Crossovers and small SUVs are typically not an area of great interest for car enthusiasts. So what would it take to get the motorheads of the world to pay attention to the debut of a baby ‘ute? When that vehicle is built by Porsche.
The purists have been scoffing at vehicles like the Cayenne SUV and Panamera four-door sports car since their arrival. But these vehicles have been proven sales successes, and their profits lead to the development of the next generation vehicles like the 911 and 918. As such, the purists can pipe down while Porsche generates the profits necessary to develop a world-class sports car in the 21st century. Porsche is building more cars than it ever has, and even their least-performance-focused car is still a million times more attractive and engaging than your run-of-the-mill daily driver.
And the same can be said for the all-new Macan, Porsche’s answer to the luxury compact crossover. Unlike its perceived competitors, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi SQ5 and BMW X3, the Macan is a turn-key performance machine, formed in the guise of a useful daily driver, but bristling with capability for the track or the trail.
The Macan rides on the MLB platform, designed by parent company Volkswagen, and shared with the Audi Q5. These new platforms deliver a new level of versatility for production, where very different vehicles can be designed and produced together, thus lowering the cost for the consumer. You can see elements of the Q5 in the overall outline of the Macan, but everything else screams “Porsche.”
It would be too easy to brand the Macan a baby Cayenne, but there are many design elements on the Macan that point to the future of Porsche design. For one, the headlights are derived from the mid-engined Boxster. The hood and front grille speaks to the four-door Panamera, while the taillights are inspired by the 918 Spyder hypercar. In short, the Macan is a melting pot of some of Porsche’s best current and future design cues.
If you note the clean rear end, you will observe that there is no handle for the rear hatch. Rather, there is a button hidden in the base of the rear wiper, which activates the power open-close rear lift-gate. It is just one of the many inventive features that make the Macan more than just a performance crossover.
The Macan is available in the base “S” trim, which starts at $49,900, and the uprated “Turbo” model, which fetches an MSRP of $72,300. Like any German luxury brand, expect to pay $5,000-$10,000 in options to get a Macan outfitted with the features you’d like.
Despite the names, both trims of the Macan are turbocharged. The Macan S is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharge V6 making 340 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The Macan Turbo features a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 400 horsepower and 406 pound feet of torque.
Both engines are mated to a 7-speed PDK direct-shift gearbox, which puts power to all four wheels. The Macan S can get from zero to sixty in just 5.4 seconds, while the Macan Turbo will get to sixty mph in just 4.6 seconds. Both models are listed at 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway (though you won’t get that kind of fuel economy in the middle of a zero-to-sixty run).
The Macan is available with several different options for suspension and power management. The base coil shocks are responsive and great for daily driving, and even putting the Macan close to its limits. But you will reach a point where the front tires start to squeal and lose traction. If you plan on driving your Macan a little harder there is the available air suspension and optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM.
The air suspension can raise and lower the vehicle according to driving needs (lower at high speeds, higher on the trail).
Meanwhile, PASM can constantly adjust the stiffness of the suspension individually. Additionally, the Macan is available with torque vectoring, which can put additional power to the outside wheels of a turn, helping to “push” the Macan around a curve. Individually, these features help push the Macan to its performance limits– combined, they allow the Macan to defeat the laws of physics, as all 4,000 pounds move around the track like a sports car.
Inside, the driver is treated to a cabin that is reminiscent of a Panamera, but with more leg and headroom. The driver controls are all well positioned, and the digital screen in the instrument cluster is customizable to feature specific vehicle data, stereo status, and even the map from the navigation system.
Unfortunately, the main digital screen and supporting controls are not as intuitive. Many automakers have found simple and easy ways to organize menus and functions on navigation screens, but the Macan’s system is not well thought out. The right turn knob that one would think controls the radio at all times is repurposed to zoom in and out when the map screen is selected. You will definitely go to change the channel and accidentally zoom the map. It is too bad that a center console that is so rife with buttons doesn’t have a simple and easy to use layout.
But it is a small price to pay for what is an overall exceptional vehicle. This year, sales for crossovers and SUVs surpassed sedan sales for the first time in the history of car sales. It is a credit to the idea that, despite criticisms from purists, crossovers are the vehicular equivalent to a Swiss Army knife– able to handle a great many duties in one car. Unlike most crossovers, the Macan has sports car DNA running through it, making it one of the few crossovers that are exciting to drive. After all– it is still a Porsche!