Porsche Macan tested

By JAY WONG | 23 October 2014

When the Porsche Macan first broke cover in Malaysia in May, it still wasn’t the “real deal”, having been presented to us in European specifications — left-hand drive and all.

It was only in October that we got a realistic whiff of what the Macan has to offer, thanks to Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP), the official importers of Porsche vehicles in the country.

Our route led north to Ipoh with some highways, trunk roads thrown into the mix to allow us the opportunity to sample all three of the available four Macan variants.

Unfortunately, the range-topping Macan Turbo (from RM785,000) was unavailable for the drive.

That’s right, we were treated to the entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Macan (from RM420,000), 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 Macan S Diesel (from RM545,000) and finally the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 Macan S (from RM560,000).

The Macan variants are practically identical in looks with nothing visually distinctive to separate them, except for the nomenclature stuck onto its rear electric boot lid.

Porsche Macan media drive to Ipoh, Oct 2014

By the way, locating the external tailgate release button at the rear took a rather long while, but nonetheless we managed to find — hidden just under the rear window wiper’s stalk of all places.

The Macan is a Porsche through and through that’s readily identifiable with its front end “genetically” inherited from the 911, but what we love most is the clamshell bonnet that’s much like a MINI Countryman or Fiat Coupe’s, which provides for a clean, broad and ultimately powerful appearance.

We would have to say that while the front end of the Macan retains much of the 911’s DNA, its rear-end, however, is arguably reminiscent of a wide and rounded 1978 Porsche 928’s.

To the casual on-lookers, the Macan’s side profile screams that of a Volkswagen Tiguan or an Audi Q5’s, but it gets distinctive Porsche body panels and a lowered stance.

In fact, the Macan shares the same wheelbase as the Q5 at 2,807mm.

In terms of size, the Macan is larger than the Q5, measuring 4,681mm in length, 1,923mm in width and 1,624mm in height.

Porsche Macan media drive to Ipoh, Oct 2014

Compared to the larger Porsche Cayenne, it’s only shorter by 99mm (102mm for the Cayenne Turbo), 5mm less in width and stunted by 76mm — all of which gives the Macan a lower centre of gravity — typical of a sports car that’s both wide and low.

The Macan is fitted with a seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) transmission with paddle shifters.

In addition, there’s also an active all-wheel drive system and coupled with the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) programme.

There’s even the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) system, which helps distribute the varying levels of drive torque between the front and rear wheels, while working in conjunction with an electronically controlled rear-axle differential lock.

Just for the drive, optional equipment such as the auto stop-start function, air suspension, Sport Chrono package, Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system and the all-enticing Sport Plus option were included.

With the technicalities aside, entering the dark cabin will have most wide-eyed in how everything is neatly and concisely placed on the centre console.

Being in black as well, the buttons are visually unintrusive and sometimes you could even forget that they’re there except for some chrome accents.

As soon as the button(s) are located, we found them to not be as tactile as we’d have thought, requiring a tad more pressure than anticipated.

Porsche Macan media drive to Ipoh, Oct 2014

Not to mention, we found working the signal and wiper stalks to be a little overly tense. The leather-clad cabin speaks more luxury than sporty, even though the front seats can be electrically adjusted eight different ways for those spirited drives.

In any case, with the seats configured and with dark skies looming, threatening to rain on our early morning parade, we made a quick getaway by beginning the drive in a black S Diesel with the air suspension set for comfort — the softest it’ll get.

In this setting, the electric steering’s weight lightens up (prod the throttle deep and it’ll become heftier), but there’s still a considerable amount of road-feel coming back to the driver while the suspension manages the uneven undulations for a rather comfortable drive.

The S Diesel is a winner when cruising, or when in city traffic, coming off as nimble and light even though it’s kerb weight is 1,880kg.

While the cabin is comfortable, road noise from the wheels when on the highway can be intrusive, but this is all due to the optionally fitted 21-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels (with full-coloured Porsche crest) equipped with 265/40 (front) and 295/35 (rear) tyres.

In standard form, the S-Diesel, S and Macan rolls on 18-inch Macan S wheels with 235/60 (front) and 255/55 (rear) tyres.

Thankfully, it has a massive amount of torque, specifically 580Nm of it from 1,750 to 2,500rpm as well as 255bhp from 4,000 to 4,250rpm (the latter sounding more of a bonus).

Porsche Macan media drive to Ipoh, Oct 2014

Unfortunately, as with most diesel engines, the jaw-dropping acceleration from standstill is short-lived, with much of its torque quickly tapering off as the engine races to its 5,200rpm redline.

With the Macan S, it has a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo engine utilising an aluminium block and headers — capable of producing 335bhp from 5,500 to 6,500rpm (6,700rpm redline) and 460Nm of torque from 1,450 to 5,000rpm.

That just simply means a devilish smile is going to appear rather quickly.

As indicated, power of the Macan S can be found over a broad rev-range and that means there’s plenty fun to had no matter where the rev-counter’s needle is pointed and should be a winner for ownership.

Enter the 2.0-litre turbocharged Macan and its power output readings seem a little sedate compared to the rest, having only 234bhp from 5,000 to 6,800rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1,500 to 4,500rpm.

Although many would scoff at the Macan’s lack of power, it compensates nicely in terms of driving dynamics - imagine playing a guitar versus a bag-pipe - it’s less cumbersome and a lot more lighter.

In short, it’s simply a point and shoot vehicle and we’d dare bet that many would stand before it with some new-found respect in that they were actually driving a compact SUV and not a sportscar.

For those of us who underestimated or even sneered at the Macan’s lacking performance figures, it was frankly a humbling experience.

The Macan’s power is accessible throughout the 2.0-litre’s rev-range coming off as something fun without worrying too much if things may get out of hand, because it simply delivers on both throttle and brake inputs.

Regardless of variant, getting off the highway and onto the twists of trunk roads, some would find Sport mode to be sufficient.

However, with Sport Plus available we decided to see what it had to offer.

This means that the engine, transmission, suspension and even engine note now comes together to play a more aggressive tune, while both coasting mode and the auto start-stop function are disabled.

It’s a step up on the aggression ladder — so to speak, from Sport mode, but by how much?

For one, air suspension gets slightly harder (not to mention lower by about 10mm from its normal setting) for a “flat” cornering experience, but it doesn’t stop there.

In fact, both throttle response and the PDK’s shifts feel more abrupt and direct as the engine revs all the way till redline and downshifts are accompanied by a race-like blip to the throttle.

With reference to all three variants, they’re an obedient bunch that’s made to serve the whims and fancies of its driver.

Getting the Macan to perform is a no-questions-asked deal and it won’t even bother if it was a request or a demand, it’ll just ‘do’.

Out of the trio being sampled, we found the entry-level Macan to be the most enjoyable of the lot, even though it loses two cylinders, has one less turbocharger compared to the Macan S and is 101bhp down on power.

While we initially thought the S Diesel was nimble on its feet, the entry-level Macan trumps it in driving pleasure.

What we had initially thought would be the least attractive of the trio to own, the experience has placed it at the top of the list, being 95 to 100kg less in heft compared to the S and S Diesel, respectively.

In whichever driving mode, the engine is quick to respond when downshifting the PDK, blipping the throttle for a smooth transition right down to first gear, so as not to unsettle the car when braking hard into corners.

Once the revs climb beyond the 4,000rpm mark, there won’t be any more downshifting allowed.

Although the range-topping Macan Turbo was absent for the drive North, we can only begin to imagine the sort of trouble we could get ourselves into with the ferocity of its 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 engine producing 395bhp at 6,000rpm and 550Nm of torque from 1,350 to 4,500rpm.

We’d recommend the Turbo to those who have a hunger for power, but for those who may be new to the brand the entry-level Macan would satisfy.

The trio of Macans did well to characteristically distinguish themselves with the S Diesel being the marathon runner, the S as the all-rounder and the entry-level Macan as the instigator of play — all of which sit under the rule of the all-powerful Macan Turbo, till a more powerful variant arrives of course.