Preview: 2015 Porsche Macan
Sports-car handling, SUV utility. Porsche's new cute-ute performs equally well on the track or off the road. Porsche aims high with ute Macan.
LEIPZIG, GERMANY?It’s been 11 years since Porsche debuted the Cayenne SUV, unleashing a torrent of wailing from those who considered it blasphemous from a brand known for its pure, raw sports cars.
The furor had barely died down when it rose again in objection to the release of the Panamera sedan.
Perhaps the passing of time has led to acceptance, or maybe it’s resignation, since there has been very little backlash surrounding the company’s latest arrival: a luxury cute-ute named Macan.
Indeed, four-door vehicles now account for half of all Porsche sales, and are largely credited with helping the company pull through the economic meltdown a few years ago.
And without such mass-appeal, mainstream vehicles to keep the coffers healthy, it’s unlikely we’d get supercars like the $800,000-plus 918 Spyder.
The Macan ? which sounds like a bird with colourful plumage but is actually the Indonesian word for tiger ? is Porsche’s entry into one of the most rapidly-growing segments in the automotive market: the luxury compact crossover.
Over the past six years, the segment has exploded.
The segment has sold well over one million vehicles globally, and it shows no sign of slowing.
With the Macan, Porsche is well-poised to take advantage of that growth, and the company predicts the cute-ute will surpass the full-sized Cayenne to become its top-selling model.
It optimistically predicts 50,000 sales per year, and that’s how many Macans are planned to roll off the Leipzig production line.
A turbo-diesel variant will also be released in other markets, but is still undergoing emissions-related development before arriving in Canada.
Porsche recently invited us to drive the Macan in Leipzig, Germany, home of the 200-hectare facility that not only builds the Macan, Panamera and Cayenne, but also tests them on a race track and off-road course.
There are more than 6 kilometres and 100 hectare of rugged off-road trails at the site. Strapping ourselves into an air-suspension-equipped Macan S, we strike out into the Deutsche Outback for a hands-on demonstration of its off-road prowess.
Keeping a sharp eye out for wild horses, we tackle 30-degree embankments and trundle along a corduroy road under a Soviet tank bridge from the Second World War.
As we straddle a sheer granite berm, stones pinging off the car’s underbelly, it seems impossible to maintain our footing, or even continue at this angle without rolling off into the underbrush.
It’s fascinating to watch the suspension at play in the car ahead of us, extending and compressing to keep the cockpit on a fairly even keel, despite such improbable angles.
Although it doesn’t boast the same clearance as big-brother Cayenne, the Macan is perfectly capable off the pavement ? particularly when equipped with air suspension, giving it an extra 40 mm in height.
There’s a misconception that this is a re-badged Audi Q5 ? it’s not. Although parts-sharing with the mother company helps keep costs down, the Macan and Q5 share only the floor pan, and some interior components ? roughly 30 per cent in all. The Macan is also heavier than the Q5, but its mostly aluminum body helps offset the difference.
When it arrives in Canada late this spring, the Macan will be available in two trim levels: the S and the Turbo.
The S has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, producing 340 hp and 339 lb.-ft. of torque, and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel-drive. The S model sprints from 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds.
The Turbo has a twin-turbo, 3.6-L V6, with an output of 400 hp and 406 lb.-ft., and can blast from 0-100 in 4.4 seconds.
All Macans come with the same transmission: the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK).
The vehicle’s compact size, wide stance and much lower height give it the appearance of a bulkier 911 instead of a scaled-down Cayenne.
Powerful rear haunches are enhanced by wider wheels behind, while skinny treads up front sharpen the steering response. Flanks are creased with what Porsche refers to as side blades, visually slenderizing and lowering the Macan and furthering the illusion of a squatting sports car.
Turbo models are distinguished by the signature red calipers and turbo-badging on the rump, and there’s available carbon fibre trim to smarten up those side blades.
The easiest way to tell the Macan from the Cayenne is its clamshell hood, which also helps channel air into the engine bay.
Macan is the entry-level Porsche, but there’s no obvious budget-trimming evident in its cabin. The environment is typical Porsche, with the familiar bank of Carrera GT-inspired switchgear, chunky brushed aluminum accents, stitched leather upholstery and a steering wheel lifted from the 918 supercar.
Base-model vehicles are upholstered in Alcantara, while the Turbos come with real leather sports seats with excellent support and bolstering. Anyone who’s driven anything in the Porsche lineup will be instantly comfortable in the Macan.
Rear seats split 40-20-40 and fold down for a nearly flat load floor. However, the shortened roofline does eat into rear headspace. I rode in the back for part of our test drive and had plenty of knee room.
Shortly after finishing the off-road course, we were chasing a Porsche 911 around an FIA-certified track that takes bits and pieces from the world’s most demanding raceways ? Laguna Seca’s corkscrew, Loew’s Corner from the famed Circuit of Monaco ? and splices them into a ten-turn, 3,707-metre-long circuit.
Sports car lovers who’ve been forced to compromise can rejoice ? there is no finer-handling crossover on the market.
On the autobahn, the Macan accelerates with the same linear thrust as its sports car stablemates, and while it may not stick to the road with the same suction cup adhesion as the 911, there’s very little body roll at all. In fact, it’s easy to forget you’re not in a coupe.
The Macan will appeal to those who wanted a 911 or Cayman, but whose family needs insist on more utility.
Transportation for freelance writer Lesley Wimbush was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.
2015 Porsche Macan
Price: S: $56,315, Turbo: $84,215
Engine: 3.0-L twin-turbo V6, 3.6-L twin-turbo V6
Power/Torque: S: 340 hp/339 lb.-ft., Turbo: 400/406
Fuel Consumption: n/a
Competition: Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque
What’s Best: Sports-car like handling in a utility package.
What’s Worst: Price can skyrocket with options.
What’s interesting: Built at the same plant as the Carrera GT supercar.