Porsche's improved Macan continues to redefine what a mid-sized premium sports SUV should be. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Porsche's improved Macan continues to be an SUV with the soul - and the engineering - or a sportscar. You might expect it to be fast and family-friendly. More of a surprise is that it's rewarding and, with the right spec, very nearly race-ready in its responses. Yet it'll comfortably take you off road, deal with the school run and cruise down to Chamonix. It's very special.
With the Macan, Porsche was always determined to stretch design boundaries and create the ultimate multi-tasker. A car as ready for a circuit as it would be for a skiing trip, classy enough for the streets of Monte Carlo, soundly sensible on the school run, quietly capable on the rough stuff and potentially manic around Monza. The company's certainly well-placed to create such a thing, claiming the whole 'sporting all-wheel drive car' concept as its own invention. Back in 1900, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Lohner-Porsche racing model with its four electric wheelhub motors. By 1947, the brand was going further, developing a supercharged 12 cylinder 'Type 360' Cisitalia Grand Prix racer that introduced the concept of full four-wheel drive. What it all led to was the Cayenne large SUV that turned the company's fortunes around earlier this century. And from that to this Macan, a smaller SUV designed to sell alongside it, first launched back in 2014. This revised version, launched in mid-2018, looks smarter, ditches diesel and improves its technology.
The big news with this revised model is that the Macan range no longer offers a diesel, this in line with the brand's current policy of deleting apparently planet-polluting diesel from all its models. Unfortunately, (for the time being at least), the company hasn't offered customers a Plug-in hybrid powertrain instead. So buyers must, initially anyway, choose from three petrol powerplants. Most will opt for the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo unit which offers 245hp, gets to 62mph in 6.7s and reaches 139mph flat out. If that really isn't fast enough for you, then there's a mid-range Macan S model which uses the 3.0 V6 unit from the larger Cayenne, here with 351hp. Or there's the top Macan Turbo, which borrows its 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 from the Audi R S4, but here uses it in 434hp form. All variants get a revised chassis with newly developed tyres, a package that should put this model even further ahead of its rivals from a dynamic perspective. All models come with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, with a Sport button to sharpen shift times, throttle response and steering. Four-wheel drive is standard on all cars, although in normal road conditions, 100% of torque is directed to the rear axle. Should momentary slip be detected, a clutch pack locks, which can then send up to 100 per cent of torque to the front axle. There's also a torque vectoring system, while a torque vectoring rear differential is an option. There is a dedicated off-road mode, which optimises the torque split and gearbox shift points to better optimise grip and torque when it gets really slippery. Standard steel springs with passive dampers are standard on the S models, with adaptive dampers an option, while the Turbo gets full air suspension.
The styling of this revised Macan has only been very lightly evolved. The smarter three-part, three-dimensional LED light strip across the rear of the car is probably the biggest change and represents a typical element of the Porsche design DNA. The sleeker brake lights with their four-point cues are another immediately recognisable embodiment of the brand identity. LED technology is incorporated into the re-styled main headlight design, while the Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus) option can be used to control light distribution adaptively. The wheel styles available range from 18-inches in diameter as standard to 21-inches as an option. Otherwise, things are much as before. Even though this is Porsche's baby SUV, there's plenty of space inside. The Macan is built on a heavily modified version of the Audi Q5's MLB chassis. It's 4,681mm long and 1,923mm wide, which means it occupies a bigger footprint than its Audi cousin, but the wheelbase is a little smaller, meaning the Audi has a slight edge when it comes to rear seat space. There's a decent 500-litres of room in the boot which extends to 1,500-litres when the rear seats are folded.
Prices for the all-petrol range open at just over £46,000, which gets you the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo 245hp model. If you want more power, you can also talk to your dealer about the 3.0 V6 Macan S and the 2.9-litre V6 twin turbo Turbo version. The range of standard features has been expanded to include LED main headlights and the new PCM infotainment system, with online navigation and Connect Plus. This revised Macan offers the choice of an expanded range of options, plus enhanced assist systems. The optional GT sports steering wheel echoes the style of the Porsche 911. A mode switch integrated into the steering wheel - including a sport response button - is part of the optional Sport Chrono Package. An extra luxury option is the heated windscreen and air ioniser package that improves the quality of the air inside the vehicle. As for extra camera-driven safety stuff, well there's now a new Traffic Assist system that uses adaptive cruise control to allow the vehicle to travel at speeds of up to 37mph for a more pleasant and relaxing drive. As well as being able to accelerate and brake semi-automatically, the system helps the driver to stay in their lane in traffic jams and poor-flowing traffic.
Porsche has worked hard to keep the running cost efficiency figures of this revised model competitive. Part of this model's price premium over an Audi Q5 can be ascribed to the use of aluminium body panels which pare 40kg from the car's kerb weight. The PDK auto gearbox has been optimised for economy at cruising speeds, with a coasting function that decouples the engine and gearbox when you lift the throttle on the motorway. There's also of course a start/stop mode to help cut fuel consumption in city traffic. As a result, the fuel economy for the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo Macan is 34.9mpg on the combined cycle and 185g/km of CO2. That's not a bad return for an SUV that will get to 62mph in 6.7 seconds. Insurance groupings start at 45E for the base Macan variant, before topping out at group 50 for the top Turbo model. Oh and if you want to justify purchase of this car to green-minded friends, it's always useful to know that at the end of its life, it'll be 95% recyclable. Buyers get a three year warranty which might seem a little mean in this day and age, but it does include an unlimited mileage clause.
'Life, intensified'. According to Porsche, this is what this car is all about. It's certainly intensified the whole concept of what an SUV can be. Cars of this kind - even sporting ones - are almost always born out of compromise. They might look the part, but sheer weight and size have to tell somewhere. Those issues affect a Macan too, but far less significantly than you might ever have imagined was possible with this class of car. If you need five seats, decent luggage space and go-anywhere versatility but secretly still crave that little sportscar or hot hatch you used to love so much, I can't think of anything better to recommend as a day-to-day choice for someone on a premium budget. This is, in summary, the car all its rivals would like to be. The car most buyers in this segment would like to have.
We have video road tests of approximately 100 models. Use the dropdowns to choose the road test.