Porsche's improved Macan continues to redefine what a mid-sized premium sports SUV should be. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Porsche's 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. Especially in this improved form.
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, then updated in mid-2021 to create the car we're going to look at here, looks smarter, ditches diesel and improves its technology.
It's an all-petrol range these days - it's some time now since Porsche offered a diesel in any of its cars. The brand's usual plug-in hybrid tech though, is conspicuous by its absence here. Whatever engine you select, there's more power on offer than before. Most buyers opt for the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo model, available in standard or more focused 'Macan T' forms, either way with 265PS: in this form, the car gets to 62mph in 6.2s and reaches 144mph flat out. If that really isn't fast enough for you, then there's a mid-range Macan S and Macan GTS models, which use an Audi-sourced 2.9-litre V6 unit, respectively with either 380 or 440PS. As before, all models come with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, with a Sport button to sharpen shift times, throttle response and steering. The GTS gets Sports air suspension which lowers the ride height by 10mm.
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.
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 wheels, 19-inchers on the Macan, 20-inches on the Macan T and the Macan S and 21-inches on the Macan GTS. The GTS has a black-finished nose section and a more striking rear diffuser.
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
There are now three levels to a Macan range that for some time now has been exclusively petrol-powered. We'll quote prices applicable at the time of this test in Spring 2022. Things kick off at a fraction under £50,000 for the standard 2.0-litre model, now with 265PS. The next level up takes you up to around £54,000 and gives you a choice of powerplants, either the same 2.0-litre unit with a more focused handling set-up in the Macan T; or the top 2.9-litre V6 engine in a 380PS state of tune in the Macan S.
Finally, if you can stretch to around £66,000, you can get yourself the flagship Macan GTS derivative that we tried, a 440PS 2.9-litre V6 variant that's basically a repackaged version of the old top 'Turbo' model. By that point though, you'll find this car seriously overlapping into the kind of pricing that could also buy you the brand's larger Cayenne SUV, which in entry-level 340PS form costs around £63,000 as a standard SUV, or £67,000 in Coupe guise. If it's a Macan you really want, then you'll find that, as is usual in this segment, all variants in the range get auto transmission, a 7-speed PDK set-up with steering wheel paddleshifters.
Cost of Ownership
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 up to 28.0mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and up to 228g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. That's not a bad return for an SUV that will get to 62mph in 6.2 seconds. For the V6 Macan S, the respective WLTP figures are up to 25.4mpg and up to 251g/km. For the GTS, it's up to 25.0mpg and up to 255g/km.
Insurance groupings start at 45E for the base Macan variant, before topping out at group 50 for the GTS 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.