It’s not too often that you might quote a magician in an article about a truck, but I’m going to on this occasion.
Tony Corinda is that magician, he said “Good timing is invisible, bad timing sticks out a mile”, and I reckon I can link that with the new-generation MAN medium and heavy-duty truck range.
MAN in Australia hasn’t quite hit the targets that importer and distributor, Penske Australia, would have liked.
Sure, they run hundreds of MAN trucks through the Penske Truck Rental business, but not too many fleets have signed up for the German brand Downunder.
I’m loathed to use an expression so often rolled out in this industry whenever there’s a flashy new model hitting our shores, but I will break my rule here and call this new-gen offering from MAN a game-changer.
I’ve driven a lot of different trucks, but in this new offering, I felt really at ease. It inspires confidence.
Now, I will put this into perspective, I only sampled the new-generation prime-mover in the controlled environment of a test track, but I genuinely wanted to get the big German out on the Pacific Motorway, stretch its legs and head off for a 900-kilometer gallop down to Sydney.
So, if I can drive it and feel confident, I reckon this is going to be a truck that people who do this for a living are likely going to want to drive day in and day out.
What’s changed over the previous-gen MAN offerings?
Ok, so yes, it might take a trained eye to spot the differences in the new-gen trucks, but they are there.
The big change is that the cab now sits around 75mm higher than the old truck. There’s increased airflow through the redesigned grille and cab aerodynamics have also been improved.
There’s also more space between the top of the engine and the cab floor, they tell us this helps not just in better airflow/cooling of the engine, but also minimizes sound and heat transference into the cab.
There are changes around the steps too, with a cascading ladder with improved foot grip plates in place.
The side mirrors, all fully electrically adjustable, now tilt back at a slight angle and there’s more visibility between the mirrors and the A-pillars.
I found this redesign really helped visibility as you could better see what was immediately down to the right of the cab.
Cabin insulation has also been seriously beefed up for added occupation comfort, MAN claiming to now have the quietest cab on the market at highway speeds.
MAN drivers get to spend their day in a top-end Recaro seat. Speaking of seats, the passenger seat swivels and folds into a table. Clever!
And there’s a quite clever addition on the lower section of the driver’s door – a switch panel.
With a view to minimizing the number of times a driver might climb into and out of the cab during their shift, the switch panel allows operators to engage or disengage functions such as the PTO from ground level. Very smart.
Underneath the cab, powertrain changes are minimal.
There are still 13-litre and 15-litre MAN engines, the range starts down at 250hp in the medium-duty offerings, while the heavy-duty range comes with a selection of outputs ranging from 360hp to 640hp (Euro 6).
The MAN Tipmatic gearbox shift system features across the range, working in conjunction with Traxion transmissions.
MAN is confident the new-gen trucks will better the superseded model’s fuel consumption figures, though testing is only now being completed.
But, it’s not all about forward propulsion. MAN has also rejigged the Exhaust Valve Brake (EVB) system for more engine braking power.
If you want to maintain speed on a downhill run, simply take your foot off the brake pedal at the speed you are traveling and the truck will maintain that speed for as long as you want (within about a 5km/h range) using the EVB first, then service brakes as required.
If you need more stopping/slowing power, there’s also the optional Turbo EVBec that produces up to 840hp of engine braking.
Other Safety Features in the new MAN?
Safety certainly hasn’t been forgotten by the engineers of the new-gen MAN truck.
If things do happen to go really badly, the cab can actually shift rearwards in a collision by up to a substantial 750mm. MAN telling us this movement will help better absorb the forces of a collision.
There’s also a driver’s airbag, as well as the full array of safety and driver assist features that you might expect, including Electronic Stability Program, Brake Assist, Lane Keep Assist, and emergency braking activates the hazard lights automatically.
Automatic high-beam, auto wipers, and a low-speed cornering light system also feature.
Lastly, you will also find Adaptive Cruise Control fitted, though if you’re like me and not a huge fan of this technology you can easily disengage the system and run it with just standard cruise control functionality.
What was it like on the Road?
Again, taking into account that I only sampled the new truck in both single trailer (26-tonne load) and B-Double configurations (60-tonne load) on the test track, however, I was mightly impressed.
The steering was precise, with very little free play. The seating position is excellent.
I found the exhaust brake functionality simple and effective (this basically gives the truck a two-pedal operation that leaves hands to just control the steering wheel).
The acceleration from a standing stop or slow speed start on a decent incline was very impressive in both configurations.
Excellent Driver Fit
As mentioned above, getting drivers is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that the MAN designers have had in mind when making this truck a reality.
The truck is not only easy to operate, the cab is on-par with and quite reminiscent in many ways, of a top-end Volkswagen passenger car or SUV (of course MAN and Volkswagen are in the same family).
The levels of fit and finish throughout are excellent.
I could ramble on all day about the infotainment system with features and functions such as Apple CarPlay, but the highlight is the clever new rotary controller (as seen in the photo).
There’s a multitude of storage areas big and small, power outlets in all the right places, and in the wide-cab versions a bunk that gives you a full 2100mm of space.
I’m an unabashed European truck fan. The easy-to-live-with nature of many of the Euro offerings surpasses the nostalgia of big bonnets and big chrome for me.
The new MAN offering looks to be at least on par with anything else on the market and would be well worth investigating for a multitude of different applications.
Timing is everything, and MAN now looks to have the right vehicle for today’s market and its contemporary requirements.