Porsche Macan review – the SUV that wants to be a sports car

Rivals have caught up, but the Macan remains an engaging and appealing sports SUV

Still looks good and drives well despite its advancing years
Quite heavy, absence of a diesel model harms running costs

The Porsche Macan is an unusual thing. Half huge hot hatch and half baby Cayenne, but this seemingly awkward mash-up actually works and has created a car that delivers a more exciting driving experience than you might expect.

Built on VW group’s MLB platform, the Macan shares around a third of its underbody components with the Audi Q5. The driving experience, however, feels distinctly Porsche, with an emphasis on interaction and enjoyment, rather than the load-lugging approach of the Q5.

Porsche has worked hard to mask the Macan’s mass and height, with the car exhibiting decent roll control and a steering set-up that brings proper interaction. Opt for the driver-focused Macan GTS and things get better still, while the Turbo is impressively quick both in a straight line and around corners.Advertisement

Although Porsche’s attempts have been successful, and the Macan is certainly impressive, don’t for a second think it comes close to a non-SUV Porsche for driver involvement. Ultimately, it’s a well-rounded package with a price point that will likely see potential buyers of specced-up X3s and Q5s jumping ship for the Porsche badge. It isn’t a proper sports car, but it’s about as close as we’ve seen an SUV come to being one.

Prices, specs and rivals

Pricing for the new Macan starts at $57,426, for the entry-level 245bhp four-cylinder simply badged ‘Macan’. Move up the model pyramid to $60,000 and you’ll find the Macan S, sporting two more cylinders, and favouring performance rather than frugality compared to the four-pot.

The next jump (much bigger) lands you the Macan GTS sitting at $72,000. The Porsche 911-baiting Macan Turbo sits atop the range at $83,887. Like the GTS and the S, the Turbo uses a six-cylinder power plant; there’s no V8 here like there is in the Cayenne.

  Core German rivals come in the shape of the BMW X4, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC Coupe, although none can match the Macan in terms of driving dynamics or sense of occasion. The X4 undercuts the Macan by only a few grand at base level, while the range-topping 355bhp M40i derivative elevates the sticker price into Macan GTS territory, at $69,516. The Q5 meanwhile begins at $50,700, and rises to $67,368 for the SQ5. The GLC range, meanwhile, ranges from $54,992, through $64,865 for the V6-engined GLC43 and $94,462 for the barmy 4-litre twin-turbo V8-powered GLC63.

Outside of the usual German brands the closest equivalents are the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar. All feature high-performance variants, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio using a 3.9-litre turbocharged V6 and the other two a 5-litre supercharged V8, but of them all (and including the German cars) it’s the Alfa that gets closest to the Macan, and possibly even eclipses it.

The Macan naturally feels the more sophisticated and is the better built of the pair, but the Stelvio’s startling performance, impressive ability and gloriously silly soundtrack will give it the edge for some. At $86,788 the Quadrifoglio isn’t cheap (though nor is it excessive for a car with 503bhp), but it’s a lot of fun.

Performance and 0-60 time

There are four Macan derivatives available and even the least of those, the turbocharged 2-litre, can be considered fairly brisk: at its slowest, the Macan is still a car capable of reaching 100kph in 6.7sec and going on to 223kph given a suitable stretch of autobahn.

The petrol Macan S is faster still, dispatching the 0-100kph sprint in 5.3sec and hitting 252kph flat out. But it’s the Turbo model that is by far the most impressive: a 4.3sec 0-100kph time with the Sport Chrono package is coupled with an equally as impressive 0-160kph time of 10.5sec, and a 268kph top speed – just a few decades ago you needed a 911 to reach such velocities.

Less impressive on paper, the driver-orientated Macan GTS is nevertheless still quick, its turbocharged V6 delivering a 0-100kph time of 4.7sec with Sport Chrono (enough to see off all but the quickest hot hatchbacks, despite a 1910kg kerb weight) and a 260kph top speed. There’s a sporty rasp to the exhaust too, which makes exploiting the GTS’s performance quite satisfying, even if there isn’t the outright punch of the Turbo-badged model.

The Turbo is positively ballistic, though with the recent change to the 2.9-litre unit and muffled by petrol particulate filters, the engine no longer sounds quite as inspiring as it once did. As previously referenced, the Macan’s autobahn gearing means you really need to stick to Sport or Sport+ modes, keep it in the lowest few gears, and select ratios yourself for it to feel truly brisk – a conventional hot hatchback such as a VW Golf R will feel quicker with less effort.

When you’re not trying to reach mile-a-minute speeds though, all of the Macan power plants are suitably cultured and blessed with smooth, consistent responses. For a car capable of worrying Boxsters and Caymans (or those aforementioned hot hatches), the way the Macan can also fade into the background as a quiet and refined cruiser is both welcome and impressive.

Engine and transmission

The entry-level Porsche Macan uses a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine derived from the EA888 unit you’ll find throughout much of the Volkswagen empire – and in cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R. In this application it actually develops less power than in VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda’s hot hatchbacks, with 242bhp at 5000rpm, but there’s a meaty 273lb ft of torque available from 1600rpm so performance is still on a par with many vehicles in the hot hatchback class.

It’s not the most inspiring of engines though, particularly for a car wearing the Porsche crest. Step up to the petrol Macan S and things get more interesting. Its 3-litre twin-turbo V6 produces 349bhp and 354lb ft of torque, the latter from 1360rpm. The engine here is a marked step above the four-cylinder in the entry-level car in performance, character and response, and feels much more suited to pushing the heavy Macan body along. And, more importantly, more fitting for a Porsche.

Within the Macan range the GTS is not, perhaps surprisingly, at the top of the tree. Instead it sits between the S and the Turbo, both in terms of price and power output, with its turbocharged 3-litre V6 dispensing 375bhp at 5200-6700rpm, and 384lb ft from 1750 to 5000rpm.

Really, though, it’s the Macan Turbo that delivers the most exhilarating performance. The most recent model update ditched the old 3.6-litre engine and brought in a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 similar to that of Audi’s RS4 and RS5 models. Power has risen by 39bhp to 434bhp at 5700-6600rpm, and it also gets 406lb ft from 1800 to 5600rpm.

It uses a seven-speed PDK twin-clutch auto – the transmission standard across the entire Macan range. It seems that the overlong gearing that blights the Boxster and Cayman is also present and (in)correct with the Macan. The PDK works well enough, with fast and smooth shifting, but if you hang on to gears in manual mode you’re looking at high (and illegal) speeds in second and third. Shifts are very smooth, very fast and particularly responsive to the paddles, though – PDK remains one of the best dual-clutch transmissions on the market.

While none of the turbocharged engines has quite the character of one of Porsche’s (increasingly rare) naturally aspirated flat-sixes, it’s hard to argue with the figures they produce, particularly given the size and weight of the Macan. A basic 2-litre Macan is 1795kg, rising to 1945kg for the Macan Turbo.

It’s got a proper sports car chassis though, with double wishbones at both ends and on the GTS and Turbo, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is standard fit (it’s $1000 on the others), with an air-sprung PASM set-up optional at $2276 on the Macan and S, or $1277 on the GTS and Turbo. Ceramic brakes are an option too, at nearly $6977.

Ride and handling

Of all the crossovers and performance SUVs we’ve driven, the Macan does the best job of disguising its size. At times, it feels not unlike a big hot hatch, doing a great job of delivering interaction and performance that you’d normally expect in a smaller car.

This is largely helped by the Macan’s steering, which is a cut above the competition’s. With plenty of weight and, crucially, some proper feel and interaction when you need it, it almost feels out of place in a five-seat 4×4.

Rather than opting for a super-light steering set-up, which many SUVs use in an attempt to hide their weight, Porsche has instead engineered a system that genuinely makes the car exciting to drive, but never leaves it feeling cumbersome or unwieldy. Combined with strong grip levels, you have the confidence to drive the Macan a lot harder than you would a conventional quick SUV.

Problems can arise, though, when the Macan simply can’t do any more to disguise its mass. That sharp front end and impressive traction can quickly melt into understeer should you overstep the Macan’s dynamic envelope.

As for the ride, the steel-sprung PASM set-up (standard on the GTS and Turbo) is more than acceptable for daily driving when in its Comfort mode, but those expecting a softened-off luxury 4×4 may be slightly thrown by how much stiffer the Macan feels when in its Sport setting. In fact, if you want an SUV for wafting about in, you may find a Range Rover Velar an altogether more comfortable option. But those who want a more exciting drive will find the Porsche’s body control and stability a cut above.

Ultimately, though, the Macan feels like a balanced and well-executed performance SUV. Grip levels and outright pace are also very impressive, particularly in the Macan GTS and Turbo, which feel quick enough to easily stay with a properly sorted hot hatch.

The GTS is a particular highlight. It’s sharp – best driven in Sport+ virtually everywhere – and reactive, delivering decent feedback too through the weighty steering, and there’s a more interesting exhaust note with the occasional exhaust crackle. Given its weight, the clean steering response and impressive brake power and feel are particularly welcome. There’s even, if you’re brave and there’s plenty of space, the possibility for a little power oversteer.

There’s a sense that the car is ruthlessly bludgeoning the laws of physics into submission rather than deftly bending as a lighter car might, and we’d still opt for a lighter, lower car for genuine entertainment, but nonetheless it’s a deeply impressive display.

L/100km and running costs

With a diesel engine no longer offered in the Macan range, it falls to the 2-litre four-cylinder model to offer the highest economy figures. ‘High’ is a relative term, as while up to 10L/100km isn’t bad for such a heavy vehicle, nor is it impressive outright these days, and the corresponding 185g/km of CO2 means a fairly punchy first-year VED bill is included in the on-the-road price.

The numbers steadily diminish from there, with the Macan S achieving up to 11L/100km combined and 204g/km, the Macan GTS 11.3L/100km and 218g/km of CO2, and the Turbo topping (or bottoming) the list at 11.4L/100km and 224g/km. On the plus side, real-world figures do seem close to these official WLTP estimates, with numbers in the mid-20s to low 30s achievable in mixed driving.

But where the old Macan S Diesel had an NEDC combined figure of nearly 6.3L/100km, around 40.3L/100km better than the 2-litre’s old NEDC figure, Macan buyers searching for better economy will be left wanting. That should improve with the next-generation Macan though, which is expected to sit on the Porsche Taycan’s platform, thereby offering an electric variant.

Interior and tech

There’s no doubt that the Macan’s interior feels a cut above those of its rivals, but thanks to widespread use of the colour black, it can still be a fairly dour and Germanic place to be depending on which model you’re looking at.

Fit and finish is very good, while the ability to customise the Macan’s interior fairly extensively ensures that those who are looking for something special will find it here, albeit at a cost. With tan, red and light grey trim options in all models, it’s one way of breaking free from all the darkness, while the more in-depth Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur options can really bring a bit of life to the cabin.

Most technology packs are cost options, but lately Porsche has improved its in-car tech so it no longer lags rival systems from BMW, Audi or Mercedes (and it’s still better than the versions you’ll find in Jaguar’s F-Pace or the Alfa Stelvio). The centre console can feel a little button-heavy, but for some this will still be preferable to accessing important functions through a touchscreen.

The Macan boasts 1500 litres of luggage space with its rear seats folded, 100 litres down on an X3. It is, however, a better shape, so the available space will be easier to utilise. There’s decent space for passengers front and rear, but a Cayenne will seat four or five in greater comfort. The Macan’s driving position is excellent however, being more similar to that of a 911 than most SUVs seem to manage.

This article originally appeared at evo.co.uk

Copyright © evo UK, Dennis Publishing

Categories: EVO


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