The Lion is released

Thursday, February 13, 2020

No mistaking who made it, but don’t be fooled, it’s tweaked in many places, and entirely different in terms of its nervous system and brain power. This is tomorrow’s MAN.

All eyes in the trucking world were focused on the Spanish city Bilbao this week for the launch of MAN’s New Truck Generation. The German giant chose the location not just on account of its significance as a port and logistics hub, but for what the city represents, having successfully reinvented itself from an industrial past into a hip and groovy 21st century destination. 

First impressions when the truck rolls into view is that not much has changed, but looks can be deceiving. Although the design language certainly makes misidentification impossible, the new wagon is subtly different in almost all areas. 

The truck picks up the Euro 6d engines launched in the second half of last year as well as the rest of the existing power train, but its big-ticket items are the things you can’t see, and the driving experience. The new generation has an entirely new tech and electrical architecture based around a master control module. Not only is the intention here to remove complexity, increase reliability, and ‘connect’ the vehicle, it’s also preparing the truck for what happens next in terms of propulsion. This is the chassis that will carry the EV and fuel cell technology should the latter be the choice for line haul looking forward. 

Beautifully finished, and user friendly, SmartSelect wheel (lower right in pic) is a superb manager of endless apps.

Inside things are entirely different. The interior has had a solid overhaul, and the really interesting bit is the management of technology. Rather than go down the touchscreen path MAN has chosen its variant of shared technology from Audi, deploying a SmartSelect control wheel. We liked it when we fiddled with it last October, and we liked it even more when we drove one of the demo units in Spain early this week. 

One thing that was interesting: two things actually, were the mirrors. They were great, but the fact they were there at all was surprising… However, we were reassured by one senior exec that mirrorless tech is on its way (Stuttgart really did steal a march on the opposition with its MirrorCam). 

Safety and driver assistance-wise: this is one of the benchmark brands so as you’d expect it wants for nothing; adaptive cruise, lane departure and keeping, blind-spot assistance systems, and more. And they all work well in terms of practicality and ease of use, even when you’re thrust into Europe’s narrow streets and busy motorways, with a long semi, absurdly short tractor, and the whole time helming things from the wrong side of the cab. That has to be the ultimate test of a truck’s ‘friendliness' … and when it all ended, we were certainly that. 

MAN will assemble both new and previous models side by side for about a year and half, according to Joachim Drees, CEO MAN Truck and Bus SE.

For the full story, check out the upcoming March issue of New Zealand Trucking.