2019 Porsche Macan S review: A diamond with few flaws
Since its inception in 2014, the Porsche Macan has reigned as the sportiest choice in the compact luxury crossover segment. Whereas the larger Cayenne is a bit more family-oriented, the Macan stands as a sort of halfway measure for folks who want something lively, but larger than the usual sports car.
Refreshed for the 2019 model year, Porsche doubled down on its positioning, creating a new Macan that still places driving dynamics first. That tunnel vision means other details have gotten lost in the periphery, however. It's not perfect, but it still shines in the right instances.
Sporty looks, with some sacrifices
Part of the 2019 Macan's midcycle update includes a general freshening of its aesthetics, although I'm not necessarily of the belief that it's any fresher than before. I think a good bit of my wishy-washy attitude comes from the rear-end redo, where the taillight stripe running the width of the trunk is pretty thick and almost gives my Macan S tester a Dodge Durango look. It's now up to date with the rest of the Porsche lineup, but I'm not totally sold on it.
The rest of the car's aesthetics are pretty stellar. The Macan is nearly sport-sedan low, and its front end still has the rakish aggressiveness that I liked when it originally debuted. The sports-car feel exists everywhere, from the clever clamshell hood with headlight cutouts to the fact that you actually slide down into the seat when entering. That low seating position is something that Porsche does well, even on larger vehicles I've tested like the new Cayenne.
Once inside, the Macan is easy to get used to. The seating position is excellent, and the seats themselves provide plenty of support, even in the back row. Visibility is decent, although the Macan's styling does eat up a smidgeon of the rear window. Even though my tester is a compact SUV, the second row offers ample headroom for taller passengers, and while the legroom is on the tighter side, it isn't uncomfortable.
While the interior is good, it's not perfect. Button-averse folk will not enjoy the Macan's center console, which is littered with physical switchgear in a way that can be intimidating at first. There's a surprising amount of mediocre plastics in here, too, some of which are placed rather prominently, like around the cupholders. The biggest bummer, though, comes from the cargo space -- coming in below 18 cubic feet, the Macan S offers one of the smallest capacities in its segment.
Sporty driving, with some sacrifices
Even on larger cars, Porsche's prized attention to how a car drives will shine through. That's more than evident in the Macan S. My tester comes equipped with Porsche's $1,360 multimode adaptive damping system, which can firm or soften the suspension depending on the driver's preference. Even in its most comfortable setting, the car is still plenty stiff, translating more than the usual amount of movement from the road to the body. Don't get me wrong, it's still composed over those bumps, but you'll feel 'em nevertheless.
There are two possible remedies here. One would be to avoid my tester's $3,140 upsized 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Latitude Sport 3 summer tires (265/45 front, 295/40 rear), which will also likely reduce some of the road noise that permeates the cabin. The other solution is opting for Porsche's four-corner air suspension, but at $2,750, it's an even pricier proposition than the adaptive dampers my tester wears.
While the body stiffness might result in some discomfort during daily driving, it becomes a boon when the going gets spirited. That sharpness results in some properly fun times on twisty backroads and highway cloverleafs, especially when it's combined with the Macan's well-weighted steering rack. Spin the little mode dial on the steering wheel to Sport or Sport Plus, and it barely even feels like an SUV. If your commute to work involves woodsy state routes instead of kindergarten drop-off lines, you'll feel every inch of Porsche's engineering prowess in there.
The refreshed Macan S ditches its old twin-turbo V6 in favor of a single-turbo V6. Output rises to 348 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, improvements of 8 and 15, respectively. The 3.0-liter engine gives me all the torque I could need with very little effort, save for some turbo lag lower in the rev band. It's surprisingly quiet everywhere but directly behind the vehicle, but Porsche has a $2,930 solution for that in its optional active exhaust.
Normally, I'd tell you that Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox is one of the best cog-swappers I've had the pleasure of using, but something feels off in the Macan S. When I leave it in its most comfortable setting, it short shifts at every possible instance, requiring some thought and a couple downshifts to get back on the power as needed. Moving to its sportier settings will let it stretch its legs almost too much, reaching rather high into the rev band and all but ignoring seventh gear, even at highway speeds.
I wish there were a middle-ground setting, which would be perfect for me, but in lieu of that, I find manual gear changes to best suit my driving style. I understand Porsche uses the PDK here instead of the Cayenne's eight-speed automatic for additional sportiness, but I think the Cayenne's transmission is better suited for everyday crossover driving.
Odds are, you're not buying the Porsche Macan because it's fuel efficient, which is good, because it's not. While a battery-electric version will arrive with the next generation, for now, this compact crossover remains thirsty. Thanks to the high-power engine and all-wheel drive, my Macan S tester sits right on top of the EPA's estimates of 18 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway. 25 mpg is possible, but only if you strive to stay out of the boost.
Solid tech, with some sacrifices
The pre-refresh Macan used Porsche's previous-generation PCM infotainment system, which was straightforward but a little light on features. The 2019 model, on the other hand, picks up the latest iteration of PCM, which is capital-G Great. The 10.9-inch touchscreen has redundant physical buttons for quickly swapping between its various functions, but PCM's real secret lies in its home screen, which is thoroughly configurable and allows me to have all the information I need at a quick glance. Most days, I don't need to venture deeper than that.
Having everything available on the PCM screen is good, because there's no head-up display on offer, and the screen tucked into the three-dial gauge cluster is only sort of OK. I like that I can swap through a few different displays, but the graphics are still from the last generation, so I usually leave it showing oil and water temperature while the main PCM screen handles everything else.
I'm also a huge fan of the two standard rear USB ports, which is always a nice touch. Apple CarPlay is available, but despite the fact that Apple offers it to automakers for free, Porsche has deigned to charge owners for it, either as a $360 standalone or as part of the $3,110 Premium Package. Android Auto remains absent, which is a little frustrating.
There's no greater point of technological consternation, though than the Macan's safety-system offerings. Standard assists are limited to parking sensors and a lane-departure warning that makes a silly little futuristic noise that takes some getting used to. Literally everything else costs a non-insignificant amount of money. A surround-view camera array is $1,200. Lane-keep assist is $700. Adaptive cruise control with automatic braking is $1,170. Considering how many competitors offer some of these gratis, Porsche's reluctance to do the same is growing ever more apparent with each new model.
How I'd spec it
My 2019 Macan S tester carries a base price of $58,600, but a heavy lean on aesthetic upgrades and a smattering of creature comfort brings the price up to an eye-watering $70,990, including the mandatory $1,250 destination charge.
Starting with the base Macan, I'll add $700 for metallic paint, but I'll skip adding larger wheels, as the stock 18-inchers should make the ride more comfortable. I'll retain the $3,110 Premium Package, which adds Apple CarPlay, heated front and rear seats, autodimming mirrors, adaptive headlights and a Bose audio system.
Since I live in a state known for its bad roads, I'll want the $2,750 air suspension upgrade. And since I enjoy hearing the engine I paid for, I'll reluctantly throw another $2,930 at the two-stage active exhaust system. My two remaining upgrades are the surround-view camera ($1,200) to aid with parking and keyless entry ($800) because one shouldn't need to reach for a key fob to enter a $60,000 vehicle. That lands me at $71,340 including destination, which shows just how expensive these cars can get when you try to load them up with equipment that many competitors offer for free.
Down to brass tacks
There are a number of choices in the compact luxury crossover segment, but none can hold a candle to the Macan's driving dynamics. That said, competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and the BMW X3 offer more cargo capacity and err more toward luxury. If you like the Macan's tech but want something a little softer, the new Audi Q5 wouldn't be a bad way to go. If style reigns supreme, the Range Rover Velar carries it in spades. There's also the Alfa Romeo Stelvio if you like the way the coffee tastes at your dealership's service department.
Life is full of sacrifices. The 2019 Porsche Macan S is no exception, offering up some of its daily drivability in favor of making its occupants smile at every corner. Standard equipment borders on barren, but that's no different than any other Porsche. Yet, if you're willing to acknowledge and accept these compromises, you'll end up more than content.