What is it?
The Porsche Macan GTS is, and we quote its maker, "the Macan for the driving enthusiast". Considering that even the S Diesel provides plenty of pace and enjoyment on a winding road, the GTS could be one of most enjoyable SUVs you can buy.
Like other GTS-badged models in the Porsche stable, it’s not the quickest model in the range – that’s still the Turbo’s job – but it does offer more shove than the S on which it’s based. How much? You get an extra 20bhp and 30Ib ft of torque thanks to a little bit more boost, a revised intake tract and a freer-flowing sports exhaust for the twin-turbocharged V6.
To help slow this near two-tonne SUV, you get the brakes from the Macan Turbo, while handling is improved with standard adaptive dampers including a 15mm ride height reduction. Alternatively, there’s an optional air-sprung set-up that was fitted to our test car.
Of course, there are also plenty of visual clues to show you've spent an extra £10k over a Macan S. These include GTS badging inside and out, gorgeous 20in wheels, black exterior accents and sports seats with Alcantara centres. Time to try it in the UK for the first time.
What's it like?
The Macan may share a platform with the Audi Q5, but it feels like a Porsche through and through from the moment you fire it up. Turbocharging may prevent the V6 from having a truly memorable howl, but the bassy throb at idle certainly sounds purposeful.
Slot the seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box into drive (no manual is offered), and the Macan pulls away smoothly, quickly shuffling to the highest possible ratio. With the V6 spinning slowly, you can’t help but notice how refined the GTS is; potentially a worry considering how focused it’s supposed to be.
Apart from very noticeable tyre roar on the kind of concrete surface that’s so common on the M25, there’s very little to offend your ears. The engine is subdued, wind noise kept to a minimum and there’s no suspension noise, either. Not only are the springy bits quiet, they offer excellent comfort, even over expansion joints and crumbling road surfaces.
After double-checking the bootlid to make sure we had been delivered a GTS, we started to push a little harder. A flex of your right ankle sees the gearbox drop multiple cogs and the engine pause for a moment before the scenery starts to get very blurry. Let’s just say we can happily believe the performance figures Porsche provided.
But, as mentioned, the GTS isn’t the performance figurehead of the range; more important is how it handles. At speed, you notice a bit of float through dips and crests, while throwing it around in Comfort mode shows up some body roll, but certainly not enough to cause any worry.
Thankfully, selecting Sport for the springs dials out the vast majority of the body float and reduces roll, too. Turn in is far crisper and you can feel the chassis working beneath you far more vividly. There is a Sport Plus mode that stiffens things even more should you feel the need.
What’s astonishing is that, unlike cars with other adaptive systems, the Macan remains comfortable even in its sportiest Sport Plus mode. Yes, you do feel a lot more of the road’s surface, but the stiffness of the spring is matched to a perfectly judged damping effect that ensures you’re not pogoing down the road.
Whichever mode you’re in, the inherent balance of the chassis is an absolute joy. The majority of torque goes to the rear axle and it shows. Accelerate out of a bend, and you feel the rear tyres drive you out far harder than the front tyres are pulling.
Decide to turn off the stability control (a delightfully easy process) and the Macan can even be persuaded in to some sideways shenanigans. Thanks to perfectly weighted and decently quick steering, as well as some torque shuffling between the axles, this is easily corrected. It’s certainly something to enjoy rather than fear.
Complaints? We have very few. Although the steering is precise, it isn’t brimming with feedback, the exhaust could sound a bit angrier in its nosiest mode, and the brakes are a bit grabby near the top of their travel. Overall though, it drives spectacularly well considering the lofty body and sizeable mass. It genuinely drives better than most ‘normal’ cars.
Of course, it isn’t just about the driving experience. Like any other Macan, it offers a big, well-shaped boot that can be easily extended by folding the rear seats. Accommodation for those in the back is acceptable, although many rivals offer more head and legroom.
Up front, it’s easy to get comfortable thanks to plenty of adjustment and the superbly supportive driver's sports seat. You also get the latest version of Porsche’s infotainment system. Measuring 7.0in from corner to corner diagonally, it proves clear and responsive, and has the added benefit of Apple CarPlay. It’s a shame that sat-nav is a pricey optional extra, though.
Should I buy one?
Despite the SUV being a terrible place to start when you’re building a performance car, you can’t ignore the on-going popularity of them. As a two-fingered salute to the laws of physics, the Porsche Macan GTS proves hard to beat.
An Audi SQ5 may be a touch more practical and a bit cheaper to run, but the GTS is far more enjoyable on any road you care to point it down. It isn’t cheap and we failed to better 22mpg, but who wants to be sensible all the time anyway?
Porsche Macan GTS
Location West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £55,188; Engine V6, 2997cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 355bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 369lb ft 1650-4000rpm; Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1970kg; Top speed 159mph; 0-62mph 5.2sec; Economy 32.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 207g/km, 37%; Rivals Audi SQ5; Alpina XD3