2015 Porsche Macan S road test
New challenge, new benchmark
Photo: Justin Couture
There’s a saying in Zen philosophy that goes along these lines: How you do anything is how you do everything. In the case of Porsche, it turns out that the driving force behind the company isn’t just to produce the best sports cars, but also the best driving cars -- no matter what form they take.
That became first apparent back in 2001 when the brand launched the Cayenne, its first sport utility vehicle. Never mind that the closest thing to a four-door Porsche prior to it was a stillborn prototype, the Cayenne was at the opposite of the 911. It was two tons of burly Volkswagen-based SUV complete with a low-range transfer case and a tow rating in excess of 7,000 lb. But it was very good to drive. It set the dynamic bar for luxury SUVs just that bit higher, but more importantly, it proved that Porsche was a multi-disciplinary brand. Cue the sound of teeth grinding from purists. And then came the diesel model.
Son of Cayenne
Porsche has used the same attitude but a slightly different recipe to conjure the Macan. Aimed directly at the heart of the compact luxury crossover segment, it’s a salvo at the doorsteps of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Infiniti and, of course, Audi. It is actually Audi, not Volkswagen that provided the bones for the Macan, courtesy of the Q5.
Not that you could tell. The Macan is so thoroughly re-engineered, it shares virtually nothing with the Q5 other than the wheelbase. The structure is different: it’s longer, lower, and is considerably wider. Its powertrains are unique to Porsche, and the cabin, with its high-mounted console chock-a-block with buttons has more in common with the Panamera than anything in the Volkswagen empire. A careful look around the cabin reveals the covers to the 12-volt socket and the passenger’s airbag warning light to be the extent of the parts-bin sharing. And as you’d expect, the build quality is Swiss-bank solid, and it's assembled with Swiss-watch precision.
Hey good lookin’
Photo: Justin Couture
From most front angles, the Macan looks like a four-fifths-scale Cayenne, but as soon as you view it from the side or the rear, it’s a very different beast. The raked roofline and wind-swept shape are considerably more modern than more traditional crossovers, but also rakish enough to pose a threat to the style-conscious BMW X4 and Range Rover Evoque. Head and tail lights that ape the 918 Spyder rather than the 911 help, as does the flush tailgate that flows cleanly into the rear bumper.
We’re still debating the black plastic side blades that break up the door panel; supposedly, they’re to lower the visual height of the car, but the matte finish seems amiss. Against the Agate Gray paintwork, it’s OK, but it has the potential to be an eyesore on lighter cars. So too do the standard 18-inch wheels; the optional 19-inch “Turbo” style rims look right, size-wise, plus they show off the giant 350-mm front brakes and six-piston brake calipers. Any smaller and the Macan would look like it was fitted with castors.
Though the Macan is a compact crossover, it hits the sweet spot for families in terms of usable space. The cabin is sufficiently roomy for four adults, and despite the raked roofline, taller passengers’ noggins shouldn’t be bothered. That sloped roof does hamper bringing aboard taller objects, though trunk space is quite decent. At 501 litres, it’s less than 200 L shy of the Cayenne, and is several dozen litres more spacious than the Audi. Overall cargo space just about triples to 1,500 L when you fold the 40/20/40 split seats. Credit goes to Porsche for fitting the Macan with real cup holders, and not the flimsy ones from its sports cars that dangle your Starbucks precariously over your passenger’s left knee.
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