Test drive: New MAN TGX
The MAN New Truck Generation represents the truck maker’s largest investment in 20 years. CM provides an overview of the most significant external and internal alterations to the flagship TGX as well as our take on the driving experience.
While the New Truck Generation TGX retains the same 20-year-old cab shell, all of the body panels have been redesigned. MAN Truck & Bus CEO Joachim Drees admits the new exterior is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. He stresses that it was vital the new truck could be instantly identified as an MAN, adding that “it’s a timeless design anyway”.
While the three cab roof heights are unchanged, their names are not. Largest is the GX (formerly XXL) with its 2,070mm standing room, then the GM (formerly XLX), and finally the GN (formerly XL). The GX gets a new roof and no longer features the oversized front windscreen or the roof windows above the doors.
MAN makes a big deal about the truck being up to 8% more fuel efficient than its predecessor, but only about 1% of this comes from the improved aerodynamics of the new cab. The other 7% is a result of enhanced EfficientCruise and the move from Euro-6c to Euro-6d (which occurred in 2019).
Plastic casings on the cab exterior contain and protect the radar sensors that operate the new truck’s turn assist and lane change assist functions.
The driveline remains unchanged, with a choice of D26 (430hp, 470hp and 510hp) or D38 (540hp and 640hp) engines. The 6x2 tractors use the 12-speed ZF TraXon transmission, while 4x2s are fitted with the Scania-sourced 12+2 unit.
MAN’s traditional wave contour lines have shrunk from five to three. While these aerodomes supposedly resemble “the sharp claws of a lion”, they serve another purpose, absorbing vibrations and having a stabilising effect on the side walls of the body. Note the black glass panel in front of the aerodomes, which is a styling cue, and not a window.
Narrower mirror cases have a reduced front surface, which helps to make the truck slightly more slippery. The gaps between the A-pillars and mirrors are larger, resulting in a smaller blindspot on the approach to roundabouts and junctions.
Air ducts in the corner of the bumper contribute to improved aerodynamics, and help to direct dirt away from the door handles.
To you and us they are indicators, but to MAN they are proof that “functionality and an attractive, high-quality design do not have to be mutually exclusive in commercial vehicles”.
New headlights, which already feature in MAN buses, have integrated daytime running lights and indicators. They are modular, and fit the entire New Truck Generation range.
Drivers can access some key functions from outside the cab via four switches at the bottom of door interior. The hazard switch is fixed, but the others can be dealer-configured to the driver’s preference.
The TGX’s doors now open to 89 degrees to accommodate wider loads. The steps are wider than before, too, with equal spacing and optional illumination.
The new grille, which is no longer shiny, now extends into the bumper. Despite looking more closed, in actual fact air flow has been increased.
MAN has totally transformed the TGX’s interior, with a completely redesigned cockpit, incorporating numerous new features. It engaged with 700 drivers during the design process.
MAN doesn’t think touchscreens are suitable for trucks, as they are difficult to operate when sitting in an air-suspended seat. The truck maker also claims that when drivers use them, their gaze tends to follow their fingers, raising obvious safety concerns. So the TGX’s central display is operated with a pair of SmartSelect dials. Note the wrist support, which can be folded forwards when the dials are not in use.
A 110mm Comfort mattress is available for both bunks. Note the optional underbunk fridge.
MULTIFUNCTION STEERING WHEEL
The buttons on the new multifunction steering wheel are logically grouped, and all within thumb reach. The wheel’s rake can be adjusted between 20 and 55 degrees.
BUNK REMOTE CONTROL
In addition to the night heater, the colour screen remote control located in the centre of the cab wall operates the air conditioning, audio, windows and roof hatch. It is attached to a 500mm long spiral cable, so won’t get lost.
DIGITAL INSTRUMENT CLUSTER
The 12.3in non-glare, high resolution digital instrument cluster features the speedometer on the left and the rev counter.
The central display, in 7in or 12.3in sizes, houses the navigation, radio, media and communications. It isn’t yet comparable with Apple CarPlay, but will be imminently. Switches are grouped logically and are mostly configurable.
Storage has been increased throughout the cab, and the pair of drawers in the centre of the dashboard is a nice feature.
The controls for the TipMatic gearbox are now located on a stalk to the right of the steering wheel. It also controls the three power modes and the engine brake or retarder.
Gone is the old floor-mounted mechanical handbrake, replaced by an electronic one located next to the main display.
The fold-out table in front of the passenger seat is ideal for eating or working on.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
At the rather busy launch of the new TGX in Bilbao, Spain, there wasn’t much say in how the available trucks were allocated, but we were fortunate in getting a nicely relevant fleet-spec TGX 18.470. Naturally, being on the far side of the Channel, a 6x2 was never going to be likely. Better still, our co-driver was Dave Smith from MAN in the north-east of England, so language wasn’t a problem.
The first advance the driver experiences even before sitting at the wheel is the improved access via better spaced steps and a door that opens to 89 degrees, with the configurable switches mounted on the lower door trim on the way up. At the launch the previous night, we learned that “excellent driver fit” was one of the four key pillars of the design brief, so our expectations were high. They weren’t disappointed as we sat in the high-spec driving seat, which was the only real luxury item fitted above the fleet norm.
The steering wheel has a wide range of adjustability and, while not out of a racing car, is nowhere near the size of the old bus-like item. Its spokes carry the controls for the main dashboard and driving functions. The big old rotary gear selection knob has been moved to the right-hand column stalk, a simple forward or reverse device with its Performance, Manual and Efficiency modes selected via its thumb wheel. Neutral is selected by pushing a separate button on the stalk. The left stalk controls indicators and wipers, etc, and was the only jarring part of the experience, feeling harsh and crude in operation. The park brake, which is self-releasing and self-applying if you forget, is now a dash switch just a finger’s reach away, freeing a large chunk of floor space.
The flexibility and configurability of the digital dash concept means that the days of analogue instruments are likely to be over. The MAN interpretation is both modern and traditional, with the “dials” being clear and gimmick-free. In the default setting we used, the speedo is on the left, rev counter on the right, and adaptive cruise status and audio overview in the middle.
The central screen, available in two sizes of which we had the smaller, contains all of the non-driving functions, such as sat-nav, audio and Apple CarPlay, although the latter is yet to clear Apple’s approval hurdles.
It’s hard to argue with MAN’s contention that a touch screen is incompatible with a potentially bouncy driving environment. Its solution, the SmartSelect, is an admirably effective alternative. An outer, lower ring chooses the function to be controlled, while the inner knob, which also moves around like a joystick, selects within that function. Pressing down confirms your choice and a return button gets you out. The wrist support pad, which sits over the SmartSelect when not in use, allows accurate control of the rings, which are not so delicate as to be easily wrongly operated.
With the driveline largely carrying over from the final Euro-6d iteration of the old model, we weren’t expecting any significant changes in dynamics, although our previous experience has been in higher-powered versions, and with the ZF TraXon transmission still the only real choice on 6x2 tractors. Engine-wise, the 470, actually 464hp and 2,400Nm, proved smooth and flexible. Our test route involved a significant hill climb, and we were watching to see how far the D26 in its middle-of- three ratings would dig in. The answer is we don’t know, as it steadfastly remained in top gear and didn’t even get close to 1,000rpm, albeit only running at around 32 tonnes all up. Impressively tenacious, all the same.
This was a rare opportunity to try the 12+2 transmission, with Scania hardware but like the ZF TraXon, with MAN-developed software. A key feature of the 12+2 is its positive layshaft brake device, but to be honest, even MAN insiders admit they are hard pressed to tell the difference in normal use. Having now driven both recently, we can say that in their latest versions, neither is likely to be left wanting in terms of shift speed and response. The truck was fitted with a retarder with two-stages of operation, plus a brake-blending auto mode. Combined with the function that remembers and maintains the speed that you’ve braked to, it made downhill progress totally worry-free. Meanwhile, the Active Lane Assist kept us on the not-so straight and narrow, its interventions clearly felt but never to an intrusive degree. Pending the arrivals of cameras, the traditional mirrors have been improved in terms of blind-spot avoidance.
The final driving aid is the MAN Driver smartphone app, allowing functions such as walk-around checks sent straight to base, a tacho overview and driving performance monitoring.
MAN has always felt like the Audi of the truck world, and the new TGX extends this feeling.
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