2023 Porsche Macan T First Drive Review: Building a Better Base
Standard performance and design features make the base Macan more attractive.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
No mainstream automaker embraces the a la carte vehicle ordering process quite like
. But every once in a while, the company bundles some of its most popular add-ons to create a new trim level in one of its model lines. Sometimes it's all about performance, while other times, it's all about value. In the case of the 2023 Macan T, it's a little of both.
The T designation isn't new for Porsche. The company currently sells the 718 Boxster T and 718 Cayman T, and previously offered the 911 Carrera T -- not to mention T-badged historic models. The 2023 Macan T follows the same formula as those sports cars, pairing a model's base engine offering with design and performance options usually reserved for higher trim levels. When it arrives in the US near the end of this year, the Macan T will slot between the base Macan and the more powerful Macan S.
Most of the T's extras can be found on other Macans. The 20-inch wheels come from the Macan S and replace the base SUV's standard 19s. Porsche also throws in the Sport Chrono package (which includes launch control) as well as its Active Suspension Management adaptive damper tech. The Macan T has gray exterior accents and gloss black tailpipes, and inside, you'll find eight-way power seats with striped cloth inserts, a heated steering wheel and a few other little flourishes.
Because the T builds off the base Macan, it's powered by the entry-level 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine. Don't let that deter you, though; the engine's 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque are more than adequate for this 4,112-pound compact crossover, especially since the low-end thrust arrives at just 1,800 rpm. Porsche estimates a respectable 5.8-second 0-to-60-mph time for the Macan T, matching that of a Sport Chrono-equipped base model.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts smoothly and seamlessly in the background, though you can always grab one of the steering wheel-mounted paddles if you're feeling frisky. Like every other Macan, the T uses all-wheel drive, and Porsche says the traction control system was retuned just for this model, adding more rear bias than before. On the freeways and canyon roads around Los Angeles, I can't say I really notice a difference, but the T is nevertheless light, playful and enjoys being driven with gusto.
My test model has the optional air suspension as well as Porsche's torque vectoring system. The former can automatically lower itself at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag, and the air chambers combined with the adaptive dampers result in a seriously smooth ride. None of that comes at the expense of cornering sloppiness, however; the Macan T hunkers down in bends and genuinely drives with the sort of poise you'd expect from a Porsche. Torque vectoring shuffles power from side to side as needed, allowing the wheel with the most grip to best make use of the available oomph. The Macan's standard steel brakes are perfectly fine, but if for some reason you need/want more stopping power, you can order a T with Porsche's Surface-Coated Brake setup. These stoppers are pretty impressive, but not exactly necessary on a crossover that'll likely never be pushed that hard.
Instead, you're better off spending that money on some of the Macan's driver-assistance technologies, since -- in typical Porsche fashion -- most of them will be optional. Lane-departure warning and parking sensors are standard on this German-spec test car, while things like a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control all cost extra. The official US-spec lists of standard and optional equipment will be finalized before the Macan goes on sale.
The cabin tech carries over unchanged from other Macans, so you'll get Porsche's slightly older multimedia software displayed on a 10.9-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay is supported and connects wirelessly, but unlike many other new Porsches, Android Auto remains unavailable. The T can also be ordered with all the Macan's other interior upgrades, like a Bose surround sound system or a wireless charging pad.
Official pricing isn't available yet, but Porsche says the Macan T will start in the low-$60,000 range. That puts it only a few thousand dollars shy of the more powerful Macan S, and while I love all of the T's additions, it's hard to ignore the call of a 375-hp twin-turbo V6. More powerful competitors like the Audi SQ5, BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 play in this price range, too, though the slower Macan is still the more engaging steer.
But hey, if you don't need the go to back up the show, the stylish Macan T is a great choice. And if you were to add all the T's standard equipment to a base Macan, you'd actually end up spending more money. There's a time and a place for a la carte ordering, but the package-deal Macan T is a pretty smart buy.