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2022 Porsche Macan first drive review: Turbo-four is hardly a bore

Porsche finally throws us the keys to a four-cylinder Macan, and whaddaya know, it's pretty stinkin' good.

The base Macan starts at $56,250, but this tester costs a whole lot more.

Porsche

It feels a little weird to use descriptors like "slowest" and "least powerful" when describing a Porsche, but hey, facts are facts. The base, four-cylinder Macan is the slowest, least powerful new Porsche you can buy. But it's still one of the best-driving compact luxury SUVs around.

For 2022, all Macans get fresh duds, including a redesigned front fascia, new wheel options, a broader color palette and a couple other nips and tucks. Stem to stern, the Macan looks as good as ever, with optional LED lighting pointing the way forward and that super cool clear-lens light bar slicing across the width of the rear hatch.

The Macan's most important updates are instead found inside. The whole center console is new, adopting the same flat, backlit design Porsche uses in the 911, Cayenne and Panamera. This appearance finally brings the formerly button-heavy Macan into the 2020s, though the piano black panel is a total magnet for dust and finger smudges. Maybe keep a microfiber cloth handy in the center console so your passengers don't think you're a mess (physically, anyway).

Rather than switching to an electronic shift-by-wire setup, the Macan uses a shorter version of its big ol' chunky gear lever, with surprisingly long steps between the unmarked PRNDL positions. Slim air vents sit below the larger infotainment screen, with real knobs for volume and tuning within easy reach for front passengers. And good news, horology nerds, there's a standard analog clock perched atop the dash.

The 10.9-inch high-definition central display runs Porsche's newer-but-not-newest multimedia software, meaning Apple CarPlay connects wirelessly but Android Auto is still MIA (for now). Taps and swipes on the screen are met with immediate responses, and the bright colors, crisp fonts and reconfigurable home screen are still hallmarks of Porsche's easy-to-use infotainment suite.

As usual, the world is your oyster when it comes to building your perfect Macan. Different cloth and leather seating options are available, and you can pick Papaya, Gentian Blue or Chalk accent stitching for a little pop of color. All the usual goodies can be added for a price: a panoramic sunroof, 14- or 18-way power seats, heated everything, upgraded audio and so on. Porsche continues to nickel-and-dime customers on driver-assistance technology, with lane-departure warning and parking sensors as the only standard equipment. If you want blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist or a 360-degree camera system, better open that wallet, friend-o.

A larger infotainment screen and redesigned center console are the Macan's biggest updates.

Porsche

No surprise, performance upgrades are a similar story. An adaptive air suspension, torque-vectoring tech and the Sport Chrono pack (which adds the push-to-pass Sport Response boost button) all require more cash, though they go a long way toward making the base Macan really entertaining to drive. Combine those options with Porsche's always-great steering, solid brakes and nicely damped suspension, and even this least-powerful Macan can still boogie its way up a mountain road with gusto.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine is the same one you'll find under the hoods of a whole bunch of other Volkswagen Group products, making 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet in this application, increases of 13 hp and 22 lb-ft compared to the 2021 Macan. Accelerating to 60 mph takes 6 seconds flat -- slower than the base Cayenne by one measly tenth of a second -- though if you get the Sport Chrono pack, launch control reduces that time to 5.8 ticks.

Now, before I continue, a quick sidebar. Despite the 2.0-liter engine accounting for the majority of Macan sales (Porsche estimates about 60% historically), the company has long been hesitant to offer this configuration to US media for testing. In fact, this story represents the first time I've ever driven a four-cylinder Macan, and that's true for a bunch of other long-tenured car writers I know, too.

No matter the engine, the Macan is really nice to drive.

Porsche

But after spending time with the 2.0-liter Macan, I don't really get Porsche's reluctance. The engine's peak torque arrives at just 1,800 rpm, letting you pull away from stoplights with authority and pass sluggish semi-trucks on the highway without needing to drop a gear. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission quickly upshifts and downshifts, and is happy to hang out near the redline if you switch the drive mode dial to Sport Plus. Does the 2.0T sound particularly good? Not really. But that's easy to augment with the optional sport exhaust.

For the vast majority of compact luxury SUV buyers, the 2.0-liter's output is plenty. And thanks to Porsche's top-notch steering and chassis tuning, this slowest Macan is still more entertaining to drive than four-cylinder versions of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Genesis GV70 or Volvo XC60. Problem is, fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired. The EPA has yet to release 2022 Macan numbers, but the 2021 model with this engine was estimated to return a pretty dismal 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.

The base Porsche Macan is a great car, with excellent tech, plenty of room for passengers and unmatched driving dynamics in the compact SUV class. Problem is, it ain't cheap. Sure, at $56,250 (including $1,350 for destination), this Macan is the least expensive way to park a brand-new Porsche in your driveway. But the (admittedly loaded) Volcano Gray example tested here? It's $85,340. That's $3,000 more than the starting price of the top-shelf 434-hp Macan GTS.

The base Macan has 19-inch wheels standard, but this tester rides on 20s.

Porsche

People who don't care about performance likely won't mind the 2.0-liter's power deficit compared to other Macan models. But it stands to reason those folks probably don't put a lot of weight on great driving attributes, either. For them, things like creature comforts and onboard tech are stronger selling points, which makes all of the aforementioned competitors better overall values.

All told, there's very little to fault with the base 2022 Macan. But if you're going to shell out for a nicely spec'd one, more power is just one more option that's hard to resist.