoplan has tidied the older Tourliner’s slightly fussy rear light cluster into something much more pleasing.

A revised engine ventilation arrangement now prevents water from flowing from the roof via the engine compartment.

The rear pillars are wider, with the result that the back window is a completely different size; it is narrower, but deeper.

At the sides, luggage bay doors have a revised mechanism that greatly reduces the amount of effort required to close them, and the large hinged wheel arch panel by to the rear bogie has been split into two on tri-axle coaches.

Driver visibility has been improved, with the A-pillar brought back slightly. The door aperture remains the same, but the glazing layout is different to accentuate the adjacent ‘V’ styling.

Door aperture and step arrangement unchanged, but door glass altered

Passenger access

As in the previous model, four comparatively narrow steps lead to the platform, and two more take passengers to the aisle.

A courier seat is present within the doorway, but it is a ‘slimline’ model and the base sits flush with the back when not in use.

The courier seat base has a handrail within it and on the left when boarding is a substantial frame to further steady passengers. Each passenger seat has a grab at both upper corners for further support.

At the centre, the staircase is remarkably wide and the door mechanism does not intrude as much as it does in some other coaches.

As a result, access to the toilet is very good, as it will be for passengers boarding or and alighting via the continental door.

To illustrate the new Tourliner’s accessible potential, the demonstrator has a cassette-type wheelchair lift over the drive axle. Two-axle accessible Tourliners will have a lift at the front when specified.

This, says MAN, is to avoid encroaching into luggage space in either configuration. To accommodate wheelchair users, buyers can specify a floor-mounted toilet, and as many seats can be tracked as desired, although those that are lose their USB charging sockets.

Passenger comfort

There is a lot going for the new Tourliner comfort wise in standard form, and more can be added to custom-built coaches.

Kiel seats come as standard with leather inserts, drop-down tables, footrests and three-point belts, and in the demonstrator MAN has added side-shift in aisle positions. Each window seat has a twin USB charging in its back, and wall-mounted three-pin sockets are available if required.

Some big changes have been made internally, including a flat gangway

A Bosch DVD player is within the trademark ‘chest of drawers’ next to the driver’s left knee. It feeds three monitors (one fixed at the front and two fold-ups further back) and it works in conjunction with a stereo and CD player.

Climate control is fitted, with a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit complementing perimeter radiators and an auxiliary coolant heater.

The driver may either set the desired temperature and leave the system to its own devices, or he or she can more finely govern airflow and direction.

In the new Tourliner, a much-improved passenger service unit (PSU) is used, with the outgoing model’s minimalistic approach in this regard discarded.

The new PSU includes reading lights, while primary saloon illumination is from full-length strips in the lip of each luggage rack.

They point upwards, which MAN says is to improve the ambience of the coach during periods of darkness.

Luggage racks have been completely redesigned and they are bigger than previously. They also have a more pronounced lip, and thanks to the flat gangway they are much more easily reached. This is a major plus point.

Visibility is largely good, and passengers in the back row will find that the side view is unimpeded by the adjacent pillar. The only blemish is at the front, where the very pronounced external ‘flash’ majorly compromises the ability to see to the side from the first row.

Wood-effect flooring is fitted throughout, and it is a zero-cost option over the grey plastic finish in coaches built to order. A top-loading fridge is within the dash and the existing Tourliner’s kitchen pack is retained.

Little change in the cab, although driver visibility has been improved

Driver comfort

The demonstrator comes with a top-spec Isringhausen driver’s seat that includes a heater element, an in-built fan and all the normal luxuries along with a hands-free microphone. Its scope of adjustment is good, as is that for the steering wheel.

To the lower right of the seat are two 240v sockets, and a cigarette lighter-style point is nearby. The lower three drawers below the DVD player are empty, and there is room behind the seat for a bag.

More secure storage is provided in two front-opening compartments within the steps up to the aisle.

They are added to order, but they act as discreet stowage for maps, work tickets and other smaller items. An optional safe is fitted at the front of the luggage compartment.

Visibility from the cab is good, particularly in the gullwing mirrors, which are to a new design. The signalling window is electrically heated and lowered, and in a useful touch, it has its own demister vents at the bottom.

Performance

As already discovered, the D2676 engine at Euro 6c has different characteristics to the earlier Euro 6 unit and it pulls exceptionally well. 460bhp and 2,300Nm of torque implies excellent performance and that is certainly the case.

A fridge is within the dash, with an adjacent tray for the driver’s use

As an indication, at 50mph in top gear not only is it happy at exactly 1,000rpm, but it also rapidly picks up without a downshift.

Such flexibility will be welcome on undulating terrain and the coach is also capable of significant climbs at low revs.

Excellent torque delivery was further evidenced when climbing the A1 near Berwick-upon-Tweed where a crawler lane is present.

Accelerating from a roundabout, the TipMatic block changed from 9th to 11th gear, and despite the incline it had no difficultly in the higher ratio.

The Tourliner handles winding roads very well, although there is a surprising amount of noise from the front tyres when cornering hard. It is competent in crosswinds despite its height, and roll is minimal.

MAN’s EfficientRoll makes the most of the coach’s momentum on slight downgrades and it does so uncannily well, with one period of sustained 50mph running while in neutral measuring around a third of a mile.

Drive is retaken seamlessly, and the system cleverly does not disengage a gear if, through its predictive function, it knows that the descent is steep enough to require engine braking.

Interestingly, the coach does not necessarily reselect the same ratio as previously disengaged; on one occasion EfficientRoll was engaged from 11th gear, but then 12th was selected when speed started to drop.

The variable EfficientCruise allows a modest variance from the selected speed to optimise economy, while when slowing, the stalk-activated retarder is very powerful.

Styling changes at the rear are numerous and overall effect is very good

Verdict

Neoplan has addressed many of the less-popular aspects of the outgoing Tourliner with the new model.

Its styling is much more contemporary, and the passenger experience is improved by all-new luggage racks and PSUs along with the flat gangway, although the styling that obstructs the side view from the front row is less welcome.

Drivers will benefit from luggage bay doors that are easier to close and improved cab visibility, while they will also enjoy the Euro 6c engine, which without question is one of the best in class.

MAN will offer the new Tourliner in both stock form, which it describes as to an upper-mid trim level, and built exactly to customers’ requirements.

“The standard specification on stock coaches is slightly above the Select Plus level that has proved very popular on the existing model,” says Retail Coach Sales Executive Steven Duffy.

“On custom-built coaches, buyers can go up from that but they can also remove items such as drop-down tables if they wish. We are not dictating to them what they can or cannot have.”

On a recent 4,000km trip alongside the Euro 6 Tourliner in Glen Valley’s fleet, the demonstrator returned 0.5mpg more than the outgoing model despite being longer and heavier. In real-world terms, with passengers and luggage on board and traffic to contend with, a return of 10.5mpg is good, says the operator.

The demonstrator has now moved onto its next port of call, and the first production examples are to arrive in August. There is a price premium over comparable existing Tourliners, but this coach looks the part – and importantly, it acts it, too.