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Busworld 2019: bring it on!

Busworld 2019 is going to be sensational! It’s going to be jam-packed with buses, coaches and minibuses, featuring the very latest technology. Well, that certainly applies to the MAN stand, as CHARLEEN CLARKE discovers

I’m in Munich at the world-famous Allianz Arena, which is home to FC Bayern Munich – one mighty illustrious football team. I’m not here to meet that cute chap, Thomas Müller (although this does remain a dream, it must be said), instead I’m here to meet some other stars in their own right.

Specifically, I have come to Munich to find out what MAN Truck and Bus will show at Busworld 2019, which takes place in Brussels from October 18 to 23 this year. And the stars of the MAN stand are just as impressive as Herr Müller, although maybe not quite as cute…

So, what will visitors to MAN’s Busworld stand see? One of the highlights of the stand will be the all-electric MAN Lion’s City E, which members of the public will be able to test drive for the very first time.

Gerard Nicholas Kalil-Zackey, marketing and brand manager at MAN Automotive, and Charleen Clarke, prepare for a spin in the new electric bus.

The international journalists who have gathered in Munich are all elated at the thought of taking it for a spin and I practically get trampled in the rush to get to it, so I decide instead to drive some of the other vehicles – and save the best for last.

I kick off my day’s exploration at the MAN TGE City, which is a static display here at the Allianz Arena. It is based on the TGE van, which I have driven and reported on in the past, but this is a people transporter – and it is mighty cool.

The seats can be moved backwards and forwards at the push of a lever and there’s a nifty wheelchair lift at the back. I love the large side windows, which provide the passengers with unhampered views.  It would go down so well in South Africa – although it does cost about R1.1 million…

My next port of call is the MAN eTGE Combi, an e-minibus based on the MAN eTGE electric van, which is already in series production. This minibus can transport up to eight people in absolute comfort – and silence, of course. It’s great for inner-city transportation in low-emission zones and for use in any areas where there is a focus on keeping noise to a minimum…

I chat to a deliberately unnamed (by me) MAN employee with the most marvellous sense of humour. I ask him how long it takes to charge the vehicle. “Two years,” is his response – without the hint of a smile. Actually it takes just 45 minutes to charge the eTGE to 80 percent (assuming you have access to a DC charging station with a Combined Charging System and 40 kW of charging power).

The 12-m version of the Lion’s City E can seat up to 88 passengers, whilst the 18-m variant can accommodate a maximum of 120 passengers. The range is up to 270 km.

Then we hop into the eTGE and go for a spin. I drove the vehicle in Berlin last year, so it’s not my first time behind the wheel. Still, I really enjoy the experience of prodding the accelerator and being propelled forward. The instantaneous torque is just so rewarding.  So, too, is the actual driving; the vehicle feels nimble, it handles quite brilliantly and it’s ever so comfortable. I suggest to the unnamed chap that we take a trip to Salzburg and then return to Munich later. “What a great idea! Of course, we can never get there and back again on a single charge, but we can try,” he says with a hearty laugh.

Next up, I explore the MAN Lion’s Coach that is used by FC Bayern Munich. We’re not allowed to drive this coach, but I wander through it, marvelling at the plush interior and the fact that it has three fridges. (Honestly, how many beers do these soccer players drink?)

Visitors to the MAN stand at Busworld will be treated to a long-distance model of the Lion’s Coach C, which is
13 m in length has with 48 seats, a lift and two wheelchair spaces. The two-axle vehicle on show will boast the 346 kW D2676 LOH engine, with a maximum torque of 2 400 Nm coupled to a 12-speed gearbox MAN TipMatic.

My next test vehicle is something also super luxurious: the Neoplan Cityliner L. This three-axle high-floor coach, equipped with MAN’s D2676 LOH motor, is blissful to drive – thanks to the fact that there are 368 kW of power and 2 500 Nm of torque on tap.

Heading with trepidation through the suburbs and then onto the autobahn (this coach does, after all, cost about
R10 million; it would be poor form to trash it), I really enjoy the MAN TipMatic Coach 12-speed automated gearbox with integrated retarder – honestly speaking, it is so smooth; I could not feel it change gears.

However, this is a coach for passengers and not for the driver – and what a luxurious experience it offers. I particularly like the rear lounge, which seats seven (it looks like a spot where memories are made). I also really like the OptiView, the first mirror replacement system for coaches, which celebrated its world première at the last IAA. (It’s available on all Neoplan models from 2020.)

Cameras on both sides of the vehicle provide real-time imaging on two displays, which are really easy to see and use; they look a bit like two iPads on top of each other, but they’re even clearer.

Charleen Clarke gets ready for her test drive in the Lion’s City E.

A Tourliner L – with its fabulous movingART design – will be on display at Busworld. This vehicle is the coach of choice for the famous German composer, Hans Zimmer. He has a show called the “The World of Hans Zimmer”, which is currently touring Europe, and the musicians travel in a Tourliner L. During the press event, we’re treated to music by the orchestra. They will join the coach at the Busworld; both will be an absolute delight.

The Tourliner is powered by the D26 engine, which features 346 kW of power, maximum torque of 2 400 Nm, and an automated MAN TipMatic Coach gearbox. A Neoplan Skyliner – featuring the 375 kW D2676 LOH diesel engine with a maximum torque of 2 600 Nm, the 12-speed automated MAN TipMatic Coach gearbox and electronically controlled shock absorbers, will also be on the Busworld stand.

The next vehicle that I drive – the MAN Lion’s Coach L – has the same engine and gearbox. Significantly, it has an axle ratio of i = 2.73, which results in reduced consumption and wear as well as less noise. Actually, as we drive through Munich and traverse the autobahn, the cabin and the entire coach, in fact, are ominously silent.

Finally, there is the highlight of my day: a drive in the all-electric Lion’s City E. At Busworld, MAN will be exhibiting a 12-m solo version of the Lion’s City E, which comes with 35 seats. This bus has the most incredible, funky design – despite the fact that there are all those batteries on the roof. In the solo bus, the all-electric driveline can produce an output of between 160 kW and a maximum of 270 kW. As a result, the Lion’s City E has a range of 200 km – or up to 270 km in good conditions – across the entire service life of the batteries. Belting around Munich, I realise that I am driving the future – and that’s precisely what Busworld visitors will experience come October.

The Lion’s Coach L comes with every conceivable safety feature.

Other Busworld highlights

I didn’t get to drive absolutely every vehicle that will be exhibited by MAN at Busworld. Should you visit the show, it would be wise to look out for these displays too:

  The Lion’s City 19 EfficientHybrid will be shown for the very first time. The 38-seater bus spans 1,75 m in length. A highly efficient D1556 LOH diesel engine with 265 kW powers the vehicle. If equipped with MAN EfficientHybrid, the bus becomes an even more economical and environmentally friendly solution. The stop-start function ensures that the vehicle is near silent and emission-free when it stops.

• At Busworld, MAN is presenting the Lion’s Intercity with a new D1556 LOH engine for the first time – the vehicle on show will deliver 265 kW. When combined with the MAN EfficientHybrid module, the engine can lower consumption by a whopping 16 percent!

My friends call me a glomad (a global nomad lest you don’t get it). That’s a particularly apt word, because I am always trawling all corners of the globe, looking for stories. As a result, I have slept in some seriously strange places – on a bed of ice in the Arctic circle, on the floor in a traditional Japanese hotel, on the sand dunes in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan … and even on the floor of a Thai cargo ship. Mostly however I tend to sleep on aircraft (if I had a dog, he would bark at me when I eventually come home). I am passionate about trucks, cars, travel, food, wine, people and hugs – so I write about all these things. Except the hugs.

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