BUSRide Road Test: The Van Hool TX unveiled
The improvements to the T2100 are enough to warrant a name change
By David Hubbard
Since ABC Companies, Faribault, MN, and the Belgian family-owned coachbuilder and manufacturer Van Hool formed their partnership in 1987, the two companies have worked in tandem to continually enhance and refine the Van Hool coach products for the North American market. The two companies have strived to ensure the Van Hool T2100 and C2000 model coaches reflect the most current advancements in technology and passenger comfort since their inception 25 years ago.
“Nothing ever remains constant,” says ABC Companies CEO and Chairman Dane Cornell. “We have created a platform of trust and understanding over the years that allows both our companies the flexibility to stay abreast of sudden shifts in the market.”
Carrying the slogan ‘Evolution of Excellence,’ the most recent and perhaps most complex makeover has been significant enough to warrant a name change. Rebranded as the Van Hool TX and CX, the newest enhancements and componentry provide greater safety, improved efficiencies and head-turning curb appeal, according to ABC Companies.
BUSRide road tests the TX
When the first TX45 arrived at the company’s Winter Garden, FL, facility in November, BUSRide invited Sander Kaplan, owner and president of A. Candies Coachworks, Gainesville, FL, to meet with ABC Companies and take the new coach out for a test drive prior to its North American debut.
Kaplan’s experience with passenger transport began 25 years ago with limousines. A. Candies Coachworks’ fleet now includes 15 late model Prevost H3-45s.
ABC Companies Senior Vice President Roman Cornell took Kaplan on a walk-around to point out the numerous changes and improvements inside and out, front to back.
“The TX45 brings a striking new look to the Van Hool line now available to North America operators,” Cornell says. “The most noticeable differences are its additional height and the restyling to the front and rear caps.”
The roofline on the TX45 is 4 inches higher than the former T2145. Aside from the curb appeal, Cornell points out that the interior floor-to-ceiling cabin space remained the same, with the 4 inches accounting for the increased height of the baggage compartment — a feature that caught Kaplan’s attention.
“This is fantastic, a very helpful improvement,” he says. “One of the deciding factors for school bands is the amount of storage space available for the instruments. This major issue is corrected on this coach.”
The redesigned front cap features new lighting panels with added LED daytime running lights. The energy-absorbing front bumper features directional turning lights that react to the steering and speed of the coach and automatically adjust to illuminate the road ahead.
Three curbside perimeter lights on the right-hand side are standard, with optional roadside lights. Cornell says the rear-light panels are now removable for repair or replacement.
The review mirrors relocated at the corners just beneath the windshield improve the view for the driver, particularly of pedestrians that may be walking near
The electronically-controlled driver-side window now slides vertically, and a manual override is located inside to the lower left of the driver.
Cornell says the new reconfigurations to the TX45 consider everyone who will be involved with riding, operating and maintaining the coach.
Mechanics will also appreciate the additional 4 inches in the engine compartment,” Cornell says. “It allows easier access to the components and more room to work.”
Also in the baggage compartment: After observing the damage to the unit from the floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy, the team shifted the electrical box from the bulkhead wall to the roof of the left-side baggage compartment. The baggage-door seal now mounts to the luggage door, as opposed to the body structure. A sliding tray located in a compartment ahead of the right-hand drive axle now holds the batteries.
Along with the higher roofline, Van Hool lengthened the wheelbase approximately 12 inches between the front axle and drive axle.
“This will produce a more stable ride, particularly in heavy cross winds,” Cornell says. “The longer wheelbase reduces the ‘porpoising’ effect, as well as tire wear on the tag axle.”
Many of the components and systems that were formerly optional now come standard on the TX, such as a second roof-hatch in front.
The OEM-fitted standard safety features include the Kidde fire suppression system, as well as a Smart Tire temperature and pressure-monitoring system. A backup camera is now standard, with the view of the rear roadway displayed on the Double DIN REI touchscreen player. The TX also comes pre-wired for side cameras.
The driver accesses all systems using a separate control button on the control stick with a multi-functional menu.
“The joystick on the left side of the driver is a very helpful,” Kaplan says. “I had no trouble adapting to these controls for the first time. It is a clean and easy way to access information on multiple systems.”
The new interior climate controls with automatic mode selection feature an integrated fully-automatic VH multiplex controller with two-zone temperature control for floor heating.
“The view from the driver’s seat is unobstructed and I think more expansive, especially on the right side,” Kaplan says. “The vertical toll window is a tremendous convenience and improves vision for the driver.”
In the passenger cabin, new overhead mulitsets include adjustable reading lights. The cabin features Van Hool Body Line reclining seats with three-point seatbelts in accordance with 20 G legislation.
For the test drive, ABC Companies mapped out a route through the nearby Clermont hills on the turnpikes and streets that the company uses for its pre-delivery shakedown inspections. To make it a little more interesting for Kaplan, and to show off the handling capabilities of the TX45, the route included a few detours.
The standard engine is an EPA 2013 Detroit Diesel DD13, with the EPA 2013 Cummins ISX12 available as an option. Either engine couples to a Generation 5 Allison WT B500 automatic transmission.
“This transmission could not operate any smoother,” Kaplan says. “Throughout my test drive, the shifting was barely noticeable as it went through the gears.”
Maneuvering the coach in an abandoned parking lot, we asked Kaplan to intentionally put the TX45 through a series of very tight S-turns and drastic sudden stops.
“I was a little reticent to try this at first,” he says. “I had no idea a coach could handle such quick, tight turns in this manner. I wouldn’t have dared to drive like this on my own, but with each pass I was amazed by how the coach handled so effortlessly and responded so quickly.”
Kaplan pushed the coach to 40 mph to check out the stopping distance by applying brakes suddenly at a given point.
“This is not a natural maneuver, but helps to know the feel of these actions,” he says. “The coach stopped quickly in a very short distance and responded perfectly. I expected it to be more uncomfortable or jolting.”
Kaplan credited the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and All Brake System (ABS) for their instant detection and effortless recovery.
Asked if he noticed anything about the TX45 in the way of appearance, convenience or performance that would warrant a change, Kaplan offered these thoughts.
“I am fortunate to be one of the first to drive this new coach,” Kaplan says. “Everything about the TX is an absolute pleasure. I think many of the new features and improvements make this a safer coach. The smooth and easy handling along with the added comfort and conveniences in the driver compartment will go a long way to keep the driver from becoming distracted and fatigued.”