After shutting the world out with the thud of the door, there’s a brief moment of silence only to be broken by an audible click. That’s not from the repeater watch in your Buben & Zorweg at home, but from the minute hand of the dashboard’s clock making its way past the 60-second mark.
This is the Macan, Porsche’s latest sport utility vehicle (SUV). Another pretentious off-roader, you say? You bought a repeater watch not because you needed a complication invented before electric lighting or luminous watch dials; you enjoy its mechanical intricacy and performance. That’s pretty much the same with the Macan.
Porsche created a niche for itself more than 10 years ago with the introduction of the Cayenne SUV. Fans were up in arms as they saw it as a “dilution” of the Stuttgart brand. Today, the Cayenne outsells the venerable 911 almost three to one. Porsche cleared the path for other premium marques to jump on the SUV bandwagon.
For 12 years, those wanting a SUV that’s as capable off road as it is on it, would have to “settle” for the mammoth of a Cayenne.
But the Macan changes all that. You can now slip, instead of climb up, into a four-door Porsche that can go off the tarmac. The Stuttgart brand touts it as “the sports car among compact SUVs”. It’s a big claim
to make but, after driving it, you’ll immediately realise that it isn’t kidding.
The Macan is offered as the Macan Diesel S, and three petrol models: Macan, Macan S and Macan Turbo – in order of ascending prices, and standard of equipment and performance. The model tested here is the Macan S.
This middle child doesn’t act like one and probably offers the most well-rounded proposition of the three petrol models. It is powered by Porsche’s 3-litre twin-turbo V6 engine that puts out 340bhp and 460Nm of torque, which makes its engine displacement 2.5bhp/litre more than the Turbo version.
At just over 1,800kg, the Macan S can hurtle from a standstill to 100kmh in a scant 5.2 seconds. Our test ride had the Sport Chrono package that adds the Sport Plus button and the repeater-like clock on the dashboard that doubles up as a chronometer. A similarly equipped Macan Turbo will do the same sprint 0.6 seconds faster – hardly justifying the $100,000 premium it commands over the S.
Power is delivered via a dual-clutch transmission and an all-wheel drive system. While power is mostly through the back wheels, all of it can be channelled to the front when the rear loses grip. This ensures surefootedness not only when taking fast corners, but also over slippery or even muddy surfaces.
The Macan S tested has an active suspension system that can be set in either Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus mode – in order of increasing stiffness.
The softest setting can feel unsorted over rough roads, while Sport Plus is best for hard-driving jaunts. Sport offers the most balanced handling and shows off the brilliant chassis. While steering responds swiftly to inputs and offers great feedback, it could have more heft. Braking is both direct and confident, thanks to the six-piston calipers up front.
Its interior is well-built, and its fit and finish are top-notch, giving occupants both a sense of sportiness and luxury. The three-spoke steering wheel is inspired by that in the 918 supercar and the Macan is the first Porsche to inherit this sporty bit.
There’s plenty of room in the back, even for tall passengers. Fold down the rear bench seats to expand the 500-litre boot up to three times. However, the high entry point of the rear hatch can make loading heavy cargo unnecessarily tedious.
Interestingly, Porsche offers only a two-zone climate control as standard, and rear air-conditioning is a paid option.
But all is forgiven when the powerised hatch is shut. The curves of the Macan take cues from the 911 and even the 918. Moving to the front, the Macan’s facade is imposing on anyone’s rearview mirror.
The Macan is packed with technological wizardry, not unlike complicated movements in a repeater watch. While it has strong rivals, there is none that offers the same level of engagement and performance, at least for the Macan S.
- October 2014