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GoAuto joins Drive Against Depression’s first Brisbane event in the Porsche Macan T

1 Nov 2023

WITH some cars you can just tell they were conceived, engineered and built by people who absolutely love driving.


Cars in which even the most mundane journey is accompanied by a sense of occasion and, often, a temptation to take the long way home simply to savour the sensation for a little longer. Or quite a lot longer.


The Porsche Macan T, then, seems like a suitable vehicle with which to experience our first – and Brisbane’s first – Drive Against Depression event, a drive through the hills from Wahminda Park on Brisbane’s western fringe to Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, via Woodford.


Under its mission statement of “supporting mental wellness through the freedom of driving,” registered charity Drive Against Depression (DAD) organises motoring-themed events designed to raise awareness, encourage those who are struggling to connect with others, facilitate judgement-free conversations and steer people in need of help toward relevant services.


This Brisbane drive day is part of DAD’s expanding event program to more locations around Australia.


Our Papaya Metallic Porsche press car would usually be an ideal ice-breaker when faced with a group of petrol-head strangers but it soon becomes clear that vehicles are but one of many rich topics of conversation among this warmly welcoming and instinctively inclusive crowd.


Still, we are all assembled to enjoy the drive and among the interesting cars brought along were a Lotus Exige, turbocharged Mazda MX-5 and Subaru WRX STI – the latter bearing comedy private plates.


Fast Fords along for the drive included a Fiesta ST and Ranger Raptor, while the presence of a brand-new F-150, as well families in Everests and Teslas, served as proof of DAD’s broad appeal and reach – in fact, the charity stipulates that any vehicle that is registered and loved by its driver can join the drive.


Once the 40 or so participants were mustered, DAD interstate events director David James provides an overview of the charity’s 2017 beginnings as the brainchild of car enthusiast, motoring journalist and now automotive PR Adam Davis before handing over to Chasing Cars journalist Zak Adkins to share anecdotes from his mental health journey, and how drives through the very roads we are about to experience played an important role when navigating tough times.


Then DAD health and wellness expert Olly Bridge steps up to talk about stress responses in the body and techniques such as “box breathing” that help control the primitive fight or flight responses triggered by modern phenomena like being cut up in traffic or receiving a passive-aggressive email.


Emphasising that Drive Against Depression events aim to provide a safe, judgement-free environment where real conversations can happen, Mr Bridge hands back over to Mr James for a safety briefing announcing that the time has come to be on our way.


As we make our way through Samford Village and up toward Mount Mee, we reflect on how the Macan and pretty much every Porsche product delivers that sense of having been put together by people who intrinsically understand what makes a car enjoyable and engaging.


Like-minded souls would have worked on the Fiesta and Exige along for today’s drive, several BMWs, the Hyundai i30 N, Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR86, as well as almost every Mazda, are others that share an ability to provide joy through driving.


But even the best-engineered car, on the most scenic and challenging road, cannot always break through the internal turmoil that affects so many of us.


It might be that pastimes, places or people that once brought joy are accompanied by crushing indifference at best, or deepened misery at worst. A sense of despair that if this car, on this road, with this person is not having a positive effect, then what is the point?


That spiral can have devastating consequences but, as demonstrated by movements like Drive Against Depression, help exists in many forms. As tough as making that first step might feel, the benefits can be literally life-changing – or even life-saving.


Mr James said DAD had concluded that it was the side-by-side seating arrangement and lack of direct eye contact, as well as the sense of being somewhat isolated from the outside world, that make in-car conversations such a powerful form of informal therapy.


“There's no eye contact; you can say anything you want in the privacy of that car, and it literally stays in that car,” he explained.


“That's the genesis of Drive Against Depression. What we try and do with our events is we try to normalise the discussion around mental health.”


We’re alone in the Macan for this event and we’re soon missing the conversations and company we had at the meeting place. Still, the solitude enables us to immerse ourselves in the changes wrought to Porsche’s first four-door ‘T’ variant.


Bridging the gap between entry-level Macan and mid-spec S, the T packs a number of unique chassis upgrades and a couple of standard items from the S and top-spec GTS, while maintaining the former’s 195kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.


Standard on the T is the Sport Chrono package – the only other Macan to get this is the GTS – with a Mannetino-style drive mode switch and Sport Response button on the steering wheel that unlocks maximum performance for 20 seconds – handy for overtaking – and a launch control function for testing out the claimed 6.2-second 0-100km/h acceleration time.


Most of the time it is all the engine you need, although we find that while overtaking slower traffic up hills it struggles to gather speed as quickly as anticipated, fighting 1845kg of Macan plus driver and the many options fitted to our test car. Nevertheless, we manage to match the claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 9.5L/100km during our week with the car.


In standard form, the T has the Porsche Active Suspension Management adaptive dampers of the S but with a 15mm lower ride height on its steel springs but our vehicle is furnished with the $2790 height-adjustable air suspension upgrade from the GTS.


Ride quality is outstanding, even in the progressively firmer Sport and Sport+ modes that, with our Macan’s air suspension, suck the Macan discernably closer to the tarmac – another 10mm lower than the regular T setup. Comfort mode can bob a bit over bigger lumps and bumps and we found ourselves defaulting to Sport for most of this journey.


The T’s stiffer front anti-roll bar and all-wheel-drive system tweaks make this Macan feel convincingly rear-drive in tighter turns, yet reassuringly planted in typically AWD fashion through faster sweepers with pockmarked or patchwork surfaces.


Porsche claims a crisper turn-in courtesy of the four-cylinder engine’s 60kg weight saving in the nose but we’d have to drive a V6-powered S or GTS back-to-back with a T for us to notice.


Also among the eye-watering $25,860 worth of options fitted to our test car, our favourites have to be the $2410 adaptive sports front seats. During our time with the Macan, all sizes of occupant find these intrinsically comfortable and they become blissfully supportive once all 18 directions of adjustment have been fine-tuned.


The plush and aromatic $3280 black leather package includes contrast stitching and seatbelts to match the $1800 Papaya Metallic exterior finish and, as nice as the $2230 Bose audio system is, the $3080 sports exhaust sounds even better – especially given the Macan T’s engine is a close relative of the unit in a Golf R or Audi S3, both of which are less than aurally inspiring.


Charging $1620 for adaptive cruise control and another $1100 for lane-keep assist – both of which are standard on cars costing a third of the Macan T’s price – is gouging, plain and simple. Similarly, the carbon interior trim package also seems steep at $1600 but Porsche punishes you for not ticking these cosmetic option boxes with deliberately cheap-looking standard finishes.


Apart from black Macan T badging, this version is differentiated by a metallic Agate Grey finish for the intakes, mirrors, door trims and roof spoiler plus gloss black tailpipes and side window trims (that on our car are matched by $650 worth of black roof rails) plus 20-inch dark titanium alloy wheels.


Of the options we’d drop from this car are the panoramic roof ($3110), tinted LED headlights with adaptive beam ($1650) and courtesy lights that project the Porsche logo onto the ground at night ($540). Not a huge saving when we are talking $118,560 including options (the Macan T starts from $92,700 + ORC).


As we wend our way from Woodford to Maleny, glimpses of the otherworldly Glasshouse Mountains become more frequent and road speeds drop.


It is almost exactly a decade since the Macan made its global debut at the Los Angeles motor show and despite regular updates, this is still the same generation of car – and one which shares a platform with the first-generation Audi Q5 that launched way back in 2008.


With that in mind, apart from the analogue instrument cluster – that could be passed off as deliberately retro – Porsche has managed to keep the interior hi-tech and fresh enough to command the price it does for the Macan and, from our experience on the excellent inaugural Brisbane DAD event route, still feels special enough to justify it.


Using the Macan T as a reasonably spacious, fairly compact family runabout also proves its versatility – performing weekend blasts and mundane school runs with equal aplomb while remaining enjoyable and engaging to punt around the suburbs.


The car, the road, the scenery and – at each end of the journey – company brings us plenty of joy, as well as the opportunity to feel gratitude for a regained ability to experience that spectrum of emotion.


You never know when mental illness might strike but movements like DAD help show us all that there’s help out there and that nobody need suffer alone.


As we regroup with the other DAD participants in the garden of the Maleny Hotel, everybody is abuzz with stories and conversation and the excitement of new friendships being formed.


It is clear that all are looking forward to the next South East Queensland drive day. Boarding his old and impeccably kept Range Rover Vogue ready for the long journey back to Melbourne, Mr James assures us that more are the works.

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