Car reviews - Porsche - Macan
Few cars – let alone SUVs – are this rewarding to drive, decent amount of standard kit for a base model, clutter-free new interior, four-cylinder is quick enough
Room for improvement
Adaptive cruise control still not standard, inadequate sun blind on optional panoramic glass roof, dated instrument pack, no ANCAP rating
Better than ever after all these years, the Porsche Macan feels forever young
20 Apr 2022
NOW eight years into its model lifecycle and based on an even older platform inherited from the Audi Q5, the Porsche's mid-size Macan SUV is showing no signs of slowing down.
An all-electric second-generation version is confirmed to go on sale next year and word is, the flagship Turbo variant that was discontinued with the Macan's recent facelift will return in electric-only form before more battery-powered models filter through the range and eventually replace petrol for good.
So, the first-gen Macan is not quite in its twilight years – more like late afternoon – but does the model that has done more to put Porsches on the driveways of Australians than any other still have what it takes to remain desirable into retirement?
We live with one for a week to find out.
Images of the facelifted Macan had us scratching our chins over the redesigned front bumper's big boxy intake that, to our eyes, made it look like the grimace emoji.
But our entry level variant's demure Volcano Grey Metallic paint finish – an $1800 option – thankfully hides that bumper design somewhat and it doesn't look anywhere as confronting in the metal anyway. And the fish scale-like texture on the new door trims is neat.
The overall design has aged well, an unmistakably Porsche silhouette draped tautly over an SUV's hard points to create a vehicle that looks deceptively smaller than it is. The Macan's appearance is more slightly bulked-up hot hatch than sexed-up SUV.
Inside, the button-fest centre console has been replaced by a sleek touch-sensitive panel that only reveals its functions once the engine has been fired up and helps bring the Macan's forward cabin up to date, aligned with the rest of its showroom stablemates.
There are still buttons – and blanks in the case of this base Macan – in the ceiling-mounted console for disabling the parking sensors and various interior illumination functions, as well as the sunroof where fitted.
Porsche's latest multimedia system is there too, again integrated with the surrounding surfaces as to seem invisible when not in use, but excellent in its intuitive and multi-faceted operation when it is.
There is a lot of charm to the Macan's classic 911-aping vertical dashboard architecture and the way the steering wheel is similarly angled to provide an immediate sportscar feel.
Behind the wheel is an old-fashioned analogue instrument cluster that juxtaposes the hi-tech surfaces to its left and, with its small digital speed readout beneath the central tacho and circular multi-function display in place of the right-hand dial, feels left far behind the divine curved digital displays found in the 911, Cayenne and Taycan.
Twist the throwback key-like ignition switch then shift the stubbier new gear selector into D, though, and all is quickly forgiven. More on that later.
We're in the $84,800 (before on-road costs) entry-level Macan but it doesn't feel – or smell – at all bare bones in here. It even pretends to have Sport Chrono, but it’s just a regular clock atop the dash unless you pay $1880 for the real deal that also adds a rotary drive mode selector on the steering wheel.
The plush hide of the seat upholstery, steering wheel rim, gear selector knob and gaiter are top-notch quality and give off the kind of evocative aroma you get around expensive leather goods boutiques.
Seat comfort and support – with 14-way electric adjustment plus memory – is excellent, as is the driving position. The new centre console is easy to use, providing independent air-con temperature controls for each front occupant, who can also set their own fan speed. Why don't more cars offer this?
A third climate control zone with big vents for rear passengers above the two USB-C ports are also welcome.
We don't need the $790 heated seat option now that south-east Queensland's weather has returned to business as usual, which also serves to highlight the inadequate protection provided by the sun blind of our test Macan's $3110 panoramic glass roof.
Unless your spatial awareness is seriously compromised, we'd skip our car's $650 Self Steering Park Assist option as the Macan's visibility is outstanding even with the back seats occupied, complemented by crisp visuals from the standard surround-view camera and parking sensors at both ends.
A friend joked that BOSE stands for 'buy other sound equipment' and we'd tend to agree in the case of overly boomy and under-detailed performance from the $2230 system fitted to this car. A Burmester audiophile set-up is a hard-to-justify $8970 though.
Porsche logo courtesy lights are $540 worth of tinsel that might impress your mates once or twice.
So, of the $10K-ish of options fitted to our Macan, we'd only consider upgrading to the $860 adaptive PDLS Plus headlights if driving a lot at night but the $490 speed-sensitive Power steering Plus option fitted to our test car is worthwhile as it aids round-town manoeuvrability while providing a more natural feel at higher speeds.
Features that should not be on the options list are adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, which are standard on a lot of $30K cars these days. Bundling these with traffic jam assist is a smidge under $3000 on the Macan. And why is there no ANCAP rating?
Apart from that, even the entry level four-cylinder Macan comes comprehensively equipped. We genuinely wanted for little in terms of kit.
Of course, Porsche will customise your Macan extensively should you have the desire and budget to match.
To these eyes, the best-looking Macan wheel design is the 21-inch RS Spyder that comes standard on the GTS variant, though considering these cost an eye-watering $5760 on the base model you might as well pay the $6700 extra for a Macan T and get these wheels for a discounted $1710.
Distracting configurator Olympics dispatched with, attention turns to practicality. And the Macan is pretty good, if not up to VW Tiguan levels of cargo-pants-on-wheels cabin cubbies.
The glove box is huge and all four door bins will hold decent-sized drinks bottles (with space for a hefty paperback in each of the fronts as well), there are four sensibly-sized cup-holders (two of which are in the rear fold-down armrest).
An adequate but not generous bin beneath the front armrest that is the only sensible place to store phones and a curved recess in the centre console is suitable for stashing sunglasses or small oddments. The lack of map pockets or additional storage for rear passengers is a bit of a disappointment.
The standard powered tailgate rises to reveal quite a shallow but reasonably capacious and usable 488-litre boot – the biggest of all Macans – that is beautifully carpeted, flat-floored and has a handy netted recess to help minimise loose items, with a bit of extra small item space beneath the boot floor alongside the collapsible 18-inch spare wheel.
Fold the 40:20:40 split rear seatbacks – there’s no remote release – and boot space balloons to 1503L, providing an almost-flat load floor.
With the rear seats in place, the Macan qualifies as a comfortable four-seater, with ample headroom and legroom for six-foot adults, as well as decent space for feet and supportive, sculpted cushioning. But a fat transmission tunnel, raised central seating position and thinly padded backrest makes middle-seat life a compromise.
For those transporting young children, there are three child seat anchorages and a set of ISOFIX connections in each of the outboard positions.
And throughout, the fit, finish and sense of quality are pervasive from the materials choices to the tactility of switchgear. Are we ready to go for a drive yet? You bet.
Driving the Macan feels great from the get-go. Again, this base model does not leave you feeling short-changed. In terms of responsiveness and power, for everyday duties more than the 195kW and 400Nm on offer from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder would be excessive.
True enthusiasts might hanker for extra punch and a more sonorous engine but there’s still plenty to love here because the Macan feels so honed, purposeful, connected and downright fun with the basic suspension, wheel and tyre set-up.
You are honestly not compromising much when making a head-or-heart decision with this car. It doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, you’ll crack a smile with every turn of the steering wheel and we haven’t even left suburbia yet.
As suburbia becomes rural, the chubby sidewalls of our car’s 19-inch wheels and the passive coil-sprung suspension do a great job of smoothing out road imperfections and the level of exterior noise isolation makes for a soothing and luxurious experience befitting the badge and price tag.
The low-six-second 0-100km/h time of this base Macan is plenty swift in isolation, though the six-cylinder S does it in less than five and the stonking GTS is in the low fours.
Still, mid-range punch from the four-cylinder is strong enough for punching up motorway on-ramps or overtaking slower traffic on country lanes and the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission goes from seamless around town to snappy at higher speeds.
Lovely chromed paddle-shifters are provided but the PDK is uncannily good at being in the right ratio at the right time on twisty roads, or responding almost instantly to a flex of the right foot when more revs are required. The calibration is sensational.
And calibration is where the Macan really shines. Everything hangs together beautifully, seemingly amplifying levels of feel and feedback that seem at odds with its SUV form factor.
That zippy round-town feel loosens up a bit as speeds rise and roads become more challenging, grip from the Michelins on Porsche’s smallest rims sometimes not quite living up to the pointiness of the Macan’s front-end but providing a level of playfulness and interaction for keen drivers to explore without carrying antisocial or unlawful speed through bends.
Porsche has fitted decent brakes to the base Macan, with four-pot monobloc callipers up front and all four rotors are vented. Like all other functions in this car, they operate intuitively with well-matched weight, satisfying feel and more than enough performance in reserve.
Ferrying family and friends is a similarly happy experience, with great all-round visibility and ventilation complementing the supple ride and superb body control to help reduce motion sickness when road-trips get twisty and going slow would be counterproductive.
The Macan, and particularly the base variant, is a major entry point for people new to the Porsche brand. You won’t be punished at the petrol pump too badly either, our test car’s four-cylinder not straying wildly above the official 9.3L/100km combined consumption rating in mixed use with high tens recorded on suburban errands but sevens on the motorway.
Zuffenhausen has clearly worked hard to delight these customers while not penalising or alienating existing fans who can’t stretch to a more expensive and more powerful model or want to add a relatively inexpensive daily driver to their stable.
With plenty of large SUVs from mainstream brands nudging Macan money these days, the generous standard kit and sheer feel-good factor of this most-affordable Porsche could have many questioning whether they really need seven seats.
Now there’s a head-or-heart decision to ponder.
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