Named after the Indonesian word for “tiger,” the Porsche Macan is the German automaker’s second SUV. Following in the footsteps of the Cayenne, which has become its bestselling model, this animal will likely do as well as its spicy cousin.
As its name suggests, the Macan is both swift and powerful, and thanks to Porsche’s advanced all-wheel drive technology, ready to rough it on dirt roads as well. The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 of the Macan S we tested is athletic yet efficient, shooting the SUV from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. An even bigger 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 is available, and a diesel version goes on sale in early 2015.
Though based on the chassis of the Audi Q5, Porsche is adamant that the Macan is a totally different animal. From an exterior design that trades cargo space for aerodynamics, to its turbocharged V6 engines, the Macan shares few actual parts with its Audi platform-mate.
All Macans come standard with Porsche’s 7-speed PDK dual clutch transmission and, of course, all-wheel-drive. Options on our test Macan S included PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) and the Sport Chrono package, which gave us a real-time performance display and a Sport Plus button that firms up the suspension, quickens the electromechanical steering and optimizes the torque vectoring for hard launches. Pressing the Sport Plus button on the Macan’s spaceship-styled center console also changes the transmissions shift points, placing them close to redline even at part-throttle.
By now we’re used to the excellence of Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch transmissions, but even so it’s worth noting how smooth and yet lightning-quick the gear changes are in the 2015 Macan S. That high-tech precision plays a big part in allowing “only” 340 horsepower to send this two-ton cat down a quarter mile in less than 14 seconds.
In addition to having genuine on-road performance cred, the Macan S also features an off-road driving mode, which raises the suspension and optimizes throttle mapping for less traction. While we didn’t test the Macan’s off road prowess, we did get to experience the difference in feel between various modes while driving our usual test loop. Thanks to the Macan’s infotainment screen, we also got a live readout of where the engine’s torque is headed — usually only the rear wheels get power, but when clawing your way around corners or on gravelly pavement, the system will send torque to the front wheels to compensate for traction loss.
The Macan’s excellent gauge cluster also features a trip computer readout; oil temp, water temp and voltage; you can use the steering-wheel mounted thumb-wheels to scroll between audio functions, car info and the stopwatch function of the Sport Chronometer.
Full of modes, dials and gimmicks, our Macan S was nonetheless the most involving small SUV we’ve driven. It accelerates with urgency, corners almost flatly, and its twin-turbocharged V6 has an addictive, thrilling sound. Thanks in part to its array of gimmicks, including the idle-stop feature, our Porsche Macan S also returned 19.2 MPG overall — not bad for a 4112 lb turbocharged SUV. In fact, the Macan was one of the only cars we’ve driven recently to exceed its EPA city rating during our tests.
While Porsche’s first SUV, the Cayenne, scandalized brand purists, the Macan is unlikely to generate similar shock. Conceived of as the sport utility vehicle for those who’d rather drive a sports car, the Macan is designed to meet normally conflicting goals. It handles, accelerates and performs on the road like a small, low-to-the-ground sports car, yet can carry five humans over bumpy terrain like an SUV. And to cement its level of technical achievement, the Macan does all this while returning reasonable fuel economy. And, unlike the original Cayenne, the Macan drives and handles in a distinctly Porsche-like fashion. The only question is whether the Macan’s bigger brother remains relevant.