Road Test

REVIEW: 2015 Porsche Macan S

The latest and most affordable Porsche is an SUV that thinks it's a sports car

2015 Porsche Macan S

The latest and most affordable Porsche, the 2015 Macan, is an SUV. But it thinks it;s a sports car.

To purists, the arrival of a second SUV to wear the Porsche badge is shocking. They criticized the company for straying from its roots when it brought out the first of these types of vehicle – the Cayenne. After all, the argument went, Porsche is a sports car company and is sullying the brand with these “things”.

But few, if any, of these critics are Porsche owners. The folks who have put up their money to buy a Porsche are the staunchest backers of the Cayenne. Many of them have one in their garage alongside a “traditional” Porsche sports car.

They are well aware that the success of the Cayenne and the profits it generates have allowed the company to develop such masterpieces as the 918 – the shockingly effective hybrid that provides a look into a future that embraces green technology AND high performance.

For the first nine months of 2014, the Cayenne has outsold the two sports cars (911 & Boxster/Cayman) combined. And after only a few months on the market, the Macan has already moved into third spot among the five Porsche lines, undoubtedly on its way to the top.

Shared underpinnings

For the Macan, as it did for the Cayenne, Porsche mined VW’s vast resources to develop a new model that will attract fresh consumers to the brand without offending current owners.

The Macan is based on VW’s global MLB (Modular Longitudinal) platform and shares those underpinnings with the Audi Q5.

It is equipped it with new engines and a different all-wheel-drive system and suspension pieces than the Q5. The company says more than two-thirds of the Q5's parts and pieces have been replaced or changed.

While it is based on the same basic architecture as the Audi Q5 and also uses a V-6 engine and sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, the Macan is 135 kilos lighter, 100 mm lower, and 100 mm longer. It is also almost 100 mm wider thanks to a wider track and body to cover bigger rolling stock.

The floor pan and firewall are common with the Q5. The steering, suspension design and layout are similar, but all have been extensively modified to Porsche’s specifications – most effectively, I might add.

Porsche by design

Visually, the Macan (Indonesian for Tiger) looks like a 7/8ths scale Cayenne.

The clamshell hood, front end, headlights, rounded rear quarters and roofline obviously came from the same design studio as the Cayenne, and to some extent echo the Panamera.

The seamless aluminum hood is made up of two panels with integrated air passages to feed the engine – typical Porsche detail touches.

Open the driver’s door and you are immediately aware this is a Porsche. The ignition is right there on the left side of the steering wheel.

Look up and smack dab in the centre of the instrument panel is a huge tachometer, dominating the display area with secondary readouts to either side. A Panamera-like centre console with more switches than the NASA control centre is another visual reminder this is a Porsche.

Because it is a Porsche the fit and finish are first rate, the quality and choice of materials worthy of the brand and there is a decent amount of standard equipment. But, like any Porsche, pricey options abound.

The Macan seats five, four more comfortably. Cargo space is somewhat restricted by the slopping roofline and short distance between seat back and door. That same roofline makes headroom tight and entry and exit a bit difficult for tall folks in the second row.

Power never an issue

Power is never an issue with Porsche and that holds true for the Macan. It comes in two flavors, Turbo and Turbo S. The names are confusing because both have a twin-turbo V-6 engine beneath the hood.

The pair of twin-turbo V-6 engines are both derived from the Porsche V-8 used in the Cayenne and Panamera. The one in the Macan S displaces 3.0-litres and produces 340-horsepower. The Macan S Turbo's engine displaces 3.6-litres and belts out 400-horsepower.

On the road

My test vehicle was the “lesser” of the two but it only takes a minute and the first bend in the road to learn this is a Porsche in the very best sense of the word.

I was able to scoot from 0-to-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. In case you aren’t familiar with comparative numbers, that time is seriously fast! Especially in an SUV.

There is an abundance of torque from way down low in the rev band and that level of poke stays there right through the mid-range.

The seven-speed dual clutch Porsche PDK (Doppelkupplung) transmission combines wickedly fast shifts with the uncanny ability to be in the right gear at the right moment.

The driver can leave it in drive or get involved with a pair of paddles on the back of the steering wheel – with pretty much the same result.

The shifts are rev-matched going up or down, accompanied by a delightful bark from the exhaust. The more aggressive you are with the throttle the louder the aural treat at the aft end.

Erasing speed is a breeze. Porsches are known for their braking prowess and the Macan follows that practice. Retardation is immediate and as strong as you like, thanks to the ability to modulate pressure easily. Outstanding.

The Macan has a sophisticated all-wheel drive system that sends power to the rear axles all the time, diverting some to the front when additional grip is called for by Porsche’s Traction Management (PTM) system.

Porsche engineers may not be able to break the laws of physics but they seem to have bent them a little with the Macan. Technically it is a tall, four-door, five-passenger sportute. But it feels like a lithe, little sports car when you tackle the twisties with some degree of enthusiasm.

The Macan simply refuses to recognize its size and height! While it pushes at the extreme limits of grip, it remains near neutral to that point. And the degree of transient response is quite remarkable for a vehicle of these dimensions. Still the ride quality remains decent, on smooth surfaces.

Watch the options

The Macan upholds the Porsche tradition in the way it leaves the competition in the dust on the road, and on the bottom line.

The $54,000 base price puts the Macan in a very competitive position. It is the lowest for any Porsche and puts it in company with some serious luxury utes.

But few if any will find their way off the boat at Dartmouth’s Autoport at this price. In typical Porsche fashion, the tab runs up quickly when you start ticking off options.

A sunroof, bigger wheels and two packages added $10,000 to the bottom line of my test vehicle. And the $82,000 starting point of the S Turbo can swell to more than $100,000 if you tick off all the boxes.

Notably absent from that $54,00 base vehicle are items that are quickly becoming standard equipment on much less expensive vehicles – things like a rear-view camera and HID headlights.

Let there be no doubt. The Macan is pure Porsche, offering exceptional driving dynamics and performance in a vehicle offering a high degree of utility. Just watch that options sheet.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Model: 2015 Porsche Macan S
Price: Base – $54,300; As tested – $65.565, including freight
Options: Panoramic Roof ($1,910), 19-inch wheels ($1,440), Infotainment Package ($3,420), Premium Package ($3,380)
Engine: 3.0-litre twin turbo V-6, 340-horsepower, 339 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic
Fuel Consumption (city/highway): 13.7/10.3 L/100 km
Length: 4,699-mm
Wheelbase: 2,807-mm
Mass: 1,916- kg
Competition: Audi Q5, BMW X5, Infiniti QX70, Lexus GX 460, Mercedes-Benz ML 400 4Matic

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