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Mastering the MAN – TG Gen 3 on test

MAN

Full disclosure here to start with, I may have over 20 years of on-road experience behind me, sitting behind the wheel of a massive variety of vehicles.

I’ve mixed it up with cabovers and conventionals, round towners and road trains, from the biggest to the smallest. I have managed to get some time in most manufacturers’ trucks and in countless configurations.

There are however a few brands that I haven’t had the pleasure of racking up many hours in and one of those is the German giant MAN. Hence when I received the invite from Penske Australia to come along to a drive day and test drive the latest generation of their TG fleet I jumped at the opportunity.

Before the drive day my MAN experience was limited to a quick trip to Sydney back in 2016, taking a decade-old Gen One TGA down the Pacific Highway. With a fully loaded B-double in tow, the decade-old truck honestly felt like it had more wheels than horsepower.

Thus, the opportunity to check out the newest Generation TG range was one that I couldn’t pass up. It also ensured I went in without bias or preconceptions.

The 100th anniversary is part of 2024’s celebrations.

Whilst the TG 3 range from MAN was officially launched last year by Penske Australia, this year is big for the brand for a couple of other reasons.

Firstly, the supply issues that have hampered every single manufacturer have started to ease and for the MAN brand that means more stock is getting into the country and into customer’s yards.

And secondly, 2024 sees MAN Truck & Bus celebrating 100 years of diesel technology. Yup, back in 1924 the original idea was started by Rudolf Diesel and patented by him when he was working for Maschinenfabrik Ausburg-Nurnberg (see where the MAN comes from now).

A decade after he mysteriously passed away his creation was placed into a MAN Saurer truck and became the first direct diesel injection-powered truck. It was a ground-breaking innovation and over the next 100 years, the MAN stable has carried on that tradition of state-of-the-art technology.

With their newest generation TG range, they have raised the bar again, not just in technology but in driver ergonomics and creature comforts.

The new MAN TG 3 range comes equipped with a truck for nearly every application. From the TGL/M CC cab, affectionately known as ‘The Compact One’ to the TGS NN Cab, dubbed ‘The Practical One’ all the way up to the TGX GX cab, appropriately known as ‘The Maximum One’.

MAN has a wide range of freight needs covered.

Their array of options is complimented by their extensive powerhouse options. MAN’s economical engines range from 250hp D08, up to their premium D38 Euro 6E with a whopping 640hp and many levels in between.

Whetting our MAN appetite at the Penske drive day were a couple of trucks from the TGS and TGX stables.

The TGS range has been designed with the local, intrastate and general freight markets in mind. With engine options of either MAN’s D20 or D26, giving the TGS trucks a horsepower range from 440hp up to 540hp. Whilst these models are not specifically aimed at linehaul work, they have all the tools needed to pop them down the road for the bigger jobs if needed.

If Linehaul or heavy-duty work is your core business though, you would be looking straight at the TGX range, which has three variants — The GN cab, the GM cab and the GX cab.

The spacious cabin offers a wide array of creature comforts designed to make a driver’s life as easy as possible.

Like the TGS range, there is a choice of powerplants as well. There’s the D26 as seen in the TGS range, and now the big bertha, the D38.

The three cab variants all have the same massive dimensions — 2.44m x 2.28m. However, once you get up into the GX cab you have a whopping 2.07m of headroom.

Putting that into perspective, it means Boston Celtics’ star Jayson Tatum could happily stand up in the cab, or conversely Danny DeVito would need a two-foot vertical jump to close the roof vent. It is a huge cab.

Seeing as the majority of my driving work is linehaul as opposed to local I opted to bypass the TGS options and jump into the two TGX models on display. Full credit here to the Penske team for their organisational skills in setting up the drive day as well.

Rather than a lap around a test track, it was a case of ‘three hours on the highway, go enjoy the experience’ so that’s exactly what I did, starting with the MAN TGX 26-510 GM cab.

As previously mentioned, I was jumping into the MAN experience without any preconceived ideas. No hangover from the TG 2 series, no ‘I hope they’ve fixed that’ kind of mentality. I was a blank slate.

Blank as I may be, there are certain expectations when you go for a drive in a European truck. You expect it to be comfortable, you expect it to be quiet and you expect to be a little seasick when travelling through successive S-bends.

Those familiar with Euro trucks understand the trade-off for absorbing the harsh corrugated highways that span this country, is enduring a little more sway in those same comfy European cabs.

However, the new TG 3 range has somehow managed to find the perfect compromise, and it works for everyone. The driver, the truck and the owner. The Engineering experts at MAN have changed from their single-leaf front suspension support to a more solid three-leaf set-up.

A smooth ride is part of the joy of driving the new MAN.

What this means and what you can feel as soon as you turn out of the first driveway is that the whole cab has stiffened up and you don’t feel like you’re floating around. It leads to a much more in-touch feel with the truck and the road. Now the downside is that you do tend to feel the bumps a bit more, but you definitely do not suffer the bumps.

As far as the other two givens expected of a European truck, quietness and comfort, the MAN does not disappoint. The insulation in the new TGX was extremely impressive, inside the cab I was recording my interview with MAN guru Shannon Mair and on playback you could not have picked we were inside a truck, pulling 62 tons up the Minden Range.

The external sunvisor creates a bit of wind noise, but if you were cranking the outstanding MAN sound system you would never notice it. Comfort-wise, as I mentioned you knew the bumps were out there with the new front suspension, but the ride was smooth enough that I could easily have left my coffee on the floor and not spilt a drop.

When it comes to the performance of the D26 and the 12-speed Tipmatic transmission you can’t help but be impressed. We pulled out of the Wacol yard with a B-double on that was topping just over 60 tons and although I wasn’t setting any new Quarter Mile records the D26 gave no indication that it was struggling.

Keep in mind I did the entire trip in MAN’s efficiency mode, as opposed to its powerful mode. The very instinctual 12-speed was spot on with its changes in the undulating trip and I was nothing but impressed.

The new steering wheel allows clear views of everything a driver needs to see on the updated instrument panel.

Jump forward a couple of hours when I got behind the wheel of the D38-powered TGX 26-580 and I went from impressed to gobsmacked. Exactly the same weights, on the same road and the D38 setup just chomped away at the hills. I experimented with both the powerful mode and the efficiency mode.

With the Tipmatic changing down a little higher and holding a little longer you could really get a sense of the horsepower. I must admit though I had more school kid giggles leaving it in efficiency and seeing the D38 lug down as far as 1050rpm and hold on like it was a pleasure to do it.

It is easy to see why so many people are impressed by the running gear of the new TG 3 series, and rightfully so. It needs to be noted though that it’s all the other aspects that aided in this truck winning the 2021 International Truck of the Year award.

There has been a lot of effort gone into the TG3 range that sees the truck intuitively tuned to the drivers and their needs. From little things, like the addition of door-mounted programable switch options that allow drivers to effectively turn on the likes of their hazard lights without needing to climb into their truck, to more major features like the electric-assisted steering.

This feature sees steering torque electronically added when manoeuvring at lower speeds, then under on-road conditions, the added torque decreases to maintain a firmer feel under speed.

As a driver I should have been most impressed by the factory-fitted sound system that got properly tested with some Dire Straits however the truth is, most of my feedback came from how impressed I was with the MAN Brakematic feature.

This, ‘smarter-than-your-average bear,’ setup allows you to hold your foot on the brake for a couple of seconds at whatever speed you require, thus engaging the MAN’s full braking capabilities to automatically hold that speed.

It’s pretty much a downhill cruise control that is extremely easy to engage. It’s a fantastic feature to help avoid overspeed off the smaller hills and it was something I made plenty of use of during my time behind the MAN wheel.

The TGS-26.440 model has plenty of power for this job.

I am sure I’m running out of time, even if I’m not running out of things to say. There are just a few other features that carry across the TG range that ticked the boxes for me as a driver.

The newly designed steering wheel and dash layout is as close to perfect as a driver would want. The SmartSelect wheel is easy to operate and simple to reach, even for fat little fingers like mine.

Although it is a smaller steering wheel than in the past it does not encroach on any of the state-of-the-art digital dash. Meaning much like when using the smartly designed MAN mirrors, I did not have to duck and weave in order to drive and see what was going on.

I also need to note down the less visual, but extremely practical, changes that have led to the success of the newest generation MANs.

Things like the redesign of the engine tunnel, allowing for a flat floor in the TGX models and a significant airflow increase around the new D26 and D38 engines. The room around the engine helps keep the engine bay cooler, and subsequently makes the engine a lot more efficient and effective.

Another win in the design stakes was the decision to incorporate the AdBlue tank into the right-hand side fuel tank to make better use of the limited space available. This means the TGX model I had the joy of driving was able to pack on 1200lt of fuel and 80lt of AdBlue. 

I may have only gotten one day sitting in the comfy Recaro seats of the new TG3 MANs, but I have to admit they have produced a seemingly perfect product. There’s a model and specification that would suit every application and enough creature comforts to please even the fussiest driver.

I can’t wait to get the chance to hook up a B-double to the new MAN and tackle that Pacific Highway again.

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