Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Reading Rolls into Euro 6! E400MMC - the verdict

Yesterday, I took a trip up to Reading to have a go on some of Reading Bus' new toys - the Euro 6 Alexander Dennis Enviro400MMC's and to be quite honest...I'm quite impressed!  As a usual non-Alexander Dennis fan, it may come as a bit of a shock to see me writing anything positive about their latest product but they really are a huge step up from the previous generation of Enviro400. And here's why...

To start with, I'd probably say the new front/rear styling is very welcome. The Enviro400 looked the part when it was introduced in late 2005/2006, but has since been outdated by designs like the MCV DD103 and Wright Gemini 2, leaving the E400 looking a wee bit basic. The new Enviro400MMC boasts a design that is like none other, with a similarly shaped top deck windscreen, but slightly less wide which then curves down at the sides to from a nice wrap around bottom deck windscreen, improving drivers visibility and updating the whole design. Another thing I like is the new bumper, which incorporates a black metal bit which holds the reg plate, making the bus look more premium. The front lower panel leaves a generous space for operators names and branding. Reading have painted their examples up into the very smart "Claret" livery, which is the branding for the Town Centre - University - Kilnsea Drive route. The rear has also been re-designed.

Low spec Stagecoach E400 (Thanks to Ben Sweeney)
One of the biggest things for me has to be the interior. The old E400 I always thought looked extremely basic, with several sheets of thin plastic put together to form a very flat, boring interior. The ceiling didn't really have any shape to it, and overall I think it makes the bus feel really cheap, along with those most uncomfortable plastic molded seats above the wheels. It really was quite unappealing,despite being specious, especially when ordered to a low spec.

Rather high class looking E400MMC interior
                                                                           The MMC ,on the other hand, brings in a whole new design, with re-positioned lights and a gloss finish to the roof. There is also a nice touch added by the black glass/plastic which runs right from the staircase down to the cab door, with the usual plastic panels sweeping across it. The wheelarch seats are a new design which allow for a nice comfortable, padded, seat all in one unit which looks modern and actually quite cool. As well as this, Reading Bus have continued ordering their nice interior colours & specification at Euro 6, which really works a treat with the E400MMC.
Upper Deck

Re-designed wheel arch seats
Unfortunately, Alexander Dennis didn't quite live up to their "completely rattle free bus"  standard, but they have eliminated the majority of annoying creeks, squeaks and rattles from the E400MMC making for a much nicer ride and improved build quality.

The emergency door looks like that on
 an East Lancs Myllenium
Another feature of the E400MMC is the incorporation of other bus designs (or at least I think there is anyway), such as the emergency door which looks a lot like those on later East Lancs bodied deckers and the clean lines at the rear which slightly resembles the MCV DD103 body. There is also slight hints of ALX400 and Plaxton President in the design, which I think is quite cool.

Nice clean lines on the re-designed rear. Also it looks a little bit like
the MCV DD103

The Enviro400MMC is powered by a Cummins ISBe6 engine ,and in the case of Reading's, coupled to a ZF Ecolife gearbox making for a quiet ride (and for me, quite boring), though the ZF whine can just about be heard. Just like other modern buses, the engine management is way too intrusive. The gear ratios are really short on the ZF Ecolife (and these days, on the voith option too) leaving the bus with very little power on hills and reluctance to change down to gain more power. I overheard a driver saying how "gutless" the MMC's are, and I've heard similar reports about the older Enviro400s too.

I was quite surprised to see that Reading's examples are full diesel, after years of buying the E400 Hybrid. It could be the case that the E400MMC isn't yet available as a Hybrid. I'm not too sure if I'm honest.

The "oldies", Enviro400 Hybrid that the MMC's are replacing
Overall, the Enviro400MMC is a fantastic new design and leagues above their previous Enviro400 model which I think was just cheap and nasty. The overall build quality, shape and uniqueness (if that's a word) is just so much better. The new design really ages the old model in comparison.

YX64VRR is seen in Reading at night.
 However ADL's own chassis with the Cummins engines somewhat slow and boring for me, so it will be interesting to see what other chassis will be fitted with this body. It would be nice to see some of the Scania N230UD's and Volvo B5TL offered with this bodywork.

As an avid Volvo/Wright combination fan, you'll probably be wondering why I've not been comparing the Enviro400MMC to the new Volvo B5/Wright Gemini 3. Unfortunately, I've not yet got round to sampling the Gemini 3 on the Euro 6 Volvo range however I hope to this week. I usually much prefer the Volvo/Wright products to ADL's offerings, but with the MMC being such a huge step up from the previous Enviro, and Stagecoach having just ordered 18 Volvo B5LH/Enviro400MMC's for it's Dundee operations, it could well be a new favorite modern bus for me, who knows?

One of the 12m Scania N94UD's at Whitley Wood
In other news...
Reading's oldest deckers in the service fleet, the 54 reg super-length 12m Scania N94UD/East Lancs Omnidekka's still soldier on in service on the " Mint Green" 5 & 6 alongside some Scania N270UD/East Lancs Olympus'. It's surprising that at 10 years old the N94's are still in service at Reading, despite the sale of much newer Wright Solar's and Scania N230's. These N94UD's have to be my favorite deckers at Reading because of their sheer size, and the engines on them are pretty thrashy! Perhaps the E400MMC's will oust these out.

A surprise catch on Tuesday was this ex-Lothian Dennis Trident/Plaxton President W558RSG which although is owned by Reading Bus, it's liveried up in Greenbus colours for use on schools and football shuttles. However, for some reason unbeknownst to me it shot round the corner in the evening marked up for the 26 Reading-Calcot, so I ran to the nearest bus stop and went for a bash on it. I just had to being the big Trident veg I am. The Cummins C220 engine is certainly an unusual sound thrashing through Reading Town Centre and although I was just 4 minutes from missing my train, it was certainly worth a bash!