MAN is now also launching a low-entry bus with the Lion’s Intercity LE. What sets it apart and how it compares to the competition is shown here.
Everything used to be easier: from the 1980s onwards, urban transport used to mean low-floor vehicles. But the demands are becoming higher, the funding pots smaller, and the legislative requirements for accessibility are becoming more challenging. To meet these requirements, there are now low-entry buses, which are low-floor up to the second door, but which have a high-floor at the rear.
Theoretically, these models are cheaper than a pure low-floor vehicle. This is not the case with Mercedes-Benz, where the Citaro LE was derived directly from the low-floor bestseller. Stylish shell with top technology – at a top price. The sales figures are anything but good. The opposite is the case with the Setra: a vehicle which has been combined from a high-floor model and the discontinued NF series. Modern design? Rudimentary. The success? Terrific! Around 1,200 buses were sold in 2019. In 2020, the “unrefined” model even led the overland segment in Germany (23.8 percent of all bus registrations, see issue 4/2020), even surprisingly dominating it.
Up to now, its competitor MAN had been content with the Lion’s City LE (A78). Even if it is still selling well, it was high time for a new model. What would be more obvious than to use the success of the company’s Ulm-based colleagues as a role model and combine an existing high-floor vehicle with a low-floor front vehicle? According to Launch Manager Sebastian Römer, the aim of the entire LE project is “to offer a new, efficient entry-level model for the price-sensitive low-entry segment that offers the greatest possible flexibility”.
The new low-entry vehicle will be available in three lengths, two 2-axle vehicles and, unlike the basic vehicles, with a three-axle vehicle as well (start of production in early 2024). The latter will be available as a city-oriented version and as an overland version. The distinguishing features of the variants are unsurprising, after all the parameters are already widespread in the industry: platforms, door widths, tire sizes, luggage racks with service sets, and types of seats. Everything can essentially be freely and flexibly configured.
The second development goal was weight reduction. As the basic rear module is based on a ladder chassis, the engineers have set their hand to it, banished the massive support, and incorporated a self-supporting structure. Unfortunately, they have retained the narrow spring track width, which we were not totally impressed with in the last report on the Lion’s Intercity (see issue 10/2020). Adaptive PCV dampers are fitted as standard. The weight reduction of this measure amounts to around 300 kilograms, and that despite the reinforced roll bars at the rear! The new roof made of composite materials from the Lion’s City also contributes 150 kilograms to the vehicle’s weight loss regime. In the end, the bus comes in around half a ton lighter.
Together with the new MAN-D15 engines producing 280 to 360 bhp and 1,200 to 1,600 Nm maximum torque, which can also be combined with efficient hybrid modules from 2023, the vehicle is therefore designed to be very efficient with fossil fuel. As the vehicle is not intended to be used for both scheduled and charter transport, this obviates the need for the MAN Tipmatic transmission and an entry-level manual transmission. The vehicle includes the essentials when it comes to safety. Adaptive Cruise Control ACC and Lane Guard System LGS are available on request, although Emergency Brake Assist EBA is not – simply because these vehicles are not designed for fast non-scheduled transport. Why MAN still relies on the optional Mobileye system when it comes to cornering and collision, and does not use its Group sister company Scania’s radar system from its city bus, is once again incomprehensible – but this is probably due to the cost. This shortcoming should really be a thing of the past with the new electronic platform to be launched with the three-axle vehicles in 2024.
In conclusion, let us look at this modern low-entry vehicle with a typical spacious feel in the low-floor area. The use of a clever color scheme and large windows gives the bus a bright and friendly feel. The driver’s workplace is positioned higher than in Lion’s City, and now the driver greets passengers at eye level. Somewhat lower, the driver is met by the rather outdated Ellipse cockpit from the Lion’s Intercity or the new VDV-compliant dashboard from the Lion’s City. Thanks to the fully networked Rio box, the bus has now arrived in the MAN digital era.