A MAN HX60 is a pretty capable piece of kit on- and off the road, especially when you take into account that it is designed as an off road transport truck and not a hardcore off road truck like the former MAN KAT 1.
When we bought the HX60 we took it for a spin to test the off road capabilities and were immediately impressed by it.
Six months down the road
Our truck has been (travel) ready for six months now and we have undertaken two longer winter trips and are currently on a ten week trip in the Alps and the Balkan countries.
During our winter trips we did not encounter severe off road conditions but did drive a lot of narrow and steep mountain roads, with serious – have to reverse – hairpins in heavy snowstorms.
Our current trip is the total opposite when it comes to the weather, we have not seen many days below 30 C. and the worst was 45 C. in Albania last week. We do a lot of off road Mountain Driving: it is just cooler up there, less people and we just like it!
We also drove a lot on sandy shores of lakes and beaches all over the Mediterranean, mostly Greece and Albania.
15.000 kilometers down the road
We bought our HX unused, so less than 500 kilometers on the clock when we got her. At this moment we are almost on 16.000 kilometers of which a lot of hours on mountain roads of all sorts. Up to now our HX did not miss a single beat and has proven to be very reliable, from -32 C. up to 45 C. The only nuisance has been the 3850 fault code, but that just has been it.
Our impression is that all systems are pretty over-dimensioned as we have had severe weather conditions both cold and hot and the HX just keeps on going without giving us the feeling it is working up a sweat of some kind.
The cooling system
A special mention for the cooling system. When we drive uphill for a longer period of time and our Mountain Yacht has to work really hard, the temperature starts to rise. Just a few degrees is enough to start up the cooling fan (even when freezing) and that is just a monster!
It sounds like a helicopter taking off, especially between mountain walls, but it makes sure that the HX is just nog getting hot – at all. Even on plus 15% steeps in the Greek Pindos Mountains with temperatures way above 40 C it seems impossible to get the HX temperature needle towards the red zone, not even a little bit.
Another special mention for the roof airconditioning of our HX60. It had never been used before but we had the airconditioning checked and filled by Overland.travel as part of the delivery maintenance.
Since day one the airco has just been too cold. Even with temperatures towards 30 C. it is not comfortable to drive with the windows closed, it just gets too cold (even on the lowest position of three). So we were used to drive without the airco, with the side windows open and sometimes the turret. Noisy but ok.
This trip we drove right into the middle of the Southern European – Balkan heatwave and we have had temperatures as high as 45 C. This is where the airconditioning really shines: we could finally drive with the windows closed and airconditiong on. Still on the lowest position, any higher still turns the cabin into a freezer.
We do not know if this is a typical HX60 thing or that our isolation of the cabin has something to do with it, we will have to hear from other MAN HX60 owners.
What are these switches for?
So, after the diversion of our general experiences back to the title of this blog: what are these switches for?
As mentioned before we have done a lot of mountain driving and we totally love the exhaust brake (hopefully the correct term) of the HX. For manual use: the little knob on the top of the furthest lever on the right side of the steering column.
When it is switched on the exhaust brake will automatically kick in when you apply the brakes. However, we use it a lot without applying the brakes, especially in winter time with snowy or iced roads.
Braking means the possibility of sliding, even with ABS. You do not want this with a 15 tonnes truck going downhill into a hairpin. So, we use the engine brake by just pushing the button on the lever and it will immediately slow the truck down and even switch to lower gears and keep on exhaust braking until you push the lever again to switch it off.
This makes for very reliable braking without the possibility of sliding. The exhaust brake is even more effective in combination with low gear, we will get back to that in a bit.
We not only use the exhaust brake on downhills but also use it in virtually any situation that requires some sort of braking: city, highway, main road, comfortable and saving our break pads (shoes?).
The HX60 is (standard) rear wheel driven and has the possibility to switch into low gear (transfer case: a reduction of the gears thus more strength and control) and the possibility to engage the front wheels as well thus creating four wheel drive.
The low gear can be used in rear wheel drive mode, so on normal asphalt roads. We use this a lot on narrow and steep mountain roads. The low gear gives way more strength going uphill, but more important: spades of (braking) control, especially driving downhill.
We sometimes switch to manual gearing and control our speed downhill with the exhaust brake as described before. We hardly use our brakes as the exhaust braking – in combination with gearing down – is usually sufficient to do the job. It will save our brakes and makes sure that the brakes do not overheat.
Engaging low gear: main gearbox in neutral, pull lever 1 out and down to the lowest position. The middle position is Neutral and that can be used when the truck has to be towed. Disengaging is the other way around.
Engaging four wheel drive
When driving in slippery conditions, either on (snow) or off road, it is wise to engage the four wheel drive of the HX. You can only do this on slippery surfaces while the rear and front will be directly connected and 50% of the traction will go to the rear wheels and 50% to the front.
This means that when you turn for a corner the outer wheels have a longer path than the inner wheels. When driving on a non-slippery surface the wheels cannot skid and will create transmission windup and eventually something will break.
In off road situations we normally first engage low gear and after that four wheel drive. It is not necessary to do this as it is also possible to remain in high gear – four wheel drive.
Engaging four wheel drive: gearbox in Neutral, push lever 2 and you are in 4×4. While driving off road it is wise to select the Dx position on the main gearbox. We often switch to manual gearing while driving off road for maximum control of your driveline. Disengaging is the other way around.
Engaging front and rear lockers
The HX60 also has the possibility to lock the rear and front differentials so there is 25% traction output to each wheel. This is especially important when you are cross-axled: a front wheel spinning and a wheel on the rear axle spinning, in that case you are a sitting duck and will not move forward or backwards (the power will go towards the spinning wheels and not the ones with traction).
When engaging a locker, traction will be equally divided between the left and right wheel thus making sure you will get out the cross-axle situation.
You can only engage the lockers on soft or slippery surfaces, see above. The front locker should be used as a last resort. Engaging the front locker means that you will lose your steering capabilities almost completely: the HX only wants to go straight forward.
Differential lockers should be used wisely: if not they will get you stuck in a very bad way (and make things even worse). Once the wheels start digging and you do not ease off, it will be a hell of a job getting out.
Treat all locking differentials with the utmost respect otherwise you will ruin them, or your transfer case which mounts up to very expensive repairs.
Engaging differential lockers (rear and front): you can engage the lockers ‘on the fly’ at very low speed but it is way better to stop the HX and engage the locker by pressing lever 3 (rear) and 4 (front) in a stand still position. You do not need to switch the gearbox into neutral. Normally you would first engage the rear locker and than the front locker. Disengaging is the other way around. Sometimes it may take a while to disengage, it can help driving backwards for a few meters or making a soft turn to release the pressure on the differential locker so it can ‘un-lock’.
We hope to have given some insight in the behaviour and switches of the MAN HX60. We do not pretend being professionals, this information is purely based on 30+ years of off roading in anything that moves and recent experiences with our Mountain Yacht.
As described the MAN HX 60 is very capable thanks to all the ‘gadgets’. However: the most important thing when driving off road is: engage your brain first, the rest (gadgets) after that.
Next blogs will cover driving on sand and tire pressures, the most effective tool in the armory.