Factory fresh and PSVAR-ready

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The top selling Neoplan Tourliner is a well known and respected option for coach operators all over the UK and Europe, but recent regulation changes in regards to accessibility has led to MAN and Neoplan developing the most practical way to fit a lift and still maintain luggage capacity. Richard Sharman takes a in-depth exclusive first look at the first PSVAR-ready example in the UK

If you were to make a list of head-turning coach styling in the UK during the last forty years or so, there is no doubt that Neoplan products will be at the top of that list. Certainly, during the 1980s and 1990s there was nothing like them on the road in terms of cutting edge styling.

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The Jetliner, Cityliner, Starliner and of course the Skyliner were the models that were pushing the styling boundaries at a time when many other UK coach builders were still using rulers to design their latest models. Neoplan didn’t believe in straight lines. Everything had to have a curve in it!

A long history in the UK

It has been 41 years since Neoplan entered the UK market. Since then there have been some changes along the way, and in 2000 Neoplan was acquired by MAN Truck and Bus.

In fact the very first Neoplan registered in the UK was Intercityliner WGT 875W, new to Blueways of London and shown at the 1980 Commercial Motor Show. Ironically, it then passed to friends of CBW, Anthony’s Travel of Runcorn, where it received registration PIB 5898. The company still operates Neoplans in the shape of Tourliners to this very day. Managing Partner Richard Bamber recalled: “As a kid I would clean coaches for Selwyns, which in 1982 purchased its first Neoplan Cityliner with a few more in the years that followed. At the time the difference in build quality and facilities available was unparrelled. Duple and Plaxton were both very similar in design and optional extras, so at that time Neoplan was a trail-blazer. The product was very bespoke and if you were prepared to pay, within reason the coach would be built any way you wanted. I was fascinated by the difference and still have some bits of memorabilia from those days including a book Selwyns gave me.

“The first Neoplan coach in the UK belonged to Blueways, the ‘Intercityliner’ – it was the England Team coach. It was acquired by Go Goodwins which used it on a contract for Granada TV who filmed ‘This Morning’ with Richard and Judy at the Albert Dock, so would bring crew and guests from Manchester to Liverpool daily. When filming shifted to London we bought the coach from Goodwins and the rest is history. Even at around 15 years old it was still a head turner with its facilities. Various other Neoplans followed both used and new, and we operated a variety of Cityliners and Euroliners. We also acquired the very first Starliner in the UK as a finance repossession and we were one of the launch customers for the Tourliner in 2006.

“With every launch vehicle you experience teething problems so I have seen the Tourliner evolve over the last 15 years. In my opinion its one of the most striking looking coaches available in the UK today, but importantly it’s reliable, well-constructed, popular with customers and well supported by MAN.”

Some 41 years on from that first vehicle, the UK and Ireland has seen over 1,300 Neoplan coaches and buses enter service, including a unique Duple Caribbean with an N716 chassis and 30 Plaxton Paramount 4000s with N722/3 chassis. In 2021 the Neoplan range stands at three coaches; the double-decker Skyliner, the flagship Cityliner and the only current UK offering, the Tourliner.

One of the previous generations of Neoplan products that Anthony’s Travel used to operate, this example being a Starliner. ANTHONY’S TRAVEL












External styling

The current incarnation of the Neoplan Tourliner made its world première in 2016, with the very first example for the UK arriving in 2017 as OU17 ORL, a demonstrator for MAN Truck and Bus UK. It is now operated by MIT Luxury Travel.
The change in styling was a major step forward for the Tourliner. The softly styled front end with its round headlights on the previous model went through a major sharpening up, and it has made a huge difference to the appearance of the coach. This is the Neoplan we know and love, although the curves of the ‘80s and ‘90s, have now been replaced with sharp design cues that make for a more dynamic and futuristic styled coach. But that is not just my opinion, the Tourliner went on to win an iF design award in 2017.
The focal point at the front end of the coach, for me at least, is the lower frontal styling with the LED headlight clusters and silver Neoplan-branded trim incorporating the emergency braking sensor. You then have the large gloss black area that starts from below the windscreen and carries on over the roof line and air conditioning unit.

The gloss black theme continues with a sharply shaped piece of glass covering the cab and entry door area. Body-coloured trim that flows above the roof line at the front of the coach and then drops down is fitted to the glazing at a sharply raked back angle, completing the dynamic appearance from the front. It is also pleasing to see that the rear styling also had a complete redesign and now looks much more like the rear of a Starliner, thus having a much improved premium look in comparison to the previous incarnation. It also delivers on the aerodynamics front, as the sides of the rear are deeply curved to meet the slightly curved rear end that leads down from the asymmetric green-tinted window, which is followed by silver effect Neoplan branded trim incorporating the reversing camera. Below this are two large louvres to assist the heat from the Euro VI engine to dissipate.

I like the look of the rear light clusters, but with the rest of the coach receiving LED lighting, it would be nice to see these also updated. The rear bumper is quite significant in size and incorporates the rear fog lights and space for a tow bar.
The sides of the Tourliner have also had a bit of a sharpen up, with a new design of fuel filler flap, revised integrated locker door handles with incorporated marker lights. Venus 10 dark-tinted glass is fitted throughout, and the flared wheel arches are retained.

The nearside rear aspect of the Tourliner, showing the position of the rear destination display and where the wheelchair lift near is situated above the rear axles. RICHARD SHARMAN













Interior quality

There is a certain expectation with a brand such as Neoplan, and opening the front plug door to the Tourliner and stepping on board, that expectation has been met. Not one cheap piece of plastic trim to seen!

Everything is sturdy and well put together. Sepping into the interior you do get an overwhelming sense of space, both in terms of the width and height of the saloon. This has been achieved, in part, by using a light colour for the ceiling panels and the tops of the overhead luggage racks, with the same shade used for the curtains. Below the saloon window line the trim is black. The ceiling height means that even if you are tall like me, at 6’2”, you can easily stand up straight throughout the length of the vehicle.
This is the first coach in the UK that features the new Kiel Avance X seating, which having tried it out, is very comfortable. The 55 Neoplan-branded passenger seats feature real leather headrests and piping, seat back tables, double USB charging points, magazine nets, individual foot rests and three-point seat belts.

Passenger service units feature individual air vents, LED reading lights and service call button. Talking of lighting, I was very impressed with the overall saloon lighting options for passengers. On one hand you can have bright white LED uplighting, fitted within the overhead luggage racks and reflecting off the cream roof panels, or you can have blue LED night lighting which is integrated into the luggage rack supports.

The floor covering used is Gerflor Tarabus Helios NT8805 Palladium, although this is covered by an AZO Favorit carpet set along the centre of the saloon floor.

You get a lot for your money as standard with the Tourliner; this includes a fixed centre mounted toilet unit, with smoke alarm and sensor lighting. Opposite the toilet unit is the TM Quick Service Multiplus on-board kitchen, which features a 40-cup coffee machine and sausage boiler. A storage unit is provided within the luggage rack for additional cups and such like.

Entertainment is provided by two fixed DVD monitors, one situated above the toilet unit and the other at the front of the coach.

The -2°C temperature prior to the test drive was ideal for trying out the capability of the vehicle’s convection heating. An Eberspächer Hydronic 35 coolant preheater is fitted and was very quick to assist in defrosting the vehicle. For warmer days a Valeo Spheros air-conditioning system with a maximum cooling output of 33kW is fitted.

A major issue from the previous model has been addressed with the 2021 Tourliner; a new slender B-pillar trim has been designed and fitted that allows the front seated passengers an almost uninterrupted view of their surroundings. Previously, this was a solid piece of trim.

The new Kiel Avance X seating inside the high quality interior. RICHARD SHARMAN













MAN Truck and Bus UK has worked with Neoplan to deliver the perfect PSVAR option for coach operators. It has resulted in the coach that I am reviewing now, this is the very first Neoplan Tourliner in the UK to arrive direct from the factory PSVAR-ready. This means that all the preparation work has been carried out to equip the vehicle ready to be fitted with a wheelchair lift once the vehicle is needed to carry out work that requires it.

The benefit for the coach operator is that they can purchase a PSVAR vehicle and use it on front-line tour work for a number of years, before moving it onto rail replacement or general private hire and school work, without having to carry around the weight of a lift. The coach arrives fitted with the front, side and rear Mobitech destination equipment. The first vehicle to arrive is fitted with orange LEDs, although I do think that white LEDs would look better on the Tourliner. The side destination display is fitted within the saloon, just above the window ledge. I tried the seats out next to the display, and to be honest it does not impede the view as the unit is fairly slimline.

MAN Truck and Bus UK has opted to fit the Mobitech destination controller unit in the driver’s overhead locker, so it is out of the way. If the operator does not want the destination equipment in place, it is simply a case of undoing a few bolts, and the arms on the front display, and securing the wiring.

The space for the wheelchair lift is fitted above the rear axle on the tri-axle Tourliner, and above the front axle on a twin-axle Tourliner. This has been done to ensure the coach operator does not lose any luggage capacity. It is a very neat solution. Additionally all the electrical wiring and the external wheelchair request button are already in place, so it is simply a case of having the wheelchair lift fitted, which MAN Truck and Bus UK will be able to arrange.

Externally, the work done to create the wheelchair access door is very good; it does not look like it has been added. In the interior of the vehicle, four double seats on mounted on tracking are easily removed to allow two wheelchairs to be accommodated inside the vehicle.
If the vehicle was set up with the wheelchair lift in place and the driver has a wheelchair passenger to pick up, the procedure is as follows: There is a button to the left of the dashboard with a wheelchair symbol; pressing this button unlocks the door. The driver then needs to go to the door and press in the silver button to release it, then pull on the handle to open it. Once fully opened, the door is locked into place and cannot be closed until the red safety bar is lifted. Twin high intensity LED light units are fitted inside the vehicle and are activated automatically when the door is opened.

Once the wheelchair passenger is safely on board the driver can lift the safety bar and close the door. Returning to the cab, the driver will not be able to move the coach until the halt brake switch is pressed.

Working environment

Any allocated driver to the new Tourliner is in for a treat. Whilst the passengers might have a well-designed and well put together interior, the driver has been treated to one of the best working environments out there.

The main advantage with the Tourliner is the amount of space that has been given to the driver. The heated and comfortable ISRI Pro 2 driver’s seat goes back a long way, or if you are shorter, very close to the steering wheel!

The dashboard is ergonomic in design and all the switches the driver requires are easily to hand. The dash binnacle itself is very clear, although be careful with the speedometer as the km/h is on the outside and mph on the in inside! Mirrors, and a thin A-pillar, all lead to excellent all around vision with the added bonus of having the low window next to the front passenger seats. This means that if the driver is on a rural road and comes to a junction that is at a slight angle they can actually see what’s coming from the left without having to try and pear over one of the high side windows.

A MAN Multi Media Coach unit is fitted to the left of the dash, and provides crystal clear satellite navigation, DAB radio, reserving/continental exit camera and a two phone bluetooth hands-free system.

Driver assistance systems are also high on the agenda with the Tourliner, with an electronic stability program (ESP), lane guard system (LGS) with haptic warning, advanced emergency braking system (EBA), cruise control and auto headlight and wipers. The driver also benefits from a heated windscreen, mirrors, power sunblind and signalling window.

The ergonomic driver’s working area is well equipped. RICHARD SHARMAN












On the road

The Tourliner, as tested, is fitted with the MAN D2676 LOH Euro VI six-cylinder engine which delivers 470hp, it is coupled to a ZF 6-speed AP2520 EcoLife 2 gearbox.

Setting off from the MAN Trafford Park dealership, the roads were quite greasy having had a hard frost the night before. The Tourliner sits on eight grippy Continental ContiCoach 295/80R22.5 tyres, and with 470hp, it soon became clear that these were the right tyres for this coach.

Travelling around the local area, which features many roundabouts, the MAN engine was quick to pick up speed when accelerating from a standstill, ideal to get its 13.4 metre-long body out of the way of oncoming cars during the peak period.
The ZF gearbox works in harmony with the MAN engine to deliver a smooth and nearly seamless gear change every time. At this point the sun was quite bright in the sky, and I had the driver’s sunblind down, but I wished that the Tourliner had a side blind fitted. Although the top of the window has some black masking spots, a sunblind would be help when the sun is low and bright.

Returning to the drive, I joined the M62 to see how the Tourliner handled on the motorway. It was a smooth ride and sat on the limiter at the start of the green rev counter band, around 1,000rpm.

The Tourliner holds steady on the motorway and easily overtook the HGVs in lane one without getting buffeted around. After around 20 minutes it was time to leave the motorway, on doing so I made us of the six-stage stalk-mounted retarder, which was smooth in operation. There was no wind noise around the entry door, signalling window or mirrors.

Steering-wise, even when hard pressed on roundabouts the Tourliner showed zero sign of body roll, helped by the stearing rear axle and the ESP. On returning to the dealership, there were some harsh road conditions, but despite this the interior remained silent, with no banging or crashing of interior panels, showing the signs of a well built coach.

The PSVAR-ready Tourliner is seen on test at Walkden station. RICHARD SHARMAN












2022 expectations

Returning from the test drive I took the opportunity to talk to Matt Jacob, MAN Truck and Bus UK’s Senior Retail Coach Sales Executive, about the incoming stock and what we can expect to see from the range in the future: “In terms of the remaining factory-fresh stock coming in this year, we have two 13.4m 55-seat executive P20s, two 13.1-metre twin axle 57-seat executive P10s, and a single 12.1m 49-seat executive P21 all of which are PSVAR-ready, have Euro VI Step D engines and feature ZF EcoLife auto gearboxes.

“The next batch of vehicles for the UK for 2022 is due to arrive in mid-February, ready for March delivery for our customers. These vehicles will feature the MAN Euro VI Step E engines which will be fully bio-diesel compatible to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint. This is the next stage from the manufacturers point of view, and operators will not notice any differences other than slightly reduced horsepower from 470bhp to 460bhp on the tri-axles, but the P10 and P21 are not affected by any reduction in horsepower. The move will reduce emissions even further. We will still have the option to offer up to 510bhp with the ZF Traxon gearbox, of which we have two on order to be demonstration vehicles.

“It will be a full PSVAR P20 with the award-winning MAN OptiView camera system instead of mirrors, and the other demonstrator will be a P10 PSVAR coach with the lift over the front axle, 57 seat executive specification, with ZF EcoLife 2 auto and 430bhp, again with MAN OptiView mirrors. We believe we are the first manufacturer in the UK to bring in camera systems to coaches.

“Operators will be able to get their hands on the demonstrators from March, so if you are interested in trying one please contact your local area sales representative. We will be keen to get feedback on the MAN OptiView system and the new engine. Chris Hunt deals with the North and Scotland, Jeff Edwards does the South and I deal with the Midlands and North Wales. Our goal with the PSVAR-ready coaches was to ensure that we didn’t take up any luggage space for our customers with the wheelchair lift equipment. We know how important it is to maintain that space.

“In terms of our after service offerings, at MAN Truck & Bus we aim to offer the best available package and aftersales backup for our customers, that is why we provide a full three year manufacturer’s comprehensive warranty for up to 100,000kms per year and a further year for the driveline only. So our warranty covers the coach for 400,000kms in total over four years. But we don’t stop there, every year the operator’s oil change, oil filter, fuel filter and valve clearances are included.

“Also included in the package is MAN Mobile24, a mobile service that provides operators with 24/7, 365 backup throughout the UK and Europe. Should anything go wrong we aim to be there to assist within one hour by using over 2,000 workshops.

“As part of its purchase of HRVS Group in January this year, MAN Truck & Bus UK has acquired five dealerships across central England. As MAN franchised agents, HVRS has previously supported our customers with service for over 17 years.” The dealerships are part of a £20m commitment from MAN into its UK branch network and are located in Ripley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sheffield, Scunthorpe and Sleaford. The deal also includes a workshop in Burton upon Trent.

“That acquisition brings us to just shy of 70 dealerships in the UK, and 16 of those are already electric vehicle ready, so we are making the investment in the dealer network to future proof it. MAN Nuneaton has been recently refurbished and MAN Gateshead relocated to a brand new start of the art site. MAN Stockton is being done now.

“We have a new Managing Director for the UK now, Stefan Thyssen, who has been travelling around visiting all over the dealerships in the UK to get a feel for the business. So there is a renewed focus on the UK offerings to our customers.”


With a fully loaded specification as standard, with a long warranty and reliability, the Neoplan Tourliner needs to be on your list of coaches to try if you are looking for a new PSVAR-ready coach that can do it all.