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First drive: Porsche bolsters Macan range with Turbo

Range-topping Turbo variant brings updated Porsche Macan variant choice to three

5 Feb 2020

THE third member of Porsche’s hottest-selling Macan medium SUV has landed Down Under, in the form of the top-spec Turbo grade which nearly completes the model refresh for the range.


Arriving after the release of the entry-level Macan and Macan S early last year, the Turbo is the most potent member of the medium SUV family, sitting above the penultimate GTS grade which is set to drop in the next month or two.


As the most expensive Macan variant at $142,000 plus on-roads, the Turbo does not make a up a big percentage of overall volume for the car that sold 2009 units in 2019 (up 7.2 per cent), but Porsche Cars Australia head of public relations Chris Jordan said the Turbo has started to increase in popularity as existing Macan buyers upgrade.


“It doesn’t sell as many as Macan or Macan S, but we’ve seen some growth in that car, and a big part of that growth is existing Macan and Macan S owners moving up into Turbo which is nice,” he said.


Mr Jordan added that Macan Turbo buyers also come from across the Porsche range, and can service a number of buyer types.


“We see a few things, with Macan Turbo we see people step up from existing Macans; we see 911 owners that buy it as a second car; and we see some downsizers and empty nesters update their Cayenne into a Macan Turbo, so there’s a few different directions.”


GoAuto understands the Turbo is likely to remain the top-of-the-range variant, with the Turbo S nameplate found on the 911, Cayenne and Panamera model lines set to remain exclusive to those three.


With Porsche recently adding the Cayenne Coupe body style to its range to take on the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and Audi Q8, GoAuto asked whether a similar plan was in place for the Macan to combat the BMW X4 and Merc GLC Coupe.


However, given the Macan’s silhouette already has a pronounced curve at the rear, the chances of a Macan Coupe coming to fruition are slim.


With the Macan Turbo now in Australian showrooms, we had the chance to sample the fiery SUV in and around Bathurst, NSW, to see whether the updated flagship could live up to the legendary Turbo nameplate.


Underpinning the Macan Turbo is a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine also found in the Audi RS4 and RS5, tuned to produce 324kW from 5700-6600rpm (30kW up on its predecessor), and 550Nm from 1800-5600rpm, driving all four wheels via a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission.


Its outputs place it in between that of its German performance rivals like the BMW X3 M40i and X3 M Competition (285kW/375kW) and the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and 63 S (287kW/375kW).


While not able to match its hi-po rivals for outright power, the Macan Turbo is nevertheless a fearsome performer, while still maintaining an air of day-to-day livability.


Driving around town, the Macan Turbo’s driving characteristics are perfectly compliant, with gentle throttle and powertrain characteristics that disguise the performance potential underneath.


Power delivery is smooth and linear, with the PDK transmission shifting easily and combining with the relatively soft ride to deliver a car that would be just as adept at picking up groceries or taking a road trip as it would tearing through twisty mountain passes.


Given this is the Turbo we are talking about, twisty back roads are where it is most at home, and a drive through the roads outside Bathurst prove that Porsche DNA is certainly present in the Macan.


Switching the drive mode selector to Sport or Sport Plus turns the engine from a smooth, pleasant V6 into a snarling beast that will spin until redline and provide occupants with a chorus of pops and crackles.


The engine still retains its smooth power delivery, but acceleration is amped up to the point where sticking the boot in results in a big shove of power transferred smoothly to the road.


Low in the rev range, power can be a little slow to come on tap, however keeping the tachometer spiked above 3000rpm makes power delivery potent and instantaneous.


The seven-speed PDK shifts quickly and smoothly, with Porsche currently providing some of the best dual-clutch transmissions in the business.


It can’t quite match the likes of the 911 for instinctive gear changes, taking a fraction of a second longer to kick down when accelerating and sitting in a higher gear for longer once normal driving behaviour has resumed.


Checking in at just under two tonnes, the performance of the Macan is slightly blunted compared to some of its more athletic stablemates, and it may not be able to match the savage acceleration of the likes of the GLC63 S, however it does retain the dynamic ability typical of Porsches.


Like other Porsche models, the steering of the Macan Turbo is sublime, with a wonderfully direct, precise and well-weighted steering feel that gives the driver an ultimate sense of confidence when driving hard through corners.


Combined with the excellent all-wheel-drive system, the Macan Turbo has a point-and-go feel, managing hard cornering with ease and making sure the vehicle turns in exactly the direction you pilot it.


Our only gripe is compared to the Cayenne and 911, the Macan’s steering wheel is noticeably larger, which feels more awkward and unwieldy in the hands.


Being an SUV, the Macan Turbo is a little more susceptible to body roll, particularly without the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active anti-roll bars.


Throwing it into corners results in the air suspension leaning to the outside, but the excellent chassis still allows for a great degree of dynamic ability.


Braking power is plentiful, and brake feel is wonderfully analogue and responsive.


Stepping into the cabin of the Macan Turbo, it is evident that the medium SUV is the oldest member of the Porsche family, with its current generation first launching in 2014.


While its interior designers have moved with the times by introducing cleaner, more simplified cabin and multimedia layouts, the Macan reflects the Porsches of old which suffer from a dizzying array of buttons that can become overwhelming.


The Macan’s centre console is littered with buttons which give it a cluttered, confusing feel, and the next time around Porsche’s designers will hopefully follow suit of the likes of the Panamera and Cayenne with their clean, simplified designs.


Its instrument cluster also feels less premium than other Porsches, with two of its three displays fitted with a white backdrop (a $1030 option) that can’t compete with a more modern-looking digital screen for both usability and looks.


The Macan otherwise has a well-put-together interior with a sharp and usable 11.0-inch PCM infotainment system with DAB+ digital radio, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay compatibility, surround-view cameras and a 665-watt Bose sound system to go with other features like 18-way adjustable leather seats, Alcantara headliner and brushed aluminium trim.


Rear legroom is also comfortable for adult passengers, and its slightly coupe-like silhouette means headroom is passable without being great.


As with many other Porsche models, the Macan has an extensive options list, to the point where a number of them should realistically be standard equipment.


For example, the Sport Chrono package is $2390 on the Turbo, which should come as standard given it represents the highest level of performance in the range.


Lane change assist is also $1220, with a number of options fitted to our car pushing the asking price out to $166,670, putting it in the realm of the Merc GLC63 S ($171,900) and above the BMW X3 M Competition ($157,900).


The Macan Turbo is a potent and accomplished driving machine. Like its Porsche siblings, it excels in the area of chassis dynamics, and truly is a fun car to drive.


The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 is a smooth and potent engine, but is not the last word in power and performance for its segment.


With that in mind, fans should keep an eye out for a more potent version to arrive in the future, similar to the Special Performance variant found in the pre-facelift model.


Whatever the case, the Macan Turbo still packs a serious wallop, and buyers would be hard pressed to find a medium SUV that offers a greater level of driver engagement.


2020 Porsche Macan pricing*

Macan (a)


Macan S (a)


GTS (a)


Turbo (a) $142,000

*Excludes on-road costs

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