2015 Porsche Macan first drive
An SUV sports car? Who does Porsche think it’s kidding?
Sports cars. That’s what Porsche built its reputation on and that’s what it does best. 911, Boxster and Cayman, and of course all those racers and limited edition supercars like the forthcoming Porsche 918 Spyder.
All of which makes it slightly disappointing to report that what really makes the money for Porsche is the Panamera sedan and the Cayenne SUV. Both sell in proper, dollar-crunching volumes.
So it will come as little surprise that the next car to hit the blocks from Porsche is another SUV, the Macan. More compact that the Cayenne, and based upon the Audi Q5 but with copious changes, the Macan is the fifth model line from Porsche.
Shrugging away possible criticism of a sell out, the Macan is officially another “sports car”. How readily do you buy into that idea? Clever suspension, a low driving position and new twin turbo engines all work in the Macan’s favour.
So too, in a way, does the “flyline", the slope of the roof that mimics the 911, and the muscular rear haunches. The rear lights and steering wheel are modelled on the Porsche 918’s.
But it’s still an SUV. Right?
Sure it is. And Porsche isn’t going to miss out on the opportunity for some trail-driving merit points. The standard all-wheel-drive system has a strong bias to the rear with clutches that direct traction to the front wheels only when the need arises.
Coupled with air suspension that can be pumped up to give an extra 40 mm clearance, to 230 mm, plus traction management that Porsche says has the fastest reaction times on the market, there’s much promise. It works too, as we explored on the old Cold War military range that has now been transformed into Porsche’s off-road test track in Leipzig, Germany.
The stats claim approach, departure and tilt angles that make your eyes water. Every Macan has an off-road button that engages the full suite of traction-oriented programmes at 50 km/h and below. And it works, in a fuss-free, impressively calm manner. That’s not to say Jeep is going to get worried. You’ll hardly want to compromise the tarmac performance of your Porsche with a full-set of off-road terrain tires.
This air suspension is a segment-exclusive option. It gives a sweet and comfortable ride on regular roads, but there are other choices. The Macan S comes as standard with straightforward steel springs. The Macan Turbo has the steel springs with Porsche Active Stability Management. That lets you set the ride to Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus, depending upon your mood.
On the pubic highway, and on Porsche’s impressive test circuit with corners that replicate others, like Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew, there’s the first inkling that maybe the Macan does have some true claim as a sports car.
With tires that are wider at the rear to give it the desired poise, its stability, turn-in and traction are quite unlike any other SUV. The brakes, too, are awesomely powerful.
Turbo engines, even in the ‘S’
Two new V6 gasoline engines power the Macan, with the additional option of a V6 turbo diesel in some markets. The base model, the Macan S, is a 3.0-litre that produces 340 hp. The Macan Turbo is 3.6-litres with 400 hp. Intriguingly both have two turbochargers, so you could, with some justification, stick a Turbo badge on your S.
With an acceleration time of a mere 4.6 seconds to 100 km/h, the Macan Turbo is seriously fast, equalling the figures of a stock 911. Like every Macan, the Turbo has a seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmission with paddles behind the wheel.
There’s a Sport setting too, and then the optional Porsche Sports Chrono Pack that, through some electronic wizardry, knocks a couple of tenths of the 0-100 time and offers enhancements to the suspension and gearchange.
The 3.0-litre S model, not surprisingly, lacks the excitement and involvement offered by the Turbo. But it works well enough and, on the highway, 340 hp is certainly ample power to prove that you are in a sporting machine from Germany. 0-100 km/h is reached in as little as 5.2 seconds, so it’s respectable.
The Macan is an easy car to extract fun from too. In lazy mode it’s simply a matter of pulling the lever into Drive and slipping away into the traffic. If more involvement is required, there are the paddle shifters and a host of buttons to press that sharpen up the action. In the usual Porsche fashion, there’s a premium to be paid for much of this. The Sport Chrono Pack, Torque Vectoring, PASM and so on all bump up the ticket price.
We’d love to tell you how a regular Macan S, on its steel springs, drives, but Porsche didn’t let us near one.
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