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.
Merely rolling down the freeway, the Macan was a comfortable ride, although still evincing more engagement than your average crossover or SUV. A lane departure prevention system, new for Porsche, was so aggressive I found it could pretty much steer the car itself. The system, which only works above 40 mph, uses a forward-looking camera to identify lane lines, then actively turns the wheel to prevent drift into other lanes. The system actually twisted the wheel a bit under my hands to keep the car in the center of its lane. On the backroads, I turned it off because I found myself fighting it.
Although not equipped on this model, Porsche makes adaptive cruise control available, which would almost make it an autonomous car. I did have a rear view camera, which included trajectory lines. It was very helpful when parking the Macan, but suffered from the small, 7-inch LCD in the dashboard.
For dashboard electronics, the Macan gets the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management system (PCM), also hosted on the center touchscreen. The response times from this system were reasonably fast, and it let me access major features from hard buttons on the bezel. Finding settings for the navigation system or the car's lighting, as examples, proved a little confusing but that's a problem common to many modern cars.
Porsche makes voice command a separate option, which is a little weird, but the system works well, offering control over many infotainment features, including the ability to select music by album and artist name. As for connected features, the PCM in the Macan shows traffic on the navigation system, but all other data comes in through optional integration with the Aha app. It was not equipped on this car, but I have seen the implementation in other Porsche models. The system requires the Aha app running on a phone that is connected to the car. It offers numerous online audio channels accessible with the car's touchscreen, and also lets you search for nearby hotels and restaurants.
At this price level, however, I would prefer a dedicated data connection to the PCM with built-in online destination search.
The navigation system's maps looked good, except for the overlay of highways, traffic information, and route guidance, which resulted in a panoply of colors that became confusing. Given the Macan's off-road promise, I would have liked some off-road oriented software on the PCM, such as laying a breadcrumb trail of where I've driven and showing the car's pitch and roll angles. For the driver, Porsche takes the interesting step of making the right-most gauge opening in the instrument cluster an LCD, which can show trip data, navigation map, phone, or current song selection. That display can even show the Macan's torque split.
The Macan offers the usual digital audio sources, including satellite and HD radio, and a USB port in the console. Bluetooth streaming, an SD card slot and the car's own hard drive round out the sources. While USB port, SD card slot, and hard drive sources let you see a music library screen, the Bluetooth streaming only shows track information, along with skip and pause controls.
This Macan came equipped with the Burmester audio option, which brings in 16 speakers powered by a 1,000 watt amp, and a subwoofer with its own 300-watt amp. It is a pricey option at $4,290, but the sound quality is exquisite. I was particularly impressed with how well it handled bass, delivering a subsonic shock through the car that did not cause any ugly panel rattle or other non-musical reverberations. This system produces a very clean sound, the idea being letting the music play as it was supposed to sound. However, Burmester includes a set of profiles called Live, Surround, and Smooth that change the audio character a bit.
An everyday Porsche
The cabin electronics, interior space, compact exterior dimensions, and drivability both on and off-road make the 2015 Porsche Macan Turbo a very impressive all-around car. It certainly deserves the Porsche badge, even more so than the Cayenne. For performance, the PDK is amazing, the engine power just won't quit, and you will have to work very hard to find the limits of grip. The only part of this puzzle I missed was a sport steering program.
Fuel economy doesn't rate very high with the Macan Turbo, only coming in at 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. However, those figures are realistic, as I came in with a solid 19 mpg after a week-long driving program. The Macan S, with its smaller turbocharged V-6, earns the same EPA figures. Porsche includes an idle-stop feature to save fuel when stopped at traffic lights. It was pretty aggressive, wanting to stop the engine any time I brought the car to a stop, but you can turn that feature off easily enough with a button on the console.
In other markets, Porsche offers the Macan with a four cylinder engine. The Macan S, with its 340 horsepower and similar equipment to the Macan Turbo, will likely not disappoint most drivers. And its base price, coming in at a lot less than the Turbo, makes it an attractive model, but you will lose the 400-horsepower bragging rights.
|Powertrain||Direct-injection turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional, with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, HD radio, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Burmester 1,300-watt 17-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Lane-departure prevention, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$87,805|