We put an MAN TGL 8.910 4×2 XLION with Distribution package on test – does this outgoing model represent a bargain for canny operators?

MAN has been on a drive to improve its market share in the UK after misfortunes with its 12.4-litre D26 engine at Euro 5 saw its reputation take a knock with some operators. At Euro 6, the manufacturer’s trucks are back on top form – and the recent launch of its new TG range has demonstrated a significant step up in terms of build quality and focus on driver comfort.

But while UK operators eagerly await the arrival of the new series, MAN has promised the current generation of TG models will be sold during a period of transition. And if past sales initiatives are anything to go by, then this should mean canny hauliers may soon be able to grab a ‘new’ current-gen TG for something approaching a bargain price.

Launched last year, the manufacturer’s XLION range is a top-tier spec that offers operators additional bells and whistles over and above the vehicle’s standard spec. Unveiled at the CV Show 2019, the headline XLION was of course a TGX 6×2 tractor unit – but XLION packages are also available for TGM, TGS and TGL models.

Boosted comfort

To see whats on offer in the distribution segment, we were recently offered a drive in a TGL with XLION Distribution package. TGL is MAN’s lightweight distribution/construction chassis and can offer very competitive payloads at the right spec.

The XLION Distribution package is offered at a starting price of £2250. Kit inside the XLION cab receives a significant upgrade – the list of driver benefits includes a multi-function steering wheel, driver’s comfort seat with air suspension (L and LX cabs also have the option of a heated Comfort seat with lumbar vertebrae support and shoulder adjustment), air-conditioning system, and a smoker’s package (with ciggy lighter and lockable ashtray).

Audio quality is improved with MAN’s Sound System, and hands-free functionality is included for one or two mobile phones (which can be linked via Bluetooth and controlled by the multi-function steering wheel).

Other benefits are cruise control, full central locking, plus heated and electrically adjustable rear-view mirrors, wide-angle mirrors and kerb mirror.

XLION style upgrades feature special XLION lettering on the doors and side walls, and an XLION logo on the sun blind. Comfort-quality seat covers are offered for C Day and Crew cab.

According to MAN, a further bonus of the integrated package is it includes free subscriptions to select MAN DigitalServices for a period of six months. First up is MAN Essentials, which enables fleet managers to view vehicle information at any time via an online portal.

Next is MAN ServiceCare, which can help ease the pressure of arranging vehicle maintenance requirements. In the UK, this is provided via MAN E-Workshop (based on the Microlise platform), which also enables the customer to store vehicle documentation online for easy access, and workshop records are uploaded along with service records, etc.

Also offered is MAN Advance, which monitors vehicle status and analyses deployment to help operators optimise the use of their trucks. And finally, MAN Compliant archives tachograph and driver card data in the cloud for easier access.

On the road

For our test drive, we met the truck at MAN’s service depot in Westbury on a cold and rainy midwinter weekday morning. Our TGL was an 8.190 4×2 BB curtainsider with 4500 mm wheelbase and a rear overhang of 2475 mm. Under the hood, it was packing a 4.6-litre Euro 6c D0834 engine pushing out 190 bhp and 750 Nm of torque between 1200-1750 rpm. Transmission was an automated six-speed TipMatic. It was carrying a 150-litre fuel tank on the right-hand side, and a 35-litre AdBlue tank. Tyres were 215/75R17.5 front and back.

The payload allowance of our bodied TGL with 500 kg alloy tuck-under tail-lift was 2400 kg (standard bodied payload is 2900 kg). We were to be operating at 7.0 tonnes loaded with two tonnes of test weight.

The truck had a standard C Day cab which measures 2240 mm wide and 1620 mm long. It also boasts a low entry height and wide opening doors – a definite boon for drivers on multi-drop work who find themselves climbing in and out of the cab on a regular basis.

Regular drivers of other MAN models will have little trouble acclimatising to the TGL cockpit, as switchgear is uniform across the range to make it easier to hop between vehicles. This generation has the TipMatic gearbox control dial set at the bottom of the main control cluster on the centre console. Offset to the left of the main instrument dials is an LCD touch screen loaded with sat nav, radio, media and phone controls etc. Storage inside the C cab is adequate for a day out, with a large centre console, well-positioned cup holders and various small trays to tuck away pens, phones and other small items.

After strapping in, we manoeuvred out of the yard and headed for the main road into town. Westbury isn’t a big town, but it can be quite a challenge to navigate amid busy morning traffic and plentiful pedestrians – so a good place to see how TGL fares around town. Taking the B3097 towards the town centre, the TGL immediately felt agile as we negotiated roundabouts and nipped out into small gaps at junctions. The 190 bhp lump is mid-range for TGL (the other options are 160 or 220 bhp), but it felt well matched and nimble at seven tonnes on our morning urban run.

Visibility from the C cab is good, but not quite the best on the market. Slightly slanting A-pillars give the front of the truck a distinctive look, but causes a blindspot for the driver on the inside when checking right at roundabouts etc. We found the mirrors to be pretty good though, with rearwards vision clear and unobstructed.

After half and hour or so of noodling around town, it was time to let the TGL stretch it legs. Cutting through a narrow residential area past the Woodlands industrial estate, we picked up the A3098 bound for the outskirts of Frome. It’s not a particularly fast road, but it enabled us to get up to cruising speed. The ride was comfortable and quiet, and once again MAN’s steering felt light and easy – all important considerations for distribution drivers. We tend to find MAN’s steering characteristics can be a bit too light, but on this TGL it was balanced about right for our driving style.

Circling Frome, we picked up the faster-moving A361 for a run across to Shepton Mallet for a there-and-back trip. Engaging cruise control, we settled back for a comfortable ride through rural eastern Somerset and let the truck – and its smooth-shifting TipMatic gearbox – take the strain.

This TGL packs a range of safety tech, including ESP, ABS, ASR and Lane Guard Support (LGS). It also had MAN’s second-generation and EBA2 Emergency Brake Assist electronic braking system, which uses a combination of radar and camera to detect moving and stationary objects ahead and warn the driver of an impending collision – and automatically activates the brakes if required. MAN reckons this second-gen system is more reliable and can more accurately interpret complex traffic situations – though thankfully, we didn’t need to put it to the test on our drive!

Verdict

MANs have long represented good value for money – and with the new range incoming, now may well be the time to snaffle up a bargain current-generation model that should see you through several years of solid service. The new range maybe prettier and loaded with more tech; but for daily distribution work, this TGL has everything needed to get the job done with some style.

For the driver’s quality of life, the XLION Distribution package is a worthy consideration. Its interior upgrades make TGL’s smaller C Day cab a nicer place to work – and while it may not quite reach the heights of luxury offered by some other manufacturers, it’s still at the upper end of the scale.

Working around the town centre, this small TGL proved nimble, agile and offered a positive drive. And when cruising, it’s comparatively quiet and comfortable. Visibility is good, though there are a few blindspots to be aware of. And cab access and exit is easy thanks to wide-opening doors and low point of entry.

Operators who are looking for a good deal on a solid distribution truck – and don’t mind not having the very latest model – would do well to give it a closer look.

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