Porsche's improved Macan S continues to set the ultimate benchmark for just how dynamic the handling of an SUV can be. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Macan is the Peoples' Porsche. The model to convert the SUV cynics. And an SUV with the soul - and the engineering - or a sports car. 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. And it's very special indeed in V6-engined Macan S guise. Here's the revised version.
Lots of unlikely models have been described as 'sports cars' over the years. It's always been hard though, to imagine an SUV in that way. Or at least it was until the launch of this model, the Porsche Macan, in 2014. This car re-defined the way an SUV could drive and four years into its production cycle, the Zuffenhausen maker substantially upgraded it to create a contender then further improved in mid-2021; that's the version we look at here - in V6 Macan S form.
A key change with this facelifted model has been an increase in power and a change from the 3.0 V6 petrol engine borrowed from the larger Cayenne to the 2.9-litre V6 unit used by the old Macan Turbo model, which here is detuned to 380PS. Otherwise here, the updates are subtle - minor styling changes, upgraded cabin design, a range of fresh options and a series of dynamic tweaks aimed at further underlining this contender's claim to be 'the sports car of the SUV segment'. Of all brands, Porsche should know just what a claim that is to make about a model that weighs nearly two tonnes, is over 1.6m in height and must be engineered to tackle the Rubicon Trail as well as the racetrack.
The entry point for Macan ownership is with the standard 2.0-litre model, but that car only has a 265PS four cylinder engine. Ideally, you'd want the throatier note of a V6, in which case your starting point in the range will be the Macan S variant we're looking at here, which now swaps the previous 3.0-litre V6 for the old Turbo model's 2.9-litre V6 and puts out 380PS. And that's not all that's changed. Porsche says that the chassis has been further optimised for this updated model, so that the car should respond more directly and with greater sensitivity. It was already a handling leader in its class. As before, four-wheel drive is standard on all variants, 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.
In all its forms, the Macan still redefines the SUV segment standard when it comes to the way a car of this kind can corner at speed. The Macan S now makes 62mph from rest in just 4.8s en route to 161mph, half a second and 4mph quicker than before. Through the turns, the fizzing feedback you get through the 911-style steering wheel and the remarkable lack of lean through each bend together give you such confidence that you can attack each corner almost as hard as you want. The now-standard 'Porsche Torque Vectoring plus' system keeps the car planted through the tightest turn, firing you on from bend to bend.
Most buyers upgrade to either PASM adaptive damping or full-air suspension, the latter set-up able to better facilitate the off road journeys that the majority of buyers will like the thought of but never take.
Design and Build
Following updates to the look of this Macan in 2018, Porsche has further refined the styling. The redesigned nose has an exterior colour inlay, plus LED headlights with the Porsche Dynamic Light System are now standard, as are 'Sport Design' exterior mirrors. In addition, you also get larger 20-inch wheels on the Macan S.
Inside, there's a new centre console with haptic touch surfaces instead of buttons, plus there's a shorter gear lever and an analogue clock at the top of the dashboard. As before, there's a 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management centre infotainment screen, with voice activation and many standard online functions and services. It also incorporates 4G LTE 'phone compatibility, 'Apple CarPlay' and a 10-speaker DAB audio system. Otherwise, things are much as before. So the Macan continues with its usual classic three instrument-tube binnacle layout, the right hand pod incorporating a screen that can bring navigation mapping more directly into your line of sight.
In the rear, three adults could certainly fit for short-to-medium journeys, provided the unfortunate middle seat occupant didn't mind splaying their legs around the extremely high centre transmission tunnel. At the back, the standard automatically-operable rear tailgate rises to reveal a 500-litre cargo bay. If you need to take longer items, you'll be glad that the rear backrest folds in a useful 40:20:40-split, which means you can poke through things like skis without disturbing rear seat passengers. Push the rear bench completely forward and a 1,500-litre capacity is freed up.
Market and Model
The 380PS Macan S costs from around £55,000, which is around £6,000 more than the base 265PS four cylinder 2.0-litre model. The same six cylinder engine comes in uprated 440PS form for around £66,000 with the top Macan GTS. As is usual in this segment, there's standard auto transmission, a 7-speed PDK set-up with steering wheel paddleshifters.
If you want other credible alternatives, we'd point you towards two particular V6 rivals, both priced similarly and offering around 350hp. For around the same money as the Macan S, there's the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. And for only around £4,000 more, you could have a BMW X3 M40i. But we think that both of these cars would struggle to keep a well-driven Macan S in sight at speed on a twisty road.
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 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.
Cost of Ownership
Porsche is also keen to remind us that the 2.9-litre V6 engine of the Macan S is a much more efficient thing than the V6 engine that was fitted to the original 2014-era version of this car. It gets two particulate filters, plus it's lighter and more efficient thanks to the location of the mono turbocharger in the engine's inner 'V'. As a result, the combined economy isn't hugely worse than that of the four cylinder variant - quoted at up to 25.4mpg. The CO2 return is reckoned to be up to 251g/km.
A major Macan buying incentive lies with this car's impressively high likely residual values. When this car was originally launched, buyers were running their cars for twelve months, then selling them on for pretty much what they'd paid for them. It's obviously not quite like that now, but this car still leads its competitors in this regard by a handsome margin. Over three years and 36,000 miles, expect a Macan to hold on to 10 percentage points more of its value than an equivalent Jaguar F-PACE for instance. Independent experts predict a residual value of 71% for this Porsche in this period, which is deeply impressive. On the downside, because of the high up-front price of this car, it'll face a higher road tax rate for the first five years of ownership after the initially CO2-weighted payment that's rolled into the on-the-road price.
This revised Macan S model isn't going to convert anyone who didn't already want a Macan. But for the many who'd like one very much indeed, the changes made here make this car even more desirable. Some rivals have more sophisticated infotainment and all of them include more camera-driven safety kit as standard. Plus we wish it wasn't so expensive - realistically, what you're going to be paying here is the kind of money you'd have to find for a luxury SUV from the next size up. Otherwise though, we like this Porsche very much indeed.
This is, in summary, the car all its rivals would like to be. The car most buyers in this segment would like to have. There are, it's true, more efficient or more spacious choices in this sector. Some premium mid-sized SUVs are better equipped or will take you further off road. And almost all will cost slightly less. For all that though, this is an addictive package, a segment-defining car and a very desirable thing indeed.