New Cheetah unleashed – Plaxton switches to Mercedes-Benz Atego chassis
Alexander Dennis has announced details of the successor to the current generation of the Plaxton Cheetah range. The new small coach marks a significant milestone in the development of the model, as its chassis is switched from the current Mercedes-Benz Vario (which is not being offered at Euro6) to the Mercedes-Benz Atego
‘The new model promises to raise the bar for small coaches and naturally when you come to the end of such a successful product, customers are keen to see how you intend to follow it.’
– Kevin Wood, Director of Business Development
Atego change over
The new model aims to build on what Plaxton describes as the ‘outstanding success’ of the Cheetah which was first launched in 1997, although Mercedes-Benz based Plaxton small coaches had been available for many years previously. The restyled second generation came out in 2007, which was followed in 2012 by a re-engineered model, retaining the styling on a new stainless steel frame.
The new generation will see a variant of Mercedes-Benz’ latest Atego chassis used as a basis. It will offer increased power and much greener credentials compared to its Vario predecessor. Plaxton has not released details of the exact variant of the Atego to be used but it will have the option of an automated manual transmission, bringing the small coach into line with the larger models in the Plaxton range.
The new Cheetah design is intended by Plaxton to offer ‘even greater levels of capacity and comfort’ and is aimed at the 33 to 35 seat market. Not only is it offering more seats, extra space and ‘a massive increase in locker capacity’ are also promised. Plaxton is confident the new model will be of interest to the hundreds of customers who have operated Cheetahs since they first appeared.
Initial reaction is described as ‘very exciting’ from the panel of customers who have been introduced to the new vehicle, according to Director of Business Development, Kevin Wood. He said, ‘Cheetah has been a massively successful model for us, regularly accounting for more than half the vehicles sold in the small coach category, so it was always going to be a tough act to follow. We’ve introduced customers to our design concepts over the past few months and listened to their views and opinions. Our engineering team have also worked closely with Mercedes-Benz, both in the UK and Germany, to fine tune the base platform and we firmly believe that this gives customers exactly what they’ve asked for.’
Customer demand for the final round of Vario based Cheetahs has been very strong according to Kevin. ‘Even as popular as Cheetah has been over the years, the last 12 months have seen unprecedented demand and despite securing all remaining chassis available, we sold out with more than six months production still to go. The new model promises to raise the bar for small coaches and naturally when you come to the end of such a successful product, customers are keen to see how you intend to follow it.’
New Vario based examples are still entering fleets in quantity, including Highland Experience which recently added eight. Six of them were supplied by Plaxton Coach Sales of Anston, with the remainder from Dawson Rentals. Specifications on these include 29 reclining seats, an entertainment package and a roof mounted Thermo-King air conditioning unit. One of the vehicles is also equipped with a multi lingual commentary system.
The new model is expected to start production in the last quarter of the year and will be available in volume from early 2015. Two customers are understood to have already placed orders with further details of them and the vehicle expected to be revealed later in the year.