Car reviews - Porsche - Macan - Turbo
Brilliant ride and steering, solid handling for an SUV, heavily boosted engine is quite fast, lush front seats, lofty build quality
Room for improvement
Basic dashboard, cramped rear seat, hefty kerb weight impacts dynamics, Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate roomier and more dynamic
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10 Apr 2018
PERFORMANCE SUV models have long needed to come back to Earth. Very often when an engineer talks about the dynamics of a high-riding soft-roader, the term ‘car like’ is nominated as a development aim – an implicit admission that raising ride height instantly lowers handling ability.
So quite literally, the Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package has returned back to Terra Firma, with adaptive suspension that drops ride height by 15mm.
The option pack also features higher outputs, a switchable sports exhaust, launch control and beefier brakes, all for a pretty penny.
What reduced ground clearance – in addition to low-profile tyres – also does is virtually eliminate any ability go off the beaten track, but the people have spoken without care. Off-road terrain might halt performance SUVs in their wide tracks, but they remain an unstoppable force in the market.
With SUV heft remaining sans off-road pretence, and the promise of sports car handling, are Macan Turbo Performance Package buyers grounded in reality or are they up with the stars?
Price and equipment
It costs $10,000 to add the Performance Package to a Macan Turbo, at $143,500 plus on-road costs. In addition to 15mm-lower ride height, 30mm-larger 390mm front disc brakes, two-mode sports exhaust, and Sport Chrono launch control, there is an additional 30kW of power (at 324kW) and 50Nm of torque (at 600Nm) denoted by a carbon-inlay 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 engine cover.
Our test car’s Turbo Exterior Package though adds another $14,290 to the price, as well as all the aforementioned Performance Package upgrades and 21-inch alloy wheels (up from 20s), adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, tinted LED tail-lights and black exterior highlights and tailpipes.
A $3790 panoramic sunroof, $3590 Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus for the all-wheel-drive system, $2990 adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), $2780 lane-keep assistance, $1660 360-degree cameras and $650 Power Steering Plus had also been optioned here.
As-tested then, the base price soared by $29,750 for an eye-watering $173,250 total.
Standard equipment though, includes keyless auto-entry, tri-zone climate control, leather trim with heated and electrically adjustable front seats, Alcantara rooflining, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric tailgate, and 7.0-inch touchscreen with digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, satellite navigation and 14-speaker Bose audio.
As new-generation Porsche models expand touchscreen size and replace a greater number of traditional buttons with fewer touch-sensitive tabs, the Macan instead proves to be a model of simplicity.
While a switchgear smorgasbord might at first seem perplexing, it is possible to run fingertips around the cabin whereas the newer tabs – that illuminate on a flat blank piece of console trim – require a driver to look down and stab only a particular lit-up icon. It is not as though newer models have fewer functions than this Turbo, it is just that they also bury them in screen sub menus.
Familiarity therefore does not breed contempt here. That is especially the case as the build quality of this premium medium SUV is flawless.
Each stitch in the leather-topped dashboard, and ever brushed-aluminium trim piece, are wound together impeccably.
Meanwhile the smaller screen and analogue dials, flanked with a small circular colour trip computer screen, simply look classy in an understated way. It proves, as ever, that quality is often the antithesis of the glamourous.
Even the storage bin lids are immaculately damped, although the problem is that there simply is not enough of them, especially around the centre console area.
Behind the superbly sumptuous and supple front seats, however, the lack of space continues as a theme because the Macan features the least amount of legroom in the segment. It is tight back there, and the back bench does not slide.
As with rear legroom, the 500-litre boot volume is below average for the class – a Range Rover Velar P380 boasts 558L, a Mercedes-AMG GLC63 550L – with the sloping roofline intruding on the ability to load bulky items.
Sure, there is a 40:20:40 split-fold rear backrest to aid practicality, but ultimately more packaging innovation is expected in such an expensive premium medium SUV.
Engine and transmission
Forget SUV rivals such as the Ranger Rover Velar and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 for a moment. A similarly priced wagon such as the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate is, compared with this Macan Turbo Performance Package, 195kg lighter and three-tenths faster from zero to 100km/h, while also saving 0.9 litres of premium unleaded for every 100 kilometres. Lighter, quicker, thriftier and just as spacious, the wagon wins.
Not that the Porsche is malnourished, with 324kW and 600Nm driving a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – dubbed PDK – for a triple digit sprint time of 4.4 seconds.
On paper, the Macon is not overly thirsty, with a combined-cycle average of 9.6L/100km.
The reason it is worth bringing up a wagon and not an SUV as a rival, though, is because this Macan falls behind any model of the former body style, yet is also ahead of pretty much all of the latter.
Foot flat and the duo of turbochargers flare the six cylinders into syrupy, sweet sounding action, with the sports exhaust feeding in wonderfully fruity overtones and the auto being pretty much ideal in response – especially in Sport+ mode where it transitions from assertive to aggressive instantly thanks intuitive software coding that can ‘read’ whether a driver is cruising or caning. Nobody does this better than Porsche.
However, especially from low speeds around town, the Turbo Performance Package cannot escape feeling heavy and just a fraction laggy.
It comes down not to the engine itself, but the 1925kg kerb weight, which is simply astonishing for a vehicle with so little rear legroom in particular.
On test, consumption also blew out to 13.7L/100km in mixed conditions.
Ride and handling
Nobody does an automatic better than Porsche, and nobody delivers more supple yet sporty suspension than the talented Stuttgart engineering team.
The ride quality from the three-mode adaptive air suspension is astounding in isolation, but especially so considering this Turbo Performance Package is rolling on low-profile 21-inch tyres.
Not once did it ever feel overly firm, nor reveal a hint of float, being more akin to the sports-luxury vibe of an Audi S4 Avant or Ranger Rover Velar P380 than a trembling C63 S Estate (and perhaps a GLC63, though it remains untested here).
It is perhaps quite apt that the Macan lacks rear legroom and boot space too, because it just feels like a supersized hatchback to drive through corners.
With fabulously natural and sharp steering, this premium medium SUV dances with its driver through corners, and it powers out of them with an all-wheel-drive system that – as the torque-portioning trip computer display attests – prioritises rear-drive in a very overt way.
Add brilliant electronic stability control (ESC) tuning and it is possible to engage with nose-tweaking, backside-shifting on-throttle oversteer in an easy way.
That does not mean anything inappropriate for road driving, but rather it helps a driver balance – more emphatically than merely disguising – any front-end push that often could occur in a portly SUV application.
There is only one caveat, though. Despite its power and poise the Porsche Macan is not actually any more fun, and it does not feel any faster, through corners than an Audi S4 Avant that is technically slower in a straight line and just as soothing in ride terms.
That Volkswagen Group medium wagon sibling is also about $40,000 cheaper in unoptioned like-for-like guise …Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, and lane-departure warning are featured on the Macan Turbo with Performance Pack.
The Porsche Macan has not been tested by ANCAP and the brand does not offer a capped-price servicing program.
Think of the Macan Turbo Performance Package as the ultimate large and expensive hatchback, more than a practical premium medium SUV.
It has wonderful cabin quality, lush front seating, sublime ride quality, plus engaging handling that places a proper Porsche stamp on the format.
Yet it is also very quick, but weighty, and the Performance Package might be 15mm closer to the ground and therefore sportier than the Turbo on which it is based, but that near-two-tonne heft is sometimes inescapable whether around town or scurrying through bends.
For all that, rear legroom is crimped, active safety expectations – such as AEB – are relegated to the options list, and suddenly the pricetag is far north rather than due south of the $150K threshold.
Buyers of this impressive but compromised Porsche Macan might not need to come back to Earth, then, but compared with a more affordable and dynamic sports-luxury wagon they might certainly fall short of feeling as though they are on Cloud Nine.
Mercedes-AMG GLC63 from $164,900 plus on-road costs
375kW/700Nm twin-turbo V8 delivers 3.7sec 0-100km/h with more room, less class.
Range Rover Velar P380 First Edition from $169,150 plus on-road costs
280kW/450Nm supercharged V6 is much slower and less dynamic, but with lush and loaded cabin.
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