photography by Jurgen Skarwan
The Porsche Macan is Stuttgart’s new SUV, the smaller, younger brother of the Cayenne – a huge commercial success.
It’s slightly shorter, a tad narrower but noticeably lower (100mm) than the Cayenne, and although the spec of the new Porsche looks similar to the Audi Q5 on which it’s based, dynamically the two vehicles roam separate orbits.
This is our first experience of the new SUV, and we're riding shotgun with Porsche engineer, race driver and 918 customer-scarer, Guido Majewski.
What’s the line-up?
The Macan S we’re in is positioned comfortably between the 229bhp base model and the awesome 395bhp turbo. Under the S’s bonnet is a 335bhp twin-turbo, direct injection 3.0-litre V6 with 339lb ft of torque available all the way from 1450 to 5000rpm.
Every Macan comes with Porsche’s twin-clutch seven-speed gearbox, which can be put into sailing mode to save fuel. Performance? The 0-62mph run is dispatched in 5.4sec before a 159mph top.
Typical Porsche cabin, too?
The interior of the Macan is extremely well made. The soft natural leather comes with matching stitching and piping, all the brightwork is made of real metal with fit and finish that couldn’t be better. The secondary controls which crowd the centre console remain unintuitive to use, but adjusting the temperature can be done without looking down, the new multi-functional steering-wheel is a step in the right direction, and the long list of options gives the well-to-do plenty of food for deliberation.
New features include a real-time torque split display, a high-end Burmester music center and Porsche’s dynamic light system.
Does it go like a smaller Cayenne?
Instead of behaving like a 1.9-tonner on steroids with an elevated centre of gravity, poise and precision seem to be two of the Macan’s outstanding features. Even from the front passenger seat, it feels more like a laden Audi S4 Avant than an SUV, because instead of Quattro four-wheel drive that the Q5 uses, the Macan boasts the same high-trick AWD system as the Cayenne. In essence, this is a rear-wheel drive vehicle with an on-demand instant all-wheel-drive function.
Thanks to VarioCam Plus which adjusts both camshafts for seamless twist action, the V6 grows a grunt curve most normally aspirated V8s would be proud of; the electro-mechanical steering is light and quick and even fuel-efficient, and takes a middle ground for feel and weight. The fitted air suspension adopted from the Cayenne is a Porsche first in this segment, and it lowers the ride height by 15mm and pushes the car a further 10mm closer to the ground in Sport Plus mode, while raising the body by 40mm when the driver hits the off-road button.
So it’s to be taken seriously, then?
Absolutely. With PASM in the raciest setting, the transmission set to paddle-shift and the Sport button pushed, the Macan finally sheds its SUV mask and bares its sports car character. PSM is now regularly required to reel in the bow or stern running wide, the V6 keeps hitting its 6700rpm redline in a raucous effort to fuse its power and torque curves, and the racing line becomes more and more radical. The initial bite feel from the steel brakes (ceramics are an option) is prompt and confidence-inspiring, the actual brake performance feels nicely progressive, powerful and positive.
What about off-road?
In a habitat few owners are ever likely to explore, the Macan S excels. While you’d be better off on smaller 19in rubber, it seems that the Macan’s surprisingly easy to set up via steering and throttle, after which Majewski dabs the brake pedal for that critical rear-to-front weight transfer and then rides the wave of torque without the need to flip the upshift paddle. Near the Leipzig track, steep inclines are few and far between, but the Macan did run up a cobblestone ramp with eyes closed, dive down a sickbag trail with snarling Hill Descent Control, and hug a wild incline without coming even close to tripping over.
There’s little doubt that Porsche’s plan to build 50,000 Macans per year won’t meet demand. It may be an SUV but it’s a proper Porsche in terms of appearance and talent, it blends street cred and desirability with a reasonable pricetag and it might just be, for the many rivals in this booming segment, a worst nightmare.