Official BUSRide Road Test: The 2014 Van Hool CX
By David Hubbard
With debut appearances at ABA Marketplace and the UMA Motorcoach EXPO, the newly minted 2014 Van Hool TX and CX motorcoaches from ABC Companies, Faribault, MN, are finding their way into fleets across the country.
BUSRide previewed the TX model in December (Dec. 2013, Official BUSRide Road Test: Van Hool TX unveiled), highlighting the enhancements and new features that warranted rebranding and renaming the former Van Hool T2100 and C2045 coaches.
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BUSRide returned to ABC Companies, Winter Garden, FL, in March for a closer look and test drive of the Van Hool CX, built exclusively for ABC Companies for distribution in the North American market.
Though not nearly the makeover the T2100 underwent to become the TX, the CX45 is upgraded significantly with new features that separate this coach from its stalwart predecessor.
According to ABC Companies, the majority of the changes and upgrades were made to enhance safety features of the coach and make the coach more user friendly for the driver and passengers and create greater commonality between the TX and CX models.
Many of the components that were optional on the C2045 now come standard on the CX, which came about in response to customer demand.
“We listened closely to comments and suggestions from our customers to identify the upgrades and changes most relevant to their needs,” says Ashley Cornell, vice president of ABC Companies. “Our enduring partnership with Van Hool has always allowed us the flexibility to make improvements and upgrades as the motorcoach market has evolved.”
Corporate Coaches adds CXs
BUSRide invited Corporate Coaches, Fort. Lauderdale, FL, to participate in the review, as the company is adding two CXs to its exclusively Van Hool coach fleet. The acquisition comes on the heels of the Corporate Coaches’ recent purchase of the transportation division at Florida Dolphin Tours, Orlando, FL.
With Florida Dolphin Tours continuing to design and market its tours, Corporate Coaches has taken over the ground transportation component.
“We have been very happy with our current fleet of C2045s, and we are excited to take delivery of our new CX coaches,” says Corporate Coaches President Andy Bardar. “We have equipped these new coaches with the optional contour parcel racks with upgraded 22-inch monitors. This configuration on the C2045s has generated a great deal of customer demand as it opens up the interior and provides much better viewing.”
For the test drive, Mike Castro, vice president, Business Development for Corporate Coaches, took the CX over the route ABC Companies uses for its pre-delivery shakedown inspections, winding through the streets and turnpikes in the Clermont hills northwest of Orlando.
“From the driver’s seat, what I notice first is the extremely clear and expansive view — especially on the right side,” he says. “I am fairly used to the handling of our Van Hool C models. So what really gets my attention with the CX are the many new standard features and amenities.”
Castro says he expects passengers riding Corporate Coaches on their cruise ship transfers will appreciate the added luxury.
“The CX45 maintains the same tight turning radius (40 feet, 4.25 inches) that we have always appreciated with the C2045,” Castro says.”This allows us to maneuver much easier on the tight streets in Miami.”
BUSRide also spoke with Jeff Polzien, president, Red Carpet Charters, Oklahoma City, OK. The company maintains an exclusive Van Hool coach fleet. Polzien says the C model comprises approximately two-thirds of the inventory. The company recently acquired its first CX and will soon take delivery on a second to operate and evaluate.
“We have always depended heavily on the durability and reliability of our Van Hool C2045s,” Polzien says. “Naturally, we are very excited by the array of upgraded features on the CX that are now standard. We see the CX as allowing us to continue our charters that require the C model, but with a new layer of luxury and passenger comfort.”
Polzien adds that the improved model contributes to great safety and efficiency in every area of his operation.
“We see the CX as a safer vehicle for the driver, more enjoyable for passengers and easier to maintain,” he says. “It is especially gratifying that our charter customers are also noticing a difference and providing positive feedback.”
Safety comes standard
Standard safety components on the CX now include lane departure warning, SmarTire tire pressure monitoring, Kidde engine fire suppression, daytime running lights and cornering lights, as well as an integrated backup camera and three-point FMVSS 210 seat belts. The coach is also prewired for sideview cameras. A second roof escape hatch located toward the front of the coach is now standard.
Exterior upgrades and changes
Most notably, all exterior and interior lighting has converted to LED. The most pronounced design changes came with the headlights and taillights.
The rear taillight assembly changed significantly to incorporate more economical and readily available round Trucklite LED lights. According to ABC Companies, the four LED lights including the back-up light will reduce maintenance costs and increase serviceability.
The new dual function amber LED side turn signal lights now double as marker lights, providing the coach better visibility.
Three high power LED spot lights located along the roofline on the curbside are standard for nighttime boardings and baggage handling. The equivalent lighting installation on the roadside is available.
New black molding under the side windows gives the CX a sleeker profile.
The REI Double DIN touchscreen radio/DVD player now accommodates the back-up camera as a standard feature. With the selection of reverse gear, the back-up camera is automatically displayed. Side-view cameras are available. If so equipped, the turn signal activates the right and left side cameras for viewing on the touchscreen.
The upgraded driver seat is a self-leveling adjustable air suspension ISRI 6800/348 with adjustable arm and headrest and a three-point automatic seat belt.
“This REI touchscreen component with the radio, DVD and backup camera centrally located is a very cool addition,” Castro says. “Integrating the backup camera into this display gets rid of the added monitor, which helps our drivers operate with more efficiency.”
Interior cabin enhancements
The overhead parcel racks feature new passenger multisets with variable direction LED reading lights. The blue interior lights, a bold change to the décor, lend a modern look.
“The HVAC system on the CX is now common to both the TX and CX,” says Aaron Woods, ABC Companies engineering manager. “A change operators and maintenance personnel can appreciate.”
He says the move from 12 single fan brush equipped evaporative motors to six dual fan brushless motor modules increases efficiency and maintenance intervals. These dual fan modules fit the same relative space in the roofline above the parcel racks, but install from outside through the roof.
“The serviceability of these modules has been significantly increased with this change, due to the simplified modular design,” Woods says.
As in the TX, the middle electrical box shifted from the bulkhead wall to the roof of the left-side baggage compartment for protection and better use of the space. A sliding tray located in a compartment ahead of the drive axle on the curbside now houses the batteries. The rear electric box moved from behind the restroom wall to beneath the floor at the rear of the bus.
The EPA 2013 Detroit Diesel DD13 is the standard engine with the EPA 2013 Cummins ISX12 available. Either engine couples to a Generation 5 Allison WT B500 automatic transmission.
“Though not unique to Van Hool, a change Detroit Diesel made to the DD13 is worth noting,” Woods says. “A more reliable electrically operated DEF system replaces the former pneumatic delivery system.”
The CX runs on Goodyear Marathon LHS II 315/80 R22 tire upgraded to a higher load that yields higher axle ratings as a result.
The last word
“The improvements certainly make the CX safer to drive, operate and maintain,” says Don Tasker, director, Transportation and Deliveries, ABC Companies. “The C model is a fine vehicle and the CX brings added conveniences with less clutter that make driving and riding special for everyone.”