The Porsche Macan, a smaller sibling to the Cayenne, was given the tough task of carving out a more lucrative slice of the market for itself. Consider if you will that segment, populated by everything from the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport, through to the Jaguar F-Pace, Maserati Levante and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, and even the Range Rover Sport and Velar.
Here however, we are not driving any ordinary Macan but the range-topping Turbo form.
Does the Macan live up to its Turbo name?
First impressions on first viewing the Macan are of its relatively moderate size. The dimensions vary slightly between models, but the Turbo tested here is 4699mm long, 1923mm wide and 1624mm high. That makes it 146mm shorter, 17mm narrower and 76mm lower than the second-generation Cayenne.
Whereas the Cayenne shares its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Macan is based around a modified version of the high-strength steel platform that underpins the first generation Audi Q5. The two share a 2807mm wheelbase – 88mm shorter than the Cayenne’s – but they have little else in common.
The Macan receives its own mechanical hardware, consisting of specially tuned or unique engines, new gearboxes and a revised version of the Cayenne’s multi-plate-clutch four-wheel drive system. The Macan’s MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is also described as unique, with track widths that are up by 35mm at the front and 36mm at the rear over the Q5’s.
The Macan’s bold styling takes a number of cues from the second-generation Cayenne, including a rather bluff front end that varies in look depending on engine. A large clamshell-style bonnet aids engine bay cooling and features oval-shaped cut-outs for the headlights, plus sides that run all the way down to the front bumpers.
Predictably, the interior has an upmarket feel. The look again draws heavily on the Cayenne, but subtle changes help set the Macan apart, including a multi-function steering wheel similar to the 918 Spyder’s. The rest is familiar, with a three-dial binnacle, touchscreen multimedia system and a high-set middle console housing a sea of switches. It looks cluttered, but the ergonomics are excellent.
As for the standard equipment, the Turbo is available in two forms – standard and with Porsche’s Performance Package. The Macan Turbo rides on 19in alloy wheels, an aggressively-styled bodykit, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, electrically adjustable front sports seats, Alcantara roof lining, and a Bose sound system as standard.
The Performance Package adds not only more power to the Turbo, but also the optional Sports Chrono pack, which includes launch control and more extreme driving modes, adaptive dampers and a 15mm lower ride height.
The Macan Turbo line-up consists of a twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre petrol engine that is described as being all new, although a naturally aspirated version of the same unit has appeared in the last-gen Panamera. Here, it produces 394bhp at 6000rpm and 405lb ft from 1350rpm.
While the Performance Package and the limited edition Exclusive Performance Edition helps the Turbo’s engine punch out 434bhp and an additional 37lb ft of peak twist.
Having a blast in the Porsche Macan Turbo
The Macan Turbo is pleasingly smooth, with an engine that pulls well from the front, is potent through the mid-range and accepting of high gears at low speeds.
There’s some low-end lag, but the V6 is terrifically energetic on boost. With a short-stroke design, the engine also revs with great conviction for a forced-induction unit, rushing up to 6700rpm without feeling remotely breathless before hitting the limiter.
It is just a pity that the new V6 sounds so characterless no matter which driving mode – Standard, Sport or Sport Plus – is chosen. There is an entertaining burble to the exhaust, but it is more often than not drowned out by excessive induction blare. You wouldn’t call it bland, but the noise is rather insipid.
The engine impresses, but it’s the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that really shows its class. It is fast, smooth and intuitive and has the ability to perfectly match revs on downshifts. The four-wheel drive system directs torque to the rear wheels and, when the conditions call for it, to the fronts, giving the Macan a distinctly rear-drive bias.
Despite a kerb weight of 1925kg, the Macan Turbo driven here can hit 62mph from rest in a claimed 4.6sec and 100mph in 10.9sec. Porsche doesn’t limit the top speed of its production models, and the same is true of this SUV, which is claimed to reach 165mph. Even so, this most powerful of Macans is also relatively economical. Official figures claim 31.7mpg combined. Driven briskly over a mix of urban streets, autobahns and country roads, we returned an indicated 25.8mpg.
The defining aspect of the Macan Turbo, however, is its handling. Sitting on firm yet forgiving steel-sprung suspension, this SUV delivers an unusually high level of interaction and exceptional dynamic qualities.
You can fling the Macan Turbo down a back road at a decent clip and it responds beautifully, offering generous feel and a good deal of feedback through wonderfully weighted and engaging electro-mechanical steering. The overall agility and poise is outstanding for a car of this weight.
Away from winding roads, the Macan possesses terrific high-speed stability all the way up to its claimed top speed.
The Macan Turbo’s on-road excellence goes a long way towards redefining class standards, and the ‘sports utility vehicle’ tag was never applied as fittingly as it is here. It is not so much a junior Cayenne as a high-riding Cayman in sheer handling proficiency.
The brakes are no less remarkable. There is a firm but progressive feel to the pedal, allowing you to confidently tip in the stoppers all the way to the point where the anti-lock begins to cycle. Not that the Macan Turbo is exclusively sporting.
It is unlikely that many Macan buyers will venture far off-road, if at all, but a brief run in deep snow revealed that it is quite useful away from the asphalt. An off-road button allows you to alter the threshold of the traction and stability control systems as well as the four-wheel drive and optional torque-vectoring systems.
Porsche claims approach and departure angles of 24.8deg and 23.6deg respectively for the Turbo, while nominal ground clearance is put at 198mm and ramp angle is 17.1deg. The optional air suspension extends each of these values.
If you fancy a sporty SUV which can handle the occasional trip off-road, then the Porsche Macan has to be on your list absolutely. If you are looking for sports car thrills in a practical SUV form than the Turbo has to be right up there, with only the Alpina XD3, Audi SQ5 and Maserati Levante there to keep it company, and none are as well-rounded as the Porsche. And nor does there look like a rival to seriously ruffle the Macan's feathers any time soon, although the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and a hotter version of the Maserati Levante on the horizon.
Despite the odd flaw, it is hard not to get wrapped up in the overall brilliance of the new Macan Turbo. Granted, it is no bargain, but when an SUV is this good, it’s easy to see why it will succeed.