Professional Builder Online’s Kieran Nee spent a day at Corby’s Rockingham Raceway getting his teeth into MAN’s first ever van, the TGE.

You may find it surprising that the lion-branded manufacturer MAN, near ubiquitous among the heavier trades for its trucks, has never before released a van. Even more surprising given the company has been in operation for over 100 years, celebrating its centenary in 2015.

With the TGE however, the company has brought its expertise within the world of trucks to the world of the light commercial vehicle, and in doing so have created a van with the power of a lion and the versatility of a man.

The TGE boasts an almost unlimited potential for its users. With three different wheelbase lengths, roof heights and vehicle weights, a range of chassis, cab and seating arrangements, coming in manual and automatic transmissions with a range of gear variations and engine powers, the TGE is essentially whatever you need it to be.

MAN is marketing the van with the slogan, ‘that’s no van, that’s a MAN’, rebelling perhaps against the increasing metrosexualisation of vans launched with the intention of appealing to readers of GQ as much as readers of Professional Builder.

MAN TGE Panel Van

Engine Size: 75-130kW (Diesel)

MPG: Unknown

Capacity: Up to 18.4m³

Permissible Gross Vehicle Weight: Up to 5.5 tonnes

Safety Features: Emergency Brake Assist, Active Lane Assist, Side Wall Protection Assist, Park Steering Assist

And true enough, the TGE, essentially a repackaged VW Crafter, emphasises function and durability over sleek lines and ‘sporty’ trims. That’s not to say, of course, that the TGE isn’t a visually impressive van – it is, and it has an almost truck-like quality to its front grill. You could say the van is less like the sleek, streamlined leopard, and more like the impressive, powerful lion.

MAN will little trouble convincing builders that the TGE can handle everything life on site can throw at it, given that its trucks have been excelling in the field for a number of years now. However beyond the engine and the chassis, the interior trim is adapted both to the inevitable muddy boots and to the more modern aspects of construction.

There are storage compartments galore for instance, which regrettably is not always the case in vans, and this is much needed in an industry where paperwork is now firmly entrenched in the daily schedule. Two 12V power points come as standard with an option for 230V outlets and USB ports as well; again, builders who now rely as much on the digital world for new work as anything else will no doubt be grateful for the added convenience.

Seats can be specified according to the level of comfort demanded by the driver, likewise the infotainment system can be specified to your needs, meaning that if Radio 2 and a Great Britain A-Z committed to memory is all you need on your daily commute then you’re not forced to negotiate a touch screen computer every time someone interferes with your carefully chosen settings. A comprehensive four cup holders are included as standard, however, proving that no matter how tech savvy drivers may be becoming, the polystyrene cup of tea will always be high on the priority list.

Out on the Track

Rockingham Motor Speedway, located in Northamptonshire, is usually a little less calm than its rural surrounds, renowned as it is as Europe’s fastest race track. Mostly known for hosting high octane events such as the British Touring Car Championship and the British Superbike Championship, the speedway was a little more relaxed when we took to it in the TGE, although compared to the daily crawl along the M25 it was a pretty exhilarating ride.

We were given the opportunity to test out the van’s side load protection and anti-lock braking system on the speedway’s wet handling facility and were suitably impressed. Driving onto the wet plate at a reasonable 30 mph and slamming the brakes as though there were a collision ahead, you might expect to skid out of control and end up contributing to the accident in a way you hadn’t intended.

The ABS however duly kicked in and rescued the situation, reducing your braking to a level at which you could still control the vehicle, in theory guiding it around the collision whilst slowing down. It, along with the side load protection – a feature which alters the speed at which various tyres go when the van is in a skid in order to put you back safely on the right track – is a feature you hope never to experience in real life conditions, but it’s reassuring to know it’s there to limit any risks.

Other features we tested out included Park Steering Assist, Side Assist and the Trailer Reverse Assist. The trailer assist was particularly helpful, especially when paired with a rear facing camera – turning the frustratingly unintuitive task of reversing a trailer into a relatively easy one.

All in all, this is a van designed with work in mind, rather than providing a backdrop for an Instagram selfie, although it will still do that well, if that’s what you really want to do with it…

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