Its taken me time just to work out how to structure this post. This is my personal opinion on the Elite, but I also wanted to give a more rounded picture of this fantastic vehicle, so I reckon the best way to do this is a colour coding system.
RED - For enthusiast's point of view (i.e. me)
BLUE - For the General Public
PURPLE - For what applies to both
The Elite, even now really retains that wow factor. Every time you see the beasts, your jaw will drop. The design is simply stunning from every angle, although when you actually step inside, the lovely panoramic view isn't retained quite as well thanks to a pillar right across it. Of course this is essential, and I'm sure Plaxton made every effort to try and overcome this,but it is a shame. The other thing I noticed is that the top part of this roof line was really quite dirty. Interestingly, the Van Hool bodied DAF I featured in the last post has windscreen wipers which clean the "passenger's", part of the window, could the same have been done for the Elite I wonder?
The leather seats are indeed very smart and really give the coach a modern look, while also feeling very luxurious although personally, I still prefer a decent cushioned fabric seat! On a cold morning when you're the first one to sit down on the seat, leather generally isn't that pleasant! The interior of the coach was indeed very quite, with very good sound proofing, making for a very relaxing and quiet ride. Possibly too quiet, I could hardly hear what the engine had to offer! The speed was fair, but not amazing. It coped with Rattery bank and the like, but it didn't power up there with quite as much gusto as I would have expected. I presume the body on these must be pretty heavy though, which might explain some of it.
But the gearbox on the Elite, is what really lets it down. It pains me to say that, but the whole experience is ruined by this bloomin auto box! Its quite a difficult task to explain it, without experiencing it for yourself, but the gearbox tries to mimic a fully manual gearbox. On changing up it gives a delay before changing. The problem, is that its still an auto box! At low speeds it changes up like an auto gearbox would, very early. The particular instance I will remark upon is pulling away across Exeter Street from the Barbican. It's a low speed corner, but you still need power, because its on a slight incline. The gearbox changes up 3 times within this very short manoeuvre, meaning power was lost for at least 50% of the time. With the power then being applied and taken away in such short succession, it made for a really jerky and uncomfortable experience. Luckily this was only for a short time, but I dread to think what it could have been like if you were in slow moving traffic. It felt like it was the driver 'playing' with the throttle, power on, power off. I put this in red, simply because I don't know if passengers would be this critical! They may have not noticed it whatsoever, but this really sticks out for me, and its such a shame! It tries to mix the best of both worlds, taking away the clunky changes of an auto, but maintaining the ease of drive for the driver. But it just didn't quite work! Interestingly though, the Volvo B12B's gearbox which I had for the Megabus part of my journey was fantastic! It similarly mimicked the clutch, but it was much shorter than the Elite's changes, and it worked perfectly! The problem from the Elite's point of view would be that the gearbox is much louder, in that it still makes a lot of whining noise, where as the Elite's is totally silent.
The Elite is certainly an all round amazing bus, but the Volvo B12B with its much more interesting gearbox, its amazingly powerful and 'boomy' engine, and proper fabric seats won it for me! The Elite unfortunately, seems to be style over substance, however much it pains me to say it!