What is it?
The Porsche Macan S Diesel – an important version of this alluring new 4x4 because it will be the biggest selling variant of Zuffenhausen’s compact SUV in the UK. Porsche expects 60 per cent of British Macan buyers to opt for it.
That’s despite it being caught in something of a petrol pincer movement, with a considerably more powerful S-badged petrol on offer for precisely the same money, and a four-cylinder turbo petrol, cheaper to buy and cheaper on company car tax, available via special order.
Though the equitable showroom tag of the Diesel may not hint at it, our experience with the Panamera and Cayenne ranges does suggest that those Macan buyers stand to pay quite a large price on performance for the sake of that fleet-friendly engine – with the petrol versions of the larger front-engined Porsches tending to be considerably more sporting than their diesel siblings.
So do real-world diesel drivers get the rough end of Porsche’s stick again?
What's it like?
History repeats itself here, to a certain extent. After our first UK drive in a Macan S Diesel, two things are immediately obvious.
First, that this isn't just a fine-handling SUV but a surprisingly well rounded one, too, dealing as consummately with the realities of the British rush hour as it will a fast backroad kink.
The second, however, is that the S Diesel won’t dominate its diesel-engined direct rivals from Audi or BMW on performance quite like a Macan Turbo might. It has, instead, a fairly ordinary performance level and a more relaxed temperament than anyone who’s buying into Porsche’s ‘sports car 4x4’ marketing message would expect.
Not that the Macan’s 255bhp 3.0-litre V6 engine isn’t deeply impressive. Mechanical refinement is something it excels on, declining to send any unwanted vibrations into the cabin at all and seeming very quiet indeed at cruising speeds.
Porsche’s standard seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission makes a very good companion for that engine. It has plenty of closely stacked intermediate ratios to haul through, it shifts quickly and cleanly in manual mode and its automatic shifting behaviour can be tailored to your tastes using either Sport or Normal mode on the PASM suspension. It's just that the car doesn’t ever take off down the road as briskly as you might want it to.
Our test car was fitted with optional height-adjustable self-levelling air suspension – a first for the compact SUV niche – which may partly explain its becalmed character. It steered very crisply, had grip, balance and body control way beyond the reach of most 4x4s and still rode very comfortably.
Chassis compliance was generous enough over bad roads to make the cabin feel nicely isolated from the road surface, which is among the primary jobs of a premium-branded 4x4 in our book.
In Sport and Sport+ modes some of that compliance is traded for cleaner response and greater control feedback. But drives in other Macans suggest that there’s sharper, more entertaining handling still on offer in the steel-suspended chassis – and buyers who really do want that sporting character should ensure they get a car so configured.
Should I buy one?
With the right option boxes ticked, there seems little doubt that a Macan S Diesel would serve almost any requirement you might reasonably put on a car like this.
It’s not the most practical car in its class – particularly in terms of rear cabin space – but it’s desirable and substantial of feel and brings new sporting verve to the smaller end of the popular premium 4x4 market.
As it turns out, its handling can be sporting with a big S or a little one. It’s just a shame that its diesel powertrain lacks that knockout punch.
Porsche Macan S Diesel
Price £43,300 0-62mph 6.3sec Top speed 143mph Economy 46.3mpg (combined) CO2 159g/km Kerb weight 1955kg Engine V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel Power 255bhp at 4000-4250rpm Torque 428lb ft at 1750-2500rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic