MAN’s latest range: all things to all people!
MAN recently presented its new van and truck products for 2018 at a special event in Barcelona. Dubbed the “MAN Full Range Days”, the event presented journalists from around the world with the opportunity to experience the company’s complete product line-up – from three to 44 t. CHARLEEN CLARKE was there
Arriving at Barcelona airport, I’m met by a very friendly young lady. “Welcome to Barcelona and the MAN Full Range Days. Let’s go outside so you can choose your car,” she suggests.
I’m confused. “Choose your car?” This is a commercial vehicle launch, and normally, if we’re travelling to the launch venue, we’re shuttled there by drivers.
Still, I follow the eager young lady to the “cars” – which are, in fact, MAN TGEs. The instructions have been lost in translation, or maybe not; peeking inside the TGE (which stands for Trucknology Generation Express, lest you wondered), my first impression is that this van is, in fact, very car-like. The interior is elegant and boasts high-end finishes.
My first “car” is the 3.100 in panel van configuration. The door opens nice and wide, so I hop into the driver’s seat quite easily, where I check out all the controls and interior features. The interior is extremely spacious. I’m flying solo, but there’s more than enough space for a large driver and two equally corpulent passengers.
The driver’s seat (available in four different grades) is very comfortable and I can easily adjust it to my ideal driving position. Thanks to its special padding and secure lateral support, I have no concerns about getting a sore back on a long drive.
I give the steeply angled, easy-grip, multi-spoke steering wheel the thumbs-up, too; it adjusts easily to the ideal position. Incidentally, a steering wheel with multifunction buttons (controlling the radio and navigation system) is available as an optional extra. In addition, a heated steering wheel is also available for particularly cold countries. Maybe this would be great for an operator in the middle of the Karoo?
Preparing to leave the airport, I tap the indicator stalk lightly in order to make the indicator flash three times, indicating that I am off! The TGE range is powered by a four-cylinder, 1 968 cm3 diesel engine, which comes in a variety of versions: 75 kW (102 hp), 90 kW (122 hp), 103 kW (140 hp) and 130 kW (177 hp).
These engines consume between 6,7 and 7,0 litres of diesel per 100 km, which means that they’re class-leading. Resulting CO2 emissions range between 175 and 184 g/km. The panel van that I’m driving has the 75 kW/102 hp motor. Like the rest of the “cars” available for testing, it is married to a six-speed automatic transmission (an eight-speed automatic transmission is also available, but, for some reason, there aren’t any autos in our test fleet).
My destination is a coffee shop on the Barcelona beachfront and, thanks to the capable motor and the fact that there’s little traffic, I’m there in a flash. I’m the first journalist there – not because I was speeding, but because my flight was the first to land, so I sip a cappuccino and munch on jamón (the best ham in the entire world) while admiring the exterior of my lone TGE.
I really like the front, which features an eye-catching radiator grille and trapezoidal headlights (optionally with LEDs). I decide that, while looks aren’t that important for a commercial vehicle, this van is easy on the eyes. This will probably be especially important to owner-drivers. Chatting to my MAN hosts at the coffee shop, I discover that the TGE is more than a pretty face; it has a drag coefficient value of 0.33, which bodes well for reasonably low fuel consumption.
Leaving the coffee shop, I’m informed that my next destination is the Montserrat Benedictine Monastery, which is famous for its statue of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia. (As an aside, this monastery is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Barcelona; I toured it 15 years ago and it’s just breathtaking.) The next route will incorporate an hour or so of highway driving, which I’m really looking forward to because it will allow me to really experience the TGE and its powertrain.
What a delightful experience this turns out to be. Despite the fact that the TGE is loaded to its maximum legal capacity, the engine never feels as though too much is being asked of it. To the contrary, I keep checking the large, easy-to-read circular instrumentation to ensure that I’m not speeding. I’m not sure why I do this – it’s actually completely unnecessary; the TGE warns me with a loud beep every time I exceed the limit. I guess my constant checking is just a bad habit, or maybe I distrust technology…
The highway is extremely busy, and I’m surrounded by mad Spaniards. I say this because they drive like hooligans – extremely fast and quite erratically. At one stage, while I’m travelling at the maximum speed limit, a truck blasts past me … then cuts in front of me, narrowly avoiding a collision. Thankfully, the TGE is equipped with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) as standard – so I’m absolutely fine.
Most people know how EBA works; depending on the circumstances, the system responds to critical braking situations in two stages: during the first stage, it uses acoustic and optical signals to warn the driver of preceding vehicles braking abruptly or driving slowly. At the same time, the TGE is “prepared” to initiate emergency braking.
In addition, the sensitivity of the response behaviour of the hydraulic Brake Assist system is increased. If the driver does not react to the warning, the second stage begins with one short actuation of the brakes to alert the driver to the risk of rear-end collision. At the same time, the sensitivity of the response behaviour of the Brake Assist system is further increased.
This means that full braking force is available the second the driver steps on the brake. Should the vehicle not slow fast enough, the EBA system increases the brake pressure to the level that is required for the vehicle to come to a halt before reaching the obstacle. I don’t make it to the second stage – thankfully. I’m not THAT keen to test the TGE’s safety features on a public road.
EBA is but one of a multitude of assistance systems in the TGE. Others include integrated City Emergency Brake (automatically brakes the vehicle at low speeds), Rear Traffic Alert (warns of another vehicle drawing too close and brakes if need be), Flank Protection Assistant (monitors the immediate lateral vicinity of the vehicle at low speeds), Park Assist (automated parking), Trailer Assist (more about that later), Adaptive Cruise Control (keeps the vehicle at a constant distance to the one in front) and the Fatigue Detection system (warns tired drivers to stop for a break),
As I navigate my way towards the monastery, I thank my lucky stars for the TGE’s good all-round visibility. The narrow A-columns and the ideally dimensioned exterior mirrors with extra blind spot mirrors provide me with an excellent all-round view of the aforementioned crazy locals.
The Blind Spot Detection system makes it ever so easy to change lanes. Also, despite the fact that it’s a windy day, the TGE feels very stable on the highway. I put this down to yet another assistance system on the TGE, Crosswind Assist (thanks to fitment of this feature, the steering system compensates for counter-steering movements made by the driver due to strong crosswinds or cambered roads).
Turning off the highway and heading onto country roads, I fully appreciate the driving dynamics of the TGE. It has independent suspension (McPherson struts) up front and a rigid rear axle with leaf springs at the back. The driving characteristics are decidedly car-like; it’s effortless to manoeuvre through the winding country roads.
Arriving at Monserrat, I’m greeted by the TGE’s bigger brothers. Waiting patiently for me are MAN TGL and TGM derivatives, which have a new engine. I chat to MAN engineers, who explain that the new MAN D08 engines are more robust, more efficient and lighter. Interestingly, MAN has opted for exhaust gas after treatment based solely on Selective Catalytic Reduction technology – and not Exhaust Gas Recirculation. I’m told that this eases maintenance while boosting reliability.
While the test trucks obviously have Euro-6 engines, the MAN D08 will also be available in Euro-4 and -5 versions. South African operators will no doubt be fascinated to hear that the Euro-4 and Euro-5 powerplants don’t have a complete aversion to sulphur. In fact, they can tolerate diesel with a sulphur content of up to 2 000 ppm.
Unusually, the Euro-4, -5 and -6 versions feature standardised performance levels. The basic version of the four-cylinder 4,6-litre MAN D0834 generates 118 kW (160 hp) and torque of up to 600 Nm. The mid-range version offers 140 kW (190 hp) and 750 Nm, while the most powerful design provides 162 kW (220 hp) and 850 Nm of torque.
The four-cylinder version is used exclusively in the MAN TGL, while the six-cylinder D0836 version, with its 6,9-litre displacement, represents both top-level motorisation for the MAN TGL and the basic-level performance for MAN TGM in the 184 kW (250 hp) and 1 050 Nm version. The new D08 six-cylinder engine is available in a 213 kW (290 hp) version with 1 150 Nm, as well as a 235 kW (320 hp) version with a full torque value of 1 250 Nm.
The MAN team is as pleased as Punch with the new engine range – because its fuel consumption is 5,5-percent better than that of its predecessor. They’re also mighty chuffed with the latest MAN TipMatic gearbox. Thanks to this gearbox, I can drive the TGM – an 18.320, to be precise – slowly at idling speed (without touching the accelerator).
The roads around the monastery are relatively quiet – but this must be an amazing feature in traffic. Another feature of the gearbox that I particularly like is called EfficientRoll. Thanks to this innovation, the gearbox pops itself into neutral from a speed of 55 km/h when driving on slightly sloping stretches of motorways and roads. Consumption is obviously minimised as the truck coasts along.
My next test vehicle is a TGX. I’m keen to see its new interior (with effect from 2018, the entire TG series has a more practical and user-friendly interior). I share the truck with an engineer called Wolfgang Hudelmaier, who takes me through some of the interior revisions to our test truck.
“Let’s start over here,” he says, pointing to the top left of the cab. “This is the new Rio control unit, which is fitted to each truck. It collects data, which is sent to the cloud.” Hudelmaier points to the instrumentation and notes that it’s now logically grouped. “This cluster pertains to lights only,” he explains, pointing to a collection of switches next to the Rio box. “Previously these switches were spread all over the cab.”
The instrumentation is more colourful than before. “On the main instrument panel, behind the steering wheel, there is now a clearly structured four-inch high-resolution colour screen. Differently coloured icons facilitate readability and user orientation. For example, eco-functions always appear in green, and activated safety systems are always highlighted. This means that any warning message or other information catches the eye more quickly,” he explains.
An iPhone can now be paired to the navigation system – and so the driver can chat away to Siri and connect to CarPlay. The seat heater switch for the co-driver’s seat has been relocated (it’s next to the co-driver’s seat now, which is logical). The co-driver has also gained a cupholder, which doubles up as an ashtray.
The refrigerator has been relocated to underneath the bunk. “Previously it stuck out and took up a lot of space; this is a much nicer and more practical design,” Hudelmaier notes. Next to the fridge, there’s a new refuse bin. There’s some handy storage space at the back of the cab and the interior lights are all-new. They’re on stalks, and they can be adjusted (previously, the lights were in static positions).
Furthermore, the driver can now open and close the windows while lying on the bunk bed. There are now USB connections at the back of the cab, so the driver can charge his phone.
There are numerous other innovations within the cab, but we want to hit the road! We leave the grounds of the monastery and experience the truck out on the road. The model we’re in is the 18.500, so we’re treated to a mighty 500 hp (373 kW) of power. As impressive as this motor is, the silence within the cab is even more intriguing … it’s almost ominously quiet.
One of the new features of the truck is Adaptive Cruise Control with a Stop-and-Go function. This automatically regulates the distance from the vehicle in front (including at low speeds), slows the vehicle (to a stop if necessary) and automatically moves off again after short stops. It works like magic!
All too soon, the drive is over, but, before I leave the monastery, there’s one more thing I want to try: the aforementioned Trailer Assist function on the TGE. It’s utterly fantastic! You set the angle on the window adjustment lever. Then it’s a case of step away from the steering wheel and let the TGE take over. All I need to do is operate the pedals. Within seconds, I’ve parked the TGE and a trailer – just perfectly.
Leaving the monastery, I decide that MAN’s 2018 line-up is pretty much good news all round. On the one hand, drivers are going to love the new interiors and features such as Trailer Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go. Operators, on the other hand, are going to enjoy a lower cost of ownership. In the world of trucking, it doesn’t get much better than that!