MAN’s new TGX has come of age. New gearbox and driveline tech transform the way it drives, as we found out when we put the latest 500 bhp MAN TGX XLX version to the test.

Good looks, spacious cabs, plenty of comfort and affordable running costs have made the TGX popular with everyone from big fleets to owner-operators. But although there are positives, it also suffers from a slight image problem, possibly as a result of its own success. All those fleet-spec plain white ones that get shipped in everywhere on contract hire and never seem to get washed don’t offer much to get excited about.

But here, at the end of last year, MAN was saying some exciting stuff. Things about ‘power’ and ‘performance’. It even produced a special edition called the Performanceline with 640 bhp. In an era where we’re all being beaten with the eco-stick, it’s nice to hear a manufacturer say things like: “The new MAN TGX has the power to get you further down the road”, and: “As soon as you turn the key, you can feel the majestic power of the engine”.

We’ve no idea what ‘majestic power’ is, but it sounds good and we want it. An extra 20 bhp and 200 Nm of torque in all gears across the engine range? Yes please.

While the refinement has always been excellent, the driving experience tended to lag behind, mainly due to the TipMatic auto ’box, which could feel like it had a mind of its own at times. Running in manual mode, it would unhelpfully change in the into 12th when overtaking on a hill, but if you left it in manual when slowing to a traffic light, it wouldn’t go back into auto mode, and almost stall.

Well, fantastic news: there’s a completely new driveline in these latest Euro 6 models. TraXon gearbox, updated diff, more power and low-down torque, improved engine brake, and much more intelligent computer gubbins which allows the truck to “see” the road ahead. 

The last TGX I tested was a Euro 6 480 bhp model, which was up against a 480 bhp Renault Range T. The MAN on this occasion was comfortably outperformed, and I suspect this truck wasn’t running at 100 per cent. With the new range unveiled toward the end of 2016, we were keen to try one of the new models. We sorted a day with MAN Truck and Bus Manchester and its driver trainer, John Griffiths, to test one of the new TGX XLX 500s.

There’s something psychologically pleasing about getting a badge with 500-plus on it. It’s a bit like getting a company car that’s an SRi as opposed to an “Exclusive” or something. You have to say the TGX looks the part when colour-coded; it’s always been a handsome lorry, and 10 years on it looks as fresh as ever with metallic silver paintwork and a light bar (the one here happens to be factory-fitted).

I have driven a couple of Euro 5 TGX 440s recently, pulling curtainsiders on trunking work. They were never particularly heavily freighted and I have to admit I was enjoying driving them. Both had around 600,000 km on them and still felt fresh. One thing MAN does well is simplicity – so I was immediately at home in the demonstrator. The interior is much the same; there are some extra switches and an MAN lion logo on the steering wheel (I always thought that was a German Shepherd… oops). The main change is the ‘Sand’ colour trim. Personally I quite like it, but in fleet applications it’s going to get dirty easily.

We took the truck – freighted at 44 tonnes gross with a tri-axle trailer – out into busy Manchester traffic. There are roadworks everywhere around the city just now, and as usual a lot of the cones are positioned so there’s only just enough space to squeeze an artic through. As a driver you’ve a lot to concentrate on. Right away I noticed how smooth the new gearbox is. Torque is available immediately, and the gearbox responded perfectly to a light touch on the throttle. Not once did it get confused, or bog-down. Very impressive.

We made our way out to the M62. At a busy roundabout, we were going to have to go for it. John advised me when pulling away to put my foot flat to the floor, but not past kickdown. He then told me exactly which gears it’d take as it pulled away – and he was correct. That’s a very handy feature to have – to know exactly what you’re going to get from the transmission when you pull out into busy traffic.

On the motorway, the EfficientCruise came into effect. It can see 3 km ahead, detecting gradients. When encountering a hill, if required it’ll quickly drop a gear to maintain momentum. You can alter settings for maximum fuel savings so the truck will coast to the top of a hill, but the traffic was way too busy for that. We needed to keep our speed up, and the cruise control did just that. The longer gearing means the engine isn’t revving as hard, but you honestly don’t need those extra revs any more. With the old AS-Tronic you’d need to intervene with the gears at times, but never once did I have to even think about knocking it down a gear.

Refinement and comfort were always TGX strong points, and once we finally cleared those horrific average speed cameras I was able to relax a bit. Windy Hill on the M62 is a test for any truck, and the 500 bhp D26 engine had to work hard to haul the trailer to the top. We sat around 40-45 mph while climbing. As if that wasn’t enough, we cut off the motorway and across Saddleworth Moor. Even steeper hills! This was a real test of both pulling and stopping power.

On the downward sections, the engine brake proved its worth. It did a fine job of holding the truck back, with me adding the odd press of the brake pedal to keep things in check. It automatically disengages the next time you touch the throttle too, which is really useful – rivals could take note of this. The exhaust brake is also operated when you use the brake pedal (can be switched off on the dash) as with the previous versions.

On the climbs, the gearbox was super-quick at changing down ratios, with minimal loss of momentum. The system even activated the exhaust brake momentarily to haul the revs down quicker for the next gear. Fantastic!

We used a combination of A-roads and B-roads on the way back into Manchester and the TGX was smooth, surefooted and really enjoyable to drive.


It drives like a dream, but a lack of changes to the interior is disappointing. Compulsory beige plastic is about the extent of it. Perhaps the budget didn’t stretch that far, but a bit more imagination could have made the new TGX even better. For example, the big flimsy ashtray panel that’s easily broken remains (and why does it even have an ashtray?), that could have been made into smaller storage drawers. A pair of proper cupholders could have been fitted into the dash too instead of that one that goes missing.

The fridge still juts out into the floor space. It’s like that because of the position of the air intake at the back of the cab. But if they’d got rid of that pointless console by the driver which houses the gear selector, handbrake and extra electric window switches (who uses them?) and moved them onto the dash, the fridge could have been moved over by the driver and some extra storage free’d up under the bunk.

Also, the TGX is still sporting the same old generic dash clocks you’ll find in an old TGA, and the same monochrome info display. It’d have been nice to see those things modernised, especially with MAN looking to enhance their appeal beyond the fleet market. A bit of wood or aluminium trim wouldn’t go amiss either. The cab is spacious and the layout simple, but it could easily be made so much better.


They’ve done it. No longer is the TGX a “nice lorry, bit of a shame about the auto ’box”. It’s been transformed into a proper, bona-fide driver’s truck. The new TraXon gearbox is in a different league to the old AS-Tronic, but that’s only part of the story. With much more torque on tap low in the rev range, it doesn’t have to work as hard, but it never feels lazy either. It’s the integration of controls that’s so impressive.

The way the throttle responds to the driver is superb; you’re much less likely to drive it with your foot to the board all day, because it’s just so much more intelligent. When you need to get a move on, it responds. You feel like you’re in control, and that you’re not fighting against it. The engine brake is powerful, the adaptive and predictive cruise control simple to use and the safety features don’t seem to interfere with your driving.

The interior updates are disappointing. There’s a lot more MAN could have done on the inside, but overall these latest improvements have transformed the TGX. Hopefully we can get hold of one and put it to work for a week at some point soon. We’d love to hear from drivers of these new versions and what their thoughts are.

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