When Porsche starts wielding its ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ badge, as it does so here for the 10th time, it's usually a good thing.
Indeed, its Boxster, Cayman, 911 and even Panamera and Cayenne sporting such a badge haven’t necessarily been the ultimate models, or even our favourites, but they have benefited from the enhancements in almost every case.
And so it’s the turn of the Macan - a compact SUV that even in diesel form has the handling to keep keen drivers happy. The GTS, though, takes the standard petrol S’s bi-turbo 3.0 V6 and boosts power by 20bhp, to 355bhp. That helps it slot neatly between its lesser petrol stablemate and the range-topping Turbo.
With its more efficient air induction, reduced exhaust back pressure and boost pressure increased to 1.2 bar, there’s greater twist at the crank too - 30lb ft more to be precise, bringing a new total of 369lb ft. Performance? This near-1.9-tonne SUV has its 0-62mph sprint over and done with in 5.2 seconds.
In order to exploit the extra poke, Porsche has fitted its PASM adjustable chassis as standard, but also included is a unique-to-the-GTS chassis that sits 15mm lower for an even more focused set-up than the standard car's. Alternatively, with optional air suspension selected, the default drop is 10mm, although you ultimately get greater control over ride height.
Rounding off the GTS’s CV are more powerful brakes borrowed from the Macan Turbo, a standard sports exhaust, optional LED headlights for the first time and Porsche’s latest PCM infotainment system, as recently launched on its refreshed 911.
Standing outside as it's fired up, the GTS's V6 barks to life from its four black-tipped exhausts and settles to a coarse but purposeful idle. Inside, the noise isn't quite as piercingly abrupt, but you're left in no doubt of this GTS's intent.
In its default mode, sharp applications of throttle see the gearbox hesitate for a moment while it hooks up, but the straight-line performance that follows is certainly the type of hold on tight propulsion you'd expect, if not quite the pin-you-to-your-chair forcefulness of the Macan Turbo.
Pressing Sport activates the Sports exhaust and takes the dampers to their first stage of stiffness, while the throttle and gearbox feel more urgent too. Sport Chrono-equipped cars (such as the example tested here) get a Sport Plus mode, which brings maximum chassis stiffness and forces the gearbox to deliver you lower ratios and higher revs.
Sport is probably where you want to be 90% of the time. The gearbox suffers less hesitation at T-junctions and from rolling starts, and the steering is at its best - just a precise as in any mode, and as linearly oily as ever, but with just the right amount of weight to inspire confidence.
It only takes a couple of fast-paced corners to realise that for a near two-tonne SUV the GTS, like lesser Macans, is a properly sorted machine, but with the small enhancements that make it truly superb fun to pilot across meandering back roads.
There's barely any nose-dive as you take a huge chomp at the GTS's left pedal, and once the nose is settled, turn-in is crisp and precise, with the nose of the car - particularly on our 21in-wheeled example - millimetres behind every steering input.
Sitting as it does 15mm lower, there's very little body roll from the GTS as it's chucked through bends, either, and there's genuine enjoyment to be had from balancing the throttle mid corner, experimenting with the car's willing rear axle and firing yourself out the other side and on to the next challenge.
Of course, when you're really in the mood, Sport Plus heightens things further, with razor-sharp gear changes at the paddles, even more exacting throttle inputs and more generous crackles on the overrun. For us, the only let-down is a tad too much steering weight.
Switch off all sports-orientated lights, kill the anti-social exhaust and allow the suspension to breathe, though, and the Macan can play the relaxing cruiser just as well. It rides brilliantly, soaking initial bumps well and keeping the body nicely tied down.
Once again, Sport mode is best at speed, maintaining better composure over undulations, but not suffering Sport Plus's firmer secondary characteristics. Unsurprisingly there's some tyre roar over coarse surfaces, but wind noise is never an issue at motorway speeds and the ferocious V6 is easily tamed.
The GTS's cabin has no dimensions changes over the standard car, so a superb driving position helped by a brilliantly supportive sports seats, rising central tunnel and perfectly positioned gear lever, and there's good space for two adults. In the back, though, both legroom and headroom are behind the class best. The easily accessible, square-shaped boot is more useful companion.
Just like the rest of the Macan range, fit and finish is superb, lifted further by liberal use of Alcantara on the GTS's steering wheel and doors. You'll find plenty of GTS badging dotted around inside, but unfortunately, plenty of buttons too - you often find yourself pausing, finger poised, as you search out the one you want, even after a day at the wheel.
Porsche is now fitting its brand new PCM infotainment system to every Macan. The system is a marked improvement on the set-up it replaces; it has a sharper, more responsive screen, its menus are just as clear and there's better integration for smartphones, such as Apple's CarPlay. It simply looks better-integrated on the dash, too, but it seems stingy that the (admittedly excellent) sat-nav is £1052 extra.
Performance SUVs are becoming more and more common, but what the GTS offers is actually less common than you might think. Its closest rivals are diesel - cars such as Audi's SQ5, BMW's X4 35d and Alpina's XD3, all of which offer similar performance, a premium badge and a butch SUV stance.
While the SQ5 and X4 are significantly cheaper to buy, though, and similarly potent, they fail to offer the fluidity of the GTS's handling, as well as its outright aural aggressiveness. The Alpina poses the biggest threat, coming closest on price and outdoing the Macan in a sprint by a bigger margin.
Even so, and despite it missing out on some equipment, the GTS's even greater ride and handling balance would have us signing on its dotted line. Sure, there's an argument that a standard S with a sports exhaust would save you money and still be a lot of fun, but if you can stretch to it, the GTS is worth the extra. Compact SUVs are rarely this good.
Porsche Macan GTS
Price £55,188; Engine V6, 2997cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 355bhp; Torque 369lb ft at 1650-4000rpm; 0-62mph 5.2sec; Top speed 159mph; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1895kg; Economy 31.4mpg (combined); CO2 212g/km, 37%