Diesel’s European Correspondent, Will Shiers, hasn’t been able to get out and test many trucks in 2020, but when the chance to take the new TGX 26.640 from MAN on the road, he jumped at the chance. Not only was it a bit of a cure for cabin fever, but the new truck drew a lot of attention from other drivers.
On my three-hour drive, I was amazed by just how much attention the TGX attracted from other truck drivers. Heads turned, hands waved, and I even got a nod of approval from a Scania V8 driver. To put all this into context, the previous week I drove a new generation Volvo FH. Without a doubt a fantastic truck, but I didn’t get anywhere near this much of a reaction from other drivers.
The TGX is packed with new features. In addition to a digital instrument cluster, with its crisp and well-organised display, is a small colour screen set into the dashboard towards the driver’s left. This isn’t touchscreen, which will no doubt displease some people. But before you take to social media to vent your frustrations, there’s a very good reason for this.
As MAN points out, it could very easily have gone down the same route as rival Mercedes-Benz and borrowed a touchscreen from any of the VW Group car brands, but instead, chose to develop its own truck-specific screen. It says the reasoning behind this costlier decision is that touchscreens aren’t particularly user-friendly when a driver is bouncing around on an air-suspended seat.
Instead MAN has developed the SmartSelect control, a pair of push-button rotating dials, which allows the driver to navigate through the various menus with ease. At the truck’s launch, there was some concern that while this would feel natural for right-handed drivers in left-hand-drive trucks, it would be awkward for those piloting right-hookers.
Well I’m right-handed, and can confirm that it felt completely natural to use. And because of the positioning of the screen in the top of the dashboard, I barely had to take my eyes off the road. It’s really intuitive too. In fact, there’s nothing about this truck that you wouldn’t be able to get to grips with after a decent vehicle handover.
It strikes me that MAN hasn’t introduced new technology for the sake of it. Instead, it’s simply moved with the times. Of course, there are older drivers who tend to resist any technological advances, but fortunately they tend not to use social media!
The new truck generation drivelines all remain unchanged, which is a good thing. In the case of the TGX this means D15, D26 or D38, with horsepower ranging from 330hp to 640hp. All three-axle prime movers are matched to the TipMatic (ZF TraXon) two-pedal gearbox. It’s quick and decisive, with absolutely no dithering while swapping gears.
This particular vehicle had a new low-friction drive-axle, with a taller 2.31 rear-axle ratio. When coupled with the new EfficientCruise, it contributes to that claimed fuel economy improvement.
The new TGX MAN on the road is a relaxing vehicle to drive, helped by a superb seating position, and in the case of this truck, a richly-equipped interior. With arm-rest down, cooled seat on and adaptive cruise control engaged, this is about as good as truck driving gets.
The adaptive cruise even works in stop-start traffic now. Braking is smooth and gradual, and unlike earlier systems, it doesn’t anchor-up when faster cars cut in front of you on their way to the slip road. Likewise, when you press the resume button, there is no immediate changing down of gear, triggered by a mad panic to get back up to speed. Instead, no matter whether you are in Power or Efficiency mode, the acceleration is smooth and refined. But make no mistake, if you prod the throttle with a little urgency, you are rewarded with a punchy and immediate response.
The D38 is quite a high-revving engine, and doesn’t lug like the D26. And if you select the power mode, it holds gears for an additional 100rpm. As you’d expect with 640hp on tap, hills pose very little challenge at 44 tonnes. Only once on my drive did it drop a gear on a motorway incline, but the speedometer needle didn’t even flicker.
The TGX isn’t a particularly quiet truck. But before you Tweet your disgust, let me explain that this is a very good thing indeed. The 15.2-litre D38 may not have as much power as the Volvo FH16, but in my opinion it sounds so much better. Put a serious hill in its path, give it some welly, and enjoy hearing the lion roar.
I reckon looking at this MAN on the road, the truck maker has done a great job with new truck. It’s clearly listened to drivers’ complaints, and ticked them off one by one in the design process. The result is an incredibly driver-friendly vehicle.