Car reviews - Porsche - Macan
All variants feel sporty, handsome looks, build quality, performance and dynamism
Room for improvement
Lack of electrified version, cabin missing a few smartphone conveniences
The revised model has incremental upgrades, yet remains the driving enthusiast’s choice
14 Dec 2021
By Mike Fourie
IN THIS era of sustainable mobility, one in which the automotive world seems obsessed with electrified vehicles, the notion of an exclusively ICE-powered performance-oriented medium SUV may seem slightly tone-deaf, if not downright passé. One could still make a business case for asphalt-shredding large SUVs, which will be bought by affluent buyers irrespective of what we may think of them or their vehicular choices, but, below that, probably not.
As an increasing number of manufacturers introduce sportily styled, crossover-flavoured petrol-electric and (rather quick) battery-electric contenders into the upper-end of the medium SUV segment, the three-derivative Porsche Macan, with its line-up of 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 2.9-litre V6 turbo-petrol powerplants, seems a bit, well, stale. The Macan may be Porsche Australia’s top-selling model, but it’s still seven years old, despite undergoing its second facelift.
Porsche, it needs to be said, offers electrified derivatives in its entire line-up, apart from its sportscars – and the Macan range. However, the Zuffenhausen-based brand is preparing to unveil a battery-electric Macan (based on Porsche’s Premium Platform Electric architecture) in the not-too-distant future, and that product will be offered in conjunction with these ICE-based versions of the existing model in a few years’ time (it’s still a while away for the Australian market, though). This revised line-up, therefore, will tide Porsche over until that happens.
“Tide over” might not be completely appropriate, however, because the facelifted version of the Porsche’s medium SUV, replete with cosmetic, equipment and performance upgrades, offers something rather obvious that many of its rivals no longer do – inherent sportiness.
Whereas the entry-level versions of the Audi Q5, BMW X3/X5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLC Coupe, Volvo XC60 and others offer rather workmanlike powertrains, even the base version of the Macan offers punchy peak outputs of 195kW and 400Nm, which are said to propel the $84,800 (plus on-road costs) derivative from zero to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds (with the optional Sport Chrono package) and on to a top speed of 232km/h, its manufacturer claims.
Porsche is not renowned for ringing a multitude of changes when it introduces cosmetic updates to its models – and the Macan is no exception. Its front-end design has been made to look broader and more distinctive by virtue of standard LED headlights with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), a new 3D design to the centre air intake and repositioned LED daytime running lights, while dark cladding with a textured surface adorns the SUV’s flanks.
The rear three-quarter perspective has always been a highlight of the Macan – thanks to its pronounced haunches, plus the model’s posterior look has been enhanced through the fitment of a revised light bar with 3D-effect graphics and a more elaborate diffuser with integrated reflectors.
Which brings us to what’s arguably the sweet spot of the revised line-up – the Macan S ($105,800, plus on-road costs), which now features a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 instead of a 3.0-litre single-turbo engine. With peak outputs of 280kW and 520Nm, the S is said to be capable of accelerating from standstill to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds (if the optional Sport Chrono package is specified) and go on to a top speed of 259km/h.
While putting the Macan S through its paces on regional roads to the northwest of Sydney, the character of the sonorous twin-turbo V6 really came to the fore; it’s a responsive and eminently flexible motor. One may occasionally be inclined to utilise the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles on the base Macan’s revised multi-function steering wheel, but not in the S derivative… Its transmission is particularly smartly calibrated to make the most of the eager V6’s characteristics.
Having said that, the revised damper characteristics of the Porsche Active Suspension Management (standard on the Macan S and GTS derivatives, but optional on the Macan) was probably the biggest highlight. The suspension’s pliancy at low- to mid-speed velocities is admirable; the S seems to forget that it’s riding on 20-inch wheels shod with low-profile tyres.
When you task the S to spear into tight corners at a heady (but not overly rapid) pace, however, it rewards with measured body control and a suitable level of sharpness. Of course, the Porsche Traction Management all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on all versions of the Macan, avails oodles of grip to hike up the medium SUV’s ultimate cornering limits – it will undoubtedly be a boon when traversing mildly rough gravel or wet roads too.
Inside, when the Sport Chrono package is specified (which is optional on Macan and Macan S, but standard on Macan GTS), the Porsche’s new leather-upholstered sports steering wheel features a drive mode switch over and above metal shift paddles and 14-way electrically adjustable front seats (with memory) are fitted. Other than that, Porsche has installed a 15mm-shorter transmission lever and standardised the analogue clock atop the dashboard, while the centre console now incorporates touch-sensitive surfaces instead of buttons.
Contemporary Porsche interiors exude a hewn-from-solid feel, which certainly pertains to the Macan’s cabin, although it doesn’t devolve into Teutonic monotony by virtue of a tasteful blend of chrome-look accents, dark grey finishes and piano-black inserts. The 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Porsche Communication Management, meanwhile, has a slick interface and the setup offers built-in navigation, a permanent mobile connection and Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless Apple CarPlay, but, unfortunately, no Android Auto support.
Although the Macan’s centre console looks much more minimalist thanks to its expansive smooth black touch-sensitive surface, it may not be all that practical due to its propensity to show up dull finger marks. Also, one can tell Porsche’s medium SUV (originally launched in 2014) predates the age of wireless smartphone charging, because the function is not offered in the newcomer, plus, if the drinks holders are occupied, you have to store your handset in the door pocket, storage bin or place it on its side in the half-moon-shaped receptacle behind the transmission lever.
Finally, the Macan GTS ($129,800, plus on-road costs) has essentially replaced the previous generation’s Turbo derivative and, as before, it serves to rival the headlining M and AMG versions of the BMW X3/X4 and Mercedes GLC/GLC Coupe, as well as the rarely spotted Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The GTS produces a maximum of 324kW and 550Nm from its 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 (44kW and 30Nm more than the S derivative).
Although the GTS is only a third of second quicker from zero to 100km/h than its S sibling, it’s a notably more visceral machine from a driver’s perspective. In its sportier drive modes, the GTS feels markedly more responsive and, if conditions permit (a smooth racetrack would be the ideal place to test this), the lowered and firmed-up sports air suspension will avail the flagship derivative’s owner with an astonishing level of cornering ability (for an SUV, at least).
Besides, the Macan GTS is all about a heightened sense of occasion, especially in terms of its presentation. It comes with eight-way electrically adjustable sports front seats with GTS logos as standard, but the optional GTS Sports Package adds 21-inch GT design wheels with performance tyres, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus and a number of cosmetic enhancements, including an 18-way power-adjustable front sports seats, suede-like Race-Tex and extended leather upholstery (with contrast stitching) and carbon-fibre interior trim.
Although a seven-year product cycle seems rather lengthy by modern standards (and that’s counting only up to the date of this facelifted model’s local introduction), and some may find it unthinkable that a high-end medium SUV line-up doesn’t feature at least one electrified version, the Porsche Macan doesn’t feel its age, at least not in ways that really matter.
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