Welcome to 2017, ladies and gentlemen. A time where the Apple iPhone, the phone that revolutionized how we think of and use mobile devices, turns a decade old. Incidentally, 2017 is also when “Batman” and “Star Trek” both turn 50.
We also now live in a time where Porsche A.G., the beloved automobile manufacturer specializing in high-performance sports cars, has a Sport Utility Vehicle as one of its entry-level products in which to get people into the brand.
But perhaps this is not too far from the company’s original roots after all. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche initially offered motor vehicle development work and consulting, but did not build any cars under his own name. Indeed, one of the first assignments the new company received back then from the German government, was to design a car for the people, also known as a “Volkswagen”.
And thus the Volkswagen Beetle was born, and it is still revered as one of the most successful car designs of all time. It is also a fact that the Porsche 64 itself was developed in 1939 using many components from the Beetle.
No apologies necessary
With speed, handling, go-anywhere ability, as well as the Porsche badge, the Porsche A.G. has nothing to apologise for when it comes to the Macan, even to the Porsche purists. While it may be little brother to the Cayenne, and Porsche’s first foray into the small SUV world, the “entry level” 4-cylinder turbocharged Macan is equipped with proper rear-biased all-wheel-drive and many of Porsche’s go-faster goodies.
Porsche proclaims the Macan as the first compact SUV that is also a sports car. The design, that wraps 911-style cues into a four-door body, makes the Macan unmistakable for anything other than a Porsche.
Despite its nomenclature, every Macan these days is turbocharged, even the S and GTS models. The big news for 2017 is the addition of a new base Macan, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine with 253 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. This is a completely different engine than the horizontally-opposed unit in the new 718 Boxster, but rather, an uprated version of the Audi Q5’s engine.
This engine is mated to Porsche’s sweet seven-speed PDK flappy paddle gearbox, and when equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package featuring launch control, will launch the vehicle from zero to 60 mph (96 km/hr) in only 6.1 seconds. At 3,902 pounds, the 4-cylinder turbo Macan is also the lightest Porsche crossover.
Porsche confidently states that “overtaking maneuvers are completed confidently”, and one stint behind the wheel will convince anyone that this Germanic accuracy is totally on point.
Performance matters, but yet it doesn’t
Perhaps there are two ways to think about the four-cylinder Macan. The most economical way to get into the Porsche family, or an expensive lifted hot hatch. If you really want a Porsche Cayman, but life dictates that you have to move around people or items larger than a jumbo roll of toilet paper, both descriptions are probably accurate!
Yes, it’s true that you can get a quicker hatchback, such as a Volkswagen Golf R, or the new Audi A4 Allroad wagon, the latter of which has identical horsepower and torque ratings as the 4-cylinder Macan. However, judging from actual sales numbers, those in the market for luxury crossovers typically don’t rank zero-to-60 times high on their priority list.
Once again, internet commenters clearly share a different perspective from the actual folks that are shelling out the money, and Porsche couldn’t be happier.
What is it like on the road?
As expected, the Macan’s cabin, regardless of trim level, is very driver-centric with its rising centre console and great all-round visibility. Even its steering wheel design is borrowed from the 918 Spyder hypercar.
Yes, there are many many buttons, but the inside is finished to Porsche’s immaculate standards and retains a lot of what makes a typical premium-branded crossover an attractive ownership proposition. All-in-all, it’s very plush, luxurious, and the switchgear is nicely weighted. The newest generation Porsche infotainment system is also a giant leap forward both in user interface design and speed.
While the Macan doesn’t quite serve up the full sports-car experience when compared to its Cayman sports car cousin, it’s mighty close. The sophisticated electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased for more of a traditional Porsche rear-wheel-drive feeling, and the system can send as much as 100 per cent of the power to the front wheels if the computers deem it necessary. I could geek out at the nifty live torque split gauge all day long.
The Macan’s ability to take corners at speed is impressive, especially considering that this is still a near two tonne SUV. If you’re looking to row through the gears yourself, no such luck.
However, the seven speed PDK double-clutch transmission is pretty much the best in the business, changing gear instantly and with satisfying mechanical crispness regardless of whether you’re using the steering wheel paddles or pulling on the gearshift level. There is a surprisingly delightful heft upon engagement. Typical Porsche engineering magic you see.
Total cargo room is hampered by the Macan’s steeply raked tailgate design, and rear leg and headroom is pretty average for the class. However, there is still a surprising amount of loadspace, and let’s face it. It’s still a whole lot more practical than a 911.
As expected, Porsche base prices are a bit of a tease. There are a lot of tempting goodies, such as upgraded wheels, special paint colours, and much much more.
But be smart with your choices, such as the optional Sport Chrono package, and you’ll find that the entry-level Macan will come standard with a lot of things you’d want at the base price anyway. For example, my test vehicle came equipped with Alcantara seats that were “base”, but I quite fancied them after a few days with the vehicle. Perhaps even more than the full leather option.
Yes, there’s an argument that says that if you buy a crossover, you are somehow sacrificing your identity. But to that, I say “phooey”, and give you my complete and total blessing try carving up your favourite canyon road in the 4-cylinder turbocharged Porsche Macan, even if that canyon may lead straight to your favourite shopping centre.