A new compact SUV from Porsche, a company that maintains laser-like focus on developing its performance cars, might seem like a cynical ploy to enhance revenue in a hot segment. Well, the 2015 Porsche Macan may indeed be a means of increasing the bottom line, but it is not at all cynical.
The Macan, which looks like the Cayenne's adolescent cousin, proved itself worthy of the Porsche badge on its hood from the moment I fired up the engine and throughout the time I spent tearing along the backroads. At the same time, the Macan promises off-roading ability and shows off driver assistance technology that puts Porsche on the path towards autonomous driving.
The Macan S, with a twin turbocharged V-6, goes for $49,900, making it the cheapest Porsche model currently on the market. The example I drove was the Macan Turbo, with a larger twin turbo V-6, jumps the base price up to $72,300. That model goes for £59,300 in the UK, and AU$135,811 as its Driveaway price in Australia. Porsche offers a myriad array of options to personalize and improve the performance of the Macan, which can bump up the price considerably. Our review example came in at just under $90,000.
Sharing a platform with the Audi Q5, the Macan features the same 110.5-inch wheelbase. However, the Macan is longer by 2.5 inches and about 2 inches shorter in height. In the cabin, the roof might feel low for taller passengers--front and rear seating certainly reflect the compact SUV style of the Macan. On the other hand, I was impressed at the amount of cargo area, 17.7 cubic feet, when I opened the tailgate.
As this Macan had the keyless entry option, the ignition, rather than a button, was a weird sort of handle sticking out of the lower left dashboard. Twisting it, I was greeted with a pleasant and quick growl from the engine before it settled to idle. That was my first indication that the Macan would be more than the average compact SUV.
The engine here is a direct injection 3.6-liter V-6, not the flat sixes used in the 911. With twin turbos, one for each cylinder bank, and and a high compression ratio of 10.5:1, the engine produces 400 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. By contrast, the Macan S engine, a 3-liter V-6 with twin turbos, makes 340 horsepower. I don't think you will feel particularly let down by that smaller engine.
In default street mode, I found the Macan a little high-spirited. While it was easy to modulate acceleration from a stop, maintaining slow speeds in traffic proved tough. The Macan wanted to run, not be held back by the sea of mundane cars around it. Beyond the high power output, some of that behavior comes down to the Porsche Doppelkupplung seven speed dual clutch transmission (PDK), which comes standard in the Macan. I felt its gear changes more strongly than I would have with a typical torque converter automatic transmission, and the PDK hunted a bit at slower speeds.
That issue was a trifling price to pay when I got the Macan onto twisty backroads. With the optional air suspension equipped on this example and the standard four-wheel drive, it had grip for days. With buttons on the console, I could select Sport or Sport Plus modes. But rather than the often anemic Sport modes in other cars, which merely make the throttle program more sensitive, the Sport mode in the Macan means something. At the press of a single button the Macan adjusted its throttle, PDK, and traction control programs, and tightened up the suspension.
I had spent a while joyriding the car, feeling it out in the turns and accelerating on the straights, but then I found I hadn't been using all of the throttle. The middle third of gas pedal travel makes for a good time in the Macan, but when I pushed past the ample kickdown, the car brought all its 400 horsepower to bear. Suddenly I was blasting down the straights with mind-bending acceleration. Porsche didn't stint on the brakes, with six piston calipers up front, and I had to really start using them to shave off speed before a turn, jamming my foot down hard. Instead of immediate grab, the brakes gave me room to modulate, taking off a little or a lot of speed.
I could leave the PDK in automatic, and it rewarded me by downshifting as I braked, picking the right gear for my speed and brushing redline before its upshifts. Or, using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, I could choose my gears. Third and fourth became my go-to gears for the twisty bits, as the Macan had enough grip to let me push the speed in the turns.
Feeling something like a taller Cayman, the Porsche DNA was clearly evident from behind the wheel. The manual noted that the Sport Plus mode was designed for use on 'race circuits', and I don't doubt the Macan would prove its worth on a track day.
To be honest, I would have liked a more responsive program for the Macan's electric power steering in Sport mode. The steering feel did not seem to change from normal mode to Sport. I also did not feel a lot of rotation in the turns, which might have been ameliorated if the available torque vectoring system had been present on this car.
Unlike many crossovers with all-wheel-drive, the Macan biases torque to the rear wheels rather than the fronts. A convenient torque split view on the instrument cluster showed the majority of torque at the rear wheels for much of my driving, with a shift to the front wheels under acceleration in the turns or in other areas where there was likely to be some slip. The Macan's all-wheel-drive system is also designed to come into play for snow and off-road conditions. Although not a hardcore rock crawler, the air suspension added 1.5 inches of clearance when I pushed the car's off-road button, which also adjusts the traction program.