MAN TGE van makes big impression in Switzerland with smart all-wheel drive


The event technicians from smARTec in Aarau, Switzerland, are boosting their levels of efficiency and safety thanks to the MAN TGE 4x4.

  • When it comes to Urs Schmid’s van needs, “the things we need are payload and traction,” the TGE 4x4 customer explains
  • All-wheel drive engages in less than the blink of an eye thanks to an innovative clutch – within 0.084 seconds, to be precise
  • MAN TGE four-wheel drive system combines cost-effectiveness and suitability for everyday use – without noticeable loss in payload

“The four-wheel drive was the main reason that we bought an MAN TGE. We have mud to contend with in the summer and snow in the winter. The things we need are payload and traction. That isn’t possible with conventional, full-time all-wheel drive,” says Urs Schmid, summarising the factors that led his firm to buy two MAN TGEs with all-wheel drive. Schmid is an owner and board member of smARTec, based in the Swiss town of Aarau in the canton of Aargau. Before he and his colleagues became aware of MAN’s all-wheel drive system, 4x4s played a lesser role at the Swiss event production company. In their 63-unit fleet (19 cars, 12 vans, 7 trucks, 13 trailers and 12 semitrailers), only a few cars have all-wheel drive and only the newer trucks are equipped with on-demand MAN HydroDrive. And when it came to the vans, winter in the mountains often made it necessary for them to be fitted with anti-skid chains. A time-consuming process.

The two MAN TGEs with all-wheel drive became part of the smARTec fleet at the end of 2018 and began to be used in January 2019. “The new MAN TGEs have immediately paid off for us,” Schmid is pleased to note. “Just the jobs in January and February on the frozen lake at St. Moritz would have meant additional effort and expense for us if we didn’t have four-wheel drive.” Due to heavy snowfall this year, only all-wheel drive vehicles were allowed access to the frozen lake at St. Moritz. Without the two MAN TGE 4x4s, other vehicles would have had to be organised to drive the lighting and sound equipment onto the lake. During the winter, St. Moritz hosts the Snow Polo World Cup, as well as the White Turf horse races on several weekends.

smARTec’s event technicians were also busy at work at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, where they were able to achieve some impressive results, including from the on-demand differential lock on the rear axle. The event production team were fully satisfied with the MAN TGE 4x4’s performance, especially when driving off on steep terrain and uncleared roads during persistent snowfall. An all-wheel drive vehicle is also a necessity when towing a trailer to Davos via the Wolfgang Pass – one of the jobs on the event technicians’ agenda. “We managed to drive to Davos with a trailer and a gross train weight of six metric tonnes, without anti-skid chains. Naturally, that’s another financial advantage,” Schmid concludes.

The supreme elegance of the MAN TGE 4x4’s all-wheel drive system leaves a compelling impression. In dry weather conditions, the van efficiently moves across the asphalt using only front wheel drive. This means the MAN TGE drives especially fuel-efficiently and without distortion. As Urs Schmid can confirm: “We didn’t notice any excess consumption when compared with the 4x2 vans in our fleet.” The special part of MAN’s all-wheel drive design? If traction is lost, the control unit responds automatically, engaging the rear-wheel drive in 0.084 seconds. This all occurs in less than the blink of an eye – part of the reason it is known as the smart all-wheel drive system.

This rapid response is technically possible thanks to the modern clutch, which automatically distributes the driving torque between the front and rear axles. It is an electronically controlled multiple-disc clutch, with fins that run in an oil bath and are brought together axially as required.

The driving torque can be distributed between the front axle and the rear axle in a continuous process, all the way from 100% to 0% and vice-versa. Another clever feature comes courtesy of the driver assistance systems (ESP, ABS and ASR) that are fully integrated into the TGE’s all-wheel drive. This makes it the only all-wheel drive system on the van market to cater to every parameter of the vehicle’s sensor system. The clutch control unit receives information from all the vehicle sensors via the CAN bus, and can be freely combined with all the driver assistance systems. The result? A highly safe vehicle without a large increase in weight.

Plus, the cargo space height and ground clearance are not restricted as a result of choosing four-wheel drive. This underscores the smart all-wheel drive system’s suitability for everyday use, which MAN offers at a highly attractive price.

The two MAN vans in the hands of the Swiss technicians are equipped with 8-speed automatic gearboxes and a 177 hp engine rating. They also include driver assistance features, such as rear-view cameras, parking sensors and LED headlights. “We have high standards for our vehicles and we want to provide a great, safe vehicle to our staff,” Schmid stresses.

smARTec has been impressed by the performance of the MAN TGE 4x4 and the business has already ordered another vehicle. Schmid appears convinced of the product’s merits, adding that “alongside the all-wheel drive aspects, the thing to emphasise about the TGE is how it feels to drive. The power steering responds really directly. It’s like driving a car – you’re no longer driving a delivery van.” Vehicle number 64 in the fleet will be an MAN TGE 4x4 van for Mobilestage GmbH, a smARTec AG subsidiary company. It will be used as a service vehicle – that is to say, a mobile workshop.

smARTec celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2018. The business now employs 50 full-time employees and around 200 freelancers. It operates worldwide, predominantly for customers based in Switzerland. For instance, it supplies sound and lighting equipment to Zurich Opera House’s visiting ballets around the globe. smARTec’s cargo consists of transport cases, which store items such as speakers, lighting instruments, projectors, amplifiers and mixing equipment. Pallets are used less often. The vans are usually loaded up to 50-70% of capacity, at which point the maximum total weight is reached.