MAN is aiming to make a big impact in a busy sector of the market, says Dan Gilkes.
Carving out a place in the hard-fought 3.5-tonne van sector was never going to be an easy task, even for a company equipped with a re-badged version of one of the market’s best vans. Yet MAN Truck & Bus has done just that, establishing its TGE range as a player.
Of course, Volkswagen’s latest Crafter was not a bad place to start, far from it. But customers still have to find a reason to search out an MAN dealer, instead of simply walking into their local VW Van Centre.
Much like Renault Trucks, which sells a red-badged version of Renault’s Master van in the UK, the USP that MAN has, is that TGE is marketed through a dedicated heavy truck network. That means workshops that are open longer, more roadside assistance and a host of leasing and operational financing plans that simply aren’t usually on offer from a car-based van provider.
Mercedes-Benz and Iveco also have this heavy truck advantage, but there aren’t any other manufacturers selling against them with what is basically the same product. And it is very much the same van, from both Volkswagen Group companies.
This means that TGE can be ordered with front, rear or all-wheel drive, with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission and in a host of body lengths and heights. This long and high TGE offers the popular mid-point in the line-up, delivering a combination of 14.4m3 load volume, with a very competitive 1,178kg payload.
Up front, the only changes are the badges and again, that is no hardship as the TGE comes with a comfortable, well-equipped cab. Standard equipment includes infotainment with a five-inch screen, USB connection and Bluetooth. You also get a multi-function steering wheel to help navigate the system.
Standard electromechanical steering provides access to a host of safety and assistance systems, if you are prepared to tick option boxes, though even in base trim you get ESC and Cross Wind Assist, hill start assist and a bodybuilder module with telematic preparation. MAN also offers a range of safety, driver assistance and comfort packages, as well as industry-specific kits for tipper and dropside conversions.
All TGE vans are powered by VW’s 2.0-litre TDi engine, offering 102bhp, 140bhp and 177bhp in front-wheel drive models. Rear-drive vans with single rear wheels can be ordered with the 140bhp or the 177bhp engine, while twin rear wheel models can have the 177bhp or a stand-alone 122bhp rating.
The 140bhp mid-point in the line-up offers plenty of pulling power for a 3.5-tonne van, with 340Nm of torque on tap.
As with its VW stablemate, the MAN TGE is not a low-cost option. However, the company claims that it is not chasing volume, so will expect to achieve its healthy list prices. With the backing of a 24-hour truck network, the vans should certainly appeal to MAN’s traditional users in the heavy truck industry.
The challenge for the company will be spreading the word outside of its existing customer base.
The TGE is an excellent van that should come with top-level back-up and support.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5