Test Drive: MAN TGX
Seamless integration of its multiple electronic systems is just one of the many features of the current MAN TGX models. Long steep climbs and descents undertaken during very hot weather show just how good the MAN is with its torquey engine’s delivery enhanced by a new transmission.
Crossing just over 58 tonnes and rated at 540hp our test vehicle is the rental spec TGX that fits well with fleets due to its straight forward operation and impressive fuel efficiency. This particular unit has the high roof sleeper XLX cab which provides just under two metres of internal floor to roof height and an almost perfectly flat floor with just a 20-odd mm platform directly over the engine area.
Safety focussed systems abound in the TGX and if all else fails and a collision is unavoidable the cab is located on energy absorbing mounts which in major impact allow the cab to move rearward along the chassis up to 740mm thereby absorbing significant energy and helping to protect the occupants.
Recent upgrades to the TGX range include the now larger 42-litre fridge mounted on kitchen drawer type sliders allowing it to be easily tucked away below the bunk and leaving more floor area clear. Storage areas abound including an under-bunk space which can be accessed from outside on the kerb side.
The dash has had a revamp with the various switches now placed in groups according to the functions they control. The rotary style transmission selector is now located low on dash which helps keep dirt, dust and spilled liquids out of its workings and it’s a logical move to have it close to switches for the power divider and diff locks. There are multiple locations available for any extra switches. The global application of the TGX is evident and there is a switch to change the digital speedo from kph to mph. Functions such as start-of-trip checks of the engine oil level and all lights are carried out electronically from the driver’s seat.
The changed position of the transmission selector leaves the control levers for the parking brake and the trailer brakes on a compact centre console that doesn’t impinge on much floor space.
The cab’s interior is tastefully highlighted with some satin trim panels that resemble brushed aluminium on the doors, dash and steering wheel which is a stylish change from the faux carbon fibre of previous models and adds a touch of distinction. The locally installed inner-spring mattress on the lower bunk is as big as they get in Australian trucks and the sleeper area has great lighting including a flexible reading lamp plus a panel of controls for the air-conditioning.
The large diameter steering wheel has plenty of adjustment and the driver’s elbows can rest on the fold down armrests of the Isri seat and remain close to the ten to two position. There is also a padded section on both doors that provides a comfortable elbow rest and flips up to reveal a handy storage area for pens, change and other miscellaneous items. The size of the wheel contributes a smoothness to fine adjustments of the steering and delivers to the driver an excellent feel for the road. The 320 kilometre circuit we are taking on this trip has a varied quality to its surfaces and the MAN’s steering remains positive in all conditions.
Another advantage of the wheel’s size is the large buttons on it which control various functions including the Bluetooth telephone connection and the scrolling through the multiple information screens available on the coloured four-inch LCD display in the centre of the instrument panel. The screen can also be configured as a digital speedometer to complement the analogue instrument.
Another upgrade is the fitting of adjustable cup holders in the middle of the dash which come with bottle pockets moulded into the door trims. The climate controlled air-conditioning keeps the voluminous cabin interior at a constant 22 degrees despite the outside temperature gauge showing 37 degrees during the drive. To test the effectiveness of the cooling we adjust the thermostat down to 18 degrees which quickly makes us wish we’d brought along a jacket. Good heating is expected in European vehicles, sometimes at the expense of cooling capacity and for the extreme weather conditions found in Australia the TGX provides a working environment that supports the comfort and well-being of the driver.
Our test truck is powered by the MAN 12.5-litre D26 engine rated at 540hp at 1,900 rpm with a maximum torque of 2,500Nm from a stump pulling 1,050 rpm through to 1,350rpm. A 480hp/2,300Nm version is also available, as is the 10.5 litre engine in either 400hp or 380hp if the task doesn’t involve big weights.
The airbag rear suspension has four bags per axle and delivers an impressively smooth ride which is great for the driver and a benefit in applications such as stock transport.
The most significant difference in the driveline is the ZF TraXon transmission which in the MAN application is referred to as the TipMatic2 which retains the 12 speeds of the previously equipped AS Tronic transmission but everything else has been changed. The TraXon has a modular design which will see it adapted across a variety of European manufactured trucks. MAN is the first truck brand to offer the TraXon to the Australian market.
The transmission in this test truck is configured to start off in first gear and then very quickly upshifts and skips some gears if possible. The rapid speed of the shifts allows the engine to stay within its maximum torque band even when negotiating steep uphill grades. Final drive ratio is 4.11:1 which delivers a good compromise between fuel economy and maximising the application of the 2,500Nm of torque.
The transmission fitted to this 540hp engine doesn’t have the EfficientRoll driveline disconnection feature activated which would have allowed it to ‘coast’ in certain circumstances to save fuel. The transmission has crawler positions in forward and reverse which limits engine torque making manoeuvring safer and easier.
Three stage engine brake works best above 2,000rpm and uses the same steering column mounted lever as the manual override for the transmission which is handy when holding back speed on descents such as the Toowoomba Range. The system is very effective and there is the option of adding an Intarder to the transmission. The MAN BrakeMatic brake management system co-ordinates the electronic braking system’s service brakes with the engine brake and has settings to adapt to regular or emergency situations. The Easystart or hill hold function provides peace of mind especially when starting off uphill in heavy traffic and reduces the stress on driver and driveline while the automated clutch takes up the strain. This provides the driver with a one second delay before the service brakes are released after switching the right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
Our test circuit takes us from Brisbane up Cunningham’s Gap to Warwick, along the New England Highway to Toowoomba and then back towards Brisbane for a total of around 320 kilometres. Not the longest of trips but one certainly with a wide variety of road and traffic conditions.
Roadworks mean that we get no run up to tackle the long and steep climb to the top of Cunningham’s Gap but the low down torque of the TGX’s engine and the swift shifting of the transmission lets us cruise up using fifth, sixth and seventh gears.
The whole of life cost of an MAN with this specification is enhanced with up to 70,000k service intervals and an extended life beyond 800,000k for exhaust system particulate filters. The MAN TGX is essentially a very easy truck to drive and its numerous systems integrate very well to simplify the driver’s task rather than complicate it.