Elite: One Coach That Satisfies Two Tasks
routeONE magazine|15 March 2017 - Issue 681

Tim Deakin drives the first restyled Plaxton’s Elite of which Acklams Coaches took the first one to enter service.

Wheelchair-accessible coaches are niche vehicles, but for those operators that run them they are often worthwhile additions to the fleet. That’s certainly the case for Beverley, East Yorkshire-based Acklams. It has several, all Plaxton-bodied.

Among them is its latest addition, a Volvo B11R with the first restyled Elite body to enter service. It is PSVAR-compliant, having a PLS lift and ‘magic floor’ system at the door combined with tracked seats at the front and Hanover front, side and rear destination screens.

It can carry a maximum of six wheelchair users, and when not used on accessible work, the lift is well hidden in the lower step and able-bodied customers will know nothing of its accessible credentials.

Plaxton’s restyled Elite was unveiled at Euro Bus Expo. The model was designed from the get-go as an accessible coach and the main revision to the restyled Elite is a remodelled dash panel.

The manufacturer also offers an optional drag reduction system, fitted to the Acklams coach. It includes under trays and small vertical ‘spoilers’ on each rear corner. Combined with Volvo’s active suspension – which reduces ride height at higher speeds – it gives a fuel saving of around 4%.

That may not sound a lot, but on high mileage work it adds up. The Acklams coach is destined to spend a portion of its time on European tours and it will also be used on the operator’s contracts to transport fans of Hull’s sports teams.

Director Alan Acklam and his father Paul kindly made their new addition available for a routeone Test Drive.

Build

Acklams’ Elite is built on the B11R chassis and is powered by a D11K engine developing 430bhp and driving through Volvo’s 12-speed I-Shift automated gearbox. ZF’s EcoLife transmission is offered in conjunction with the D11K’s 380bhp rating, and Plaxton is hopeful that the automatic ‘box will be homologated with the 430bhp engine in the future.

The coach is 12.6m long, 3.72m high and 2.55m wide. It weighs in at 13,548kg unladen, with around 500kg of that accounted for by the lift and ‘magic floor’ kit.

Electrically-powered, parallel-lifting luggage bay doors are fitted to the Acklams coach, as is an offside continental door with a demountable toilet.

It seats 49, with a maximum of 51 possible if the toilet is removed; if the operator does not require a toilet at all, an emergency door behind the rear axle that includes slide-out steps can be specified to maximise luggage space. A floor-level toilet is also available.

One distinct characteristic of the Elite is its two-piece windscreen. Complementing the main screen is a curved pane of glass that extends well into the roofline. It is heavily tinted, but provides a good view.

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