We test the new no-fat, fleet-spec MAN TGM 18-tonner to see if its tasty drivability is enough to win over drivers in the UK’s crowded mid-weight market.

Since its initial launch in Bilbao in February 2020, literally weeks before the COVID pandemic through Europe and the UK into lockdown, MAN’s new TG range is now starting to find its way into British fleets.

In September, in between lockdowns, Trucking managed to bag the first UK test drive of the new mid-weight TGM. Though our time with the truck was relatively short, it was enough to demonstrate its chops as a pure-bread driver’s truck – though sadly, we weren’t able to try it with a load on.

Thankfully, that has now changed. MAN has put together a new TGM 18.250 4×2 BL demonstrator fitted with a standard curtainside body, pretty much spec’d like a customer’s vehicle – and this time, we could take it for a proper spin with some cargo on board.

For this test, the vehicle has a long 6975 mm wheelbase with a rear frame overhang of 2675 mm, plus Dhollandia tuck-away tail lift. Under the hood is MAN’s Euro 6d D0836 6.9-litre, six-cylinder engine rated at 250 bhp and pushing out 1050 Nm of torque. This is the lowest-rated engine you can spec on a new TGM (and the biggest you could feasibly put into the smaller TGL), though you can go up the power band to 290 or 320 bhp if you need more grunt for working in potentially more arduous locations.

The transmission is a standard 12-speed TipMatic automated gearbox loaded with an Efficiency driving programme. The front axle has disc brakes, and there’s also a single-stage engine brake delivering 110 kW of stopping power.

For our test drive, we were carrying a payload of nine tonnes – just about a tonne under the maximum.

On the road

The weather looked set to be a proper mixed bag on the May weekday that we headed to Westbury to pick up the vehicle, but as luck would have it the clouds parted for bright sunshine when we arrived at MAN’s dealership on the outskirts of town. Our test route was to be a mix of A-roads, motorway and town – a decent approximation of part of a typical distribution run.

The TGM has MAN’s new digital dashboard, which we found took no time at all to get to grips with. Gear selectors are found on the right stalk – twist the dial to D, touch the throttle and away you go, with the electronic handbrake releasing automatically.

Pulling out into the industrial estate, we swung around a few roundabouts until we were on the A350 headed for Chippenham. Although traffic was pretty heavy, we were quickly able to relax into a comfortable drive, with the TipMatic gearbox moving up and down the range smoothly and quickly as we negotiated the many sets of traffic lights on the way up to the M4.

The one-stage engine brake on right stalk also proved simple, yet effective – push it down to activate, or push it all the way down to turn on an automatic mode which engages the engine brake when you touch the brake pedal. We found this worked well: coast up to a roundabout in 11th gear, touch the brake and the TGM’s sensors detect there’s a load on and starts to work down the gearbox, using the engine brake to slow you.

Anticipate this enough and you don’t have to lean on the service brakes much at all, as the truck will do most of the work for you. It’s not the strongest engine brake and its usefulness was limited on the downslopes we encountered; but for running around town and negotiating junctions, it’s a good system.

We found the 250 bhp DO836 engine well behaved at this weight, though admittedly we didn’t have much in the way of climbs to contend with. For general stop-go work, it didn’t break a sweat; it felt agile pulling away at roundabouts and junctions.

Mirror mishaps

TGM’s A-pillar and conventional mirrors still cause a blindspot, though it’s less pronounced than on its predecessor. While Mercedes-Benz has moved over to digital mirrors for its new models, other manufacturers – including MAN – are still catching up.

Driver opinion so far seems split on MirrorCam, with some loving and others hating it. But there are some undeniable real benefits to digital mirrors: a narrower profile and better aerodynamics. While the latter reduces drag and improved fuel efficiency, the former can help avoid collisions.

This was highlighted as we passed Lackock, where the A350 moves from two lanes to one with vehicles merging in turn. Here, we were squeezed by a lorry who was tanking up to get in front of us – the driver had left things a bit late and ran out of space, so clobbered our mirror hard with his trailer as he moved to pull in front.

Luckily the mirror housing wasn’t badly damaged, and a quick pull back into position was enough to get it back in action for the rest of the drive – though it was going to need some attention in the workshop. And to add insult to injury, a few minutes later the same mirror was clipped again by a truck passing us in the oncoming lane, even though we were tucked right over to the left. It was turning into one of those days…

Just north of Chippenham, we headed east on the M4 towards Swindon. Again, the TGM had enough grunt to get up to speed fast and merge into heavy motorway traffic without a problem, and again we were soon settling down into a comfortable ride with the cruise control keeping us at a steady 56 mph.

Coming off at Swindon, we did a 180 and started to head back on the return journey. So far, we were doing 12.3 mpg – pretty good for an 18-tonner with some head wind to deal with. And the needle remained here all the way back to base – and thankfully, we had no more mirror incidents to deal with!

Verdict

We’ve been fans of MAN’s new TG range since its launch early last year, and TGM is further proof of how much the manufacturer has updated its trucks to be more driver-friendly. Handling is superb for an 18-tonner – it really does behave like a car and new drivers can jump in a get to work without any trouble at all.

The new digital dashboard is easy to read, controls are clear and well positioned, and things like the automatic engine brake and innovative SmartSelect multimedia control are genuine improvements to usability. Add to this the new control set accessed on the bunk, which offers window controls, air con, night heater, radio, and even enables checking of drivers’ hours (weekly, fortnightly) – it’s another example of little touches that make a driver’s life easier.

This test truck had quite a basic, no-frills efficiency package – hill start, Efficient Cruise Control (not the adaptive version), automatic headlights, automatic electronic parking brake, etc. It’s much closer to what you might find on the road, rather than a top-spec press test vehicle with all the bells and whistles. It’s relative to what operators are actually buying – and we reckon both drivers and operators will be pleased to welcome this TGM onto the fleet.

Likes:

  • Very easy and comfortable to drive
  • Automatic engine brake a boon
  • Efficient 250 bhp engine is up to task

Dislikes:

  • Mirror blindspot remains, but we’re nit-picking here

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