Car reviews - Porsche - Macan - GTS
Dynamics, performance, luxury, design, cabin layout, refinement, brakes
Room for improvement
Expensive, desirable options cost a lot, not much else
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9 Aug 2016
Price and equipment
EVER vigilant, the Germans have identified a dangerously under-exploited niche in the medium luxury SUV segment – the $100K-plus plush performance gap. Now everybody can breathe a sigh of relief.
Right there, between the $93,100 250kW/460Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 Macan S, and $130,300 294kW/550Nm 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 Turbo, is a GTS-sized space.
Priced from $109,500 (plus on-road costs), it uses a slightly uprated version of the engine from the Macan S, upping power and torque by 15kW and 40Nm, to 265kW and 500Nm respectively. That lops between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds off the 0-100km/h sprint time, depending on whether the $2690 Sport Chrono Package is fitted (as per our test vehicle).
Retuned Porsche Active Suspension Management (active suspension) sees a 15mm ride height slam, while a fruitier exhaust, black 20-inch rims, GTS seats, black paint trim, Alcantara interior upholstery and revised 7.0-inch central touchscreen with a digital radio round out the newcomer.
To refresh, the Macan is loosely based on the Audi Q5 (though only 30 per cent of parts are shared), is built alongside the larger Cayenne and Panamera in Leipzig, Germany, and people are tripping over themselves to get on the very long waiting list.
Every Macan features three-zone climate control, leather, satellite navigation, reversing camera, parking sensors, alarm, Bluetooth multimedia connectivity, tyre pressure monitors, multi-function steering wheel, lane-departure warning, light-sensitive headlights, auto wipers, DVD player, cruise control, tyre-pressure monitors and voice recognition.
At a juicy $137,610, our GTS boasted $28,410 worth of options, including Sport Chrono, upgraded leather and Alcantara everything ($8900), special order paint ($5800), panoramic sunroof ($4540), Bose audio ($2650), auto self parking ($1660), Apple CarPlay ($1090), and heated front seats ($990).
If you’re familiar with the outgoing Panamera sedan or current Cayenne large SUV, the button and switch fest that was Porsche’s dashboard obsession since 2009 seems to have reached its zenith in the Macan.
That said, neatly bisecting the gear lever, it all feels very special, like a jet-fighter cockpit layout. Running a finger over each of the lush controls is just the tonic for control freaks who feel they need a power fix. Also, there is a very satisfying quality to their operation, as well as a certain Teutonic logic. Don’t listen to the naysayers. In this emerging age of touchscreens, the GTS’ fascia is fantastically unique. Savour it please.
Noting that are nearly over $20K’s worth of cabin option enhancements alone, the Macan’s ambience is like the inside of outrageously priced Louis Vuitton luggage – opulent, tactile, and alluring enough to make you want to live inside.
Very traditional-911 instrument dials, a low-slung yet high-perched driving position, rich aromas, and surfaces that caress your every touch further underline the Porsche’s specialness. Sure, $140K will buy you a very up-spec BMW X5, but the interior presentation is like the difference between Cate Blanchett and Blanche Devereux.
In fact, the overall effect is cocooning, and completely isolating from the big bad world outside. However, as with all Macans, the GTS is quite tight for a family SUV, which it really isn’t pretending to be anyway. Rear seat space is really only adult friendly if the front-seat riders are feeling generous think of it as the second car, or a weekend getaway holdall for the couple with everything, and this makes perfect sense.
To that end, the cargo area isn’t too bad, at 500 litres, extending to 1500 litres with the 40/20/40 backrest folded.
Engine and transmission
Who are we kidding. Who cares if this isn’t a flat six with 265kW and 500Nm, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is brilliantly quick – even in regular mode, never mind Sport, majestically mellifluous, and superbly smooth when you want it to be. We had that exhaust note enhancer piping in, to remind us of how tremendously strong this Macan’s performance really is.
One reason why the GTS glides along like an Olympic bob sled is its lovely seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission tune, that deals out the ratios with professional magician levels of speed and coordination. No lag, no lumpiness.
Just effortless thrust. That’s what people expect from a Porsche, and the Macan delivers.
That we managed to get close to an indicated 10L/100km also highlights the twin-turbo V6’s relative efficiency.
Ride and handling
And the answer is no. The Macan does not feel at all like an Audi Q5.
Sitting on 20-inch wheels, the GTS is tuned to feel taut and controlled, like all Porsches should, but in Comfort mode, thanks to the inclusion of active dampers, the suspension does not firm up with filling-loosening hardness. In the overwhelming majority of SUV commuting duties, and keeping in mind the Stuttgart coat of arms on the steering wheel, the Macan is comfy enough.
With that out of the way, the gorgeously weighted steering provides sensational levels of agility and control for an SUV, with a hunkered-down attitude that pretty much feels impervious to anything corners can throw at it. Porsche’s Active Suspension Management feels as if it has an almost matriarchal authority over the environment she encounters.
Backing this up is a rear-drive-based AWD system, dealing out torque to whichever wheel can make the most of it at any one time like a card shark shuffles a pack. Grip and poise are further GTS hallmarks. The system is the Porsche Traction Management set-up nicked from the 911 Carrera 4. It sends up to 100 per cent of drive to the front axle if required, via the electronic multi-plate clutch.
But let’s not get too carried away – though the Macan won’t let you get into trouble through tight turns unless you’re being silly, it cannot quite defy the laws of physics, so ultimately the weight and height penalties do apply, resulting in quite progressive understeer.
Everywhere else, and the GTS corners and holds the road like it has the hand of Thor guiding it along.
Safety and servicing
The Macan has not been tested by ANCAP. There is no fixed-price servicing, while the new-car warranty is three years with unlimited kilometres.
The Macan GTS is that rare thing – a medium luxury SUV that rises above its station in terms of dynamics, performance, design, ambience and security.
Despite looking like a private school-run tool, the language this vehicle speaks is fluent Porsche.
Not cheap by any stretch, it nevertheless is easy to see why waiting times are so protracted. No rival performance crossover on the market currently feels as if its performance DNA is engineered in, not tacked on.
Porsche has identified a niche and now is mining it like a WA billionaire. The GTS delivers on the promise of the badge within the constraints of its packaging with blistering bravado.
Jaguar F-Pace 35t S AWD from $103,305 plus on-road costs
Jaguar’s revival continues with the handsome and compelling F-Pace, based on the athletic XE/XF sedans, with a roomy cabin, superb dynamics, and cracking performance.
Audi SQ5 from $92,955 plus on-road costs
Sharing less than 30 per cent of its parts with the Macan, the Q5-based SQ5 uber-diesel provides a very Audi-esque sports-SUV experience, from arresting design and fanatical quality to a very firm ride. Still, with so much torque, this is a bit of a bargain.
BMW X6 xDrive50i from $152,215 plus on-road costs
Not for the fainthearted, the divisively designed X6 is designed to turn corners as well as… heads, thanks to very solid steering, handling, and roadholding capabilities. It’s also a bit larger than the Macan, but also quite expensive and not as convincing inside.
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