From £57,2958
Mid-range, mid-spec Porsche SUV proves how spec-sensitive the modern performance 4x4 can be. Still impressive to drive, but limited in one or two other ways

What is it?

The meat right out of the middle of the Porsche Macan compact SUV range. This is our first taste, in right-hand drive and on UK roads, of the 2019-model-year, mid-range, facelifted Macan S, which has been fitted with the new 349bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that also appears in the larger Porsche Panamera and Porsche Cayenne.

It’s an engine that Porsche has co-developed with sister brand Audi and codenamed ‘EA839’, that was fitted to the last S4, S5 and SQ5 petrol models before Ingolstadt took the decision to make almost all of its ‘S’ performance models diesels. It uses one twin-scroll turbocharger positioned between the 90-degree cylinder banks.  And there’s also a shorter-stroke, lower-compression, twin-turbo 2.9-litre version of the same engine which powers the Audi RS4 and RS5, and will move under the bonnet of the forthcoming Macan Turbo, very likely increasing power to as much as 444bhp for the Turbo S derivative.

The Macan S will cost you just over £1800 more than a four-cylinder Macan, and in addition to that V6 engine it gives you a different 18in alloy wheel rim design and a front brake upgrade. Seems like quite good value to me.

The car’s catalogue list price is, of course, just a departure point for any modern luxury performance car. Just as on a four-pot Macan, on an ‘S’ you get steel coil suspension, passive dampers, mixed-width alloy wheels, a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and rear axle-biased, clutch-based four-wheel drive.

You can upgrade and augment that mechanical mix with either PASM adaptive dampers or fully-adaptive, ride-height-juggling air suspension; with an electronic locking rear differential; with optional alloy wheels ranging all the way up to 21in in diameter; or with almost all of the above in combination, if you want to. Plenty will.

The other thing that buying a Macan S rather than a four-pot Macan means is you can spend more on optional brakes; so while you can only lavish about £2000 on Porsche ‘PSCB’ tungsten-carbide coated discs on the latter, you can dispose of nearly £6000 on ‘PCCB’ ceramic-composite discs on the former (which obviously offer even greater and more fade-resistant stopping power).

Beginning to see why people often get so geeky about the detail of the ordering process of Porsche’s cars? Well, there’s a wonderful amount to geek out about, frankly. Our test car had adaptively damped steel coil suspension combined with 20in rims and than torque vectoring rear diff, but standard steel brakes.

3 Porsche macan s 2019 fd hero rear 1

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What's it like?

It certainly demonstrates the importance of filling out your order form correctly if you mean to buy a car with the sort of enthusiastic handling and performance character for which the Porsche Macan is famed.

Here’s an example. There are three ways in which you can optionally tweak the exhaust system on your Macan S: with silver tailpipe finishers, with black ones, or with Porsche’s fully switchable sports exhaust system (which only comes with silver pipes, for the record). Our test car had the black pipe tips in order to match its wider styling theme – but that meant it lacked a bit of woofling, sonorous pizzazz. The car’s new V6 is certainly smooth, torquey, responsive and refined – but it seemed just a little bit short on charm for a Porsche.

The performance level it endows is anything but shabby, though. The Macan S has the very broad power band so common amongst modern multicylinder turbo petrol motors, so it feels brisk in any of its lower intermediate gears, and from almost any speed. A few years ago, you wouldn’t have wondered for a second whether you needed a more powerful engine. Frankly, you simply don’t.

And yet today, if you’ve driven the very latest performance SUVs at least, you might just want a bit more pace – and certainly a helping of extra audible theatre. It wouldn’t be a rational or particularly grown-up demand, and you probably wouldn’t feel good about making it – but I can see plenty of Macan owners driving this car and electing to keep their deposits dry for a GTS or a Turbo. By current fast 4x4 standards for straight-line shove, the Macan S just isn’t quite cutting it.

On adaptively damped coil springs and a bigger optional rim, meanwhile, the car has a very convincing blend of ride sophistication, lateral grip and handling response, and it steers more sweetly than an Alfa Romeo Stelvio albeit without handling quite as incisively. Having driven a four-pot Macan on adaptive air suspension and this six-pot without it, though, there’s no question that I’d want air.

For most SUVs, the argument you might make to spend a few quid on optional air suspension, where offered, would be almost entirely about ride comfort and ground clearance. Not so here. The Macan’s handling is only at its class-leading, mass-defying, apex-splicing best when the car can suck its sprung mass down over its axles and vary its effective spring rates, as that air suspension system allows. With it, the car corners flatter and keener, and with better balance and more intuitive and precise steering, than any compact SUV I can think of. It’s nothing short of remarkable to drive quickly.

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Without it, as our test car proved, the Macan is merely very good. Don’t get me wrong: it still handles with an agility and involvement factor that could trump most rivals – but not quite in such a mind-blowing way as to render any concerns you might have about the rest of the Macan’s ownership credentials unimportant.

And, especially now, you might just have one or two. This wasn’t a particularly practical car in pre-facelift form, and it’s no bigger now. The boot’s bigger than you’ll find in most family hatchbacks but the cabin, although it’s spacious enough up front, certainly isn’t.

Porsche’s updated PCM infotainment system does a lot to lift what might otherwise seem quite a dated interior, busy with switchgear but missing some of the very latest driver assistance and digital display toys you’ll find on rivals. The car’s standard ‘comfort’ seats are also just a bit short in the cushion for longer-legged drivers, and short also on useful bolstering when you need it.

Away from those more memorable drives and in the drudgery of the traffic queue, meanwhile, the slightly fussy and reactive fidget of the car’s steel coil suspension may not seem ideally comfortable for a high-riding SUV, and the slightly brusque style of clutch engagement which that paddleshift transmission can adopt on step-off might occasionally irritate, too. You’d get used to both; but not, perhaps, by choice. 

6 Porsche macan s 2019 fd dashboard

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Should I buy one?

Honestly, I wouldn't warn you off it - even after all those minor reservations, which do a fine car a bit of a disservice. In any V6-engined form, the Porsche Macan's a very complete and accomplished driver's car; one big enough for a growing family but not so big, perhaps, that it makes you feel unreasonable in your priorities in life, or irresponsible about your preferences.

The better question would be “how should I buy one” – and I hope I’ve answered it. Tick the boxes for the sports exhaust and air springs and a Macan S could be all the performance 4x4 you ever wanted. I’d add PTV Plus torque vectoring, sports seats and a good-sized optional alloy too, just to be sure.

As far as its utility value and practicality goes, the Macan was always better thought of as the compact four-seater Porsche rather than as any conventional mid-sized SUV, and that continues to be the case. In other words, while this could be precisely the Porsche you want, I’d bet few would who’ve owned one would describe it as all the SUV they ever needed.

Some probably wouldn’t think of it as an SUV at all. But then a certain resistance to definition doesn’t seem to have harmed the Macan's sales fortunes much.

Porsche Macan S specification

Where Banbury, UK Price £48,750 On sale now Engine V6, 2995cc, turbocharged petrol Power 349bhp at 5400-6400rpm Torque 354lb ft at 1360-4800rpm Gearbox 7-spd twin-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1865kg Top speed 157mph 0-62mph 5.1sec Fuel economy WLTP figures tbc CO2 WLTP figures tbc Rivals Alfa Romeo Stelvio Speciale, BMW X4 M40i

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Jace 17 30 June 2019

Black sports exhaust

Info above regarding the sports exhaust being only available with silver tips is incorrect. Porsche also offer their sports exhaust in black.   

Ejeto 30 June 2019

salty ride

Ejeto 30 June 2019

salty ride