With the most affordable price tag for the brand yet, good looks, SUV-mannered practicality and a prestigious badge to boot, the Porsche Macan is likely to be one of the most-wanted cars of 2014.
From the outside it outclasses its bigger Cayenne brother with a sophisticated side profile and a modern rear end. The front, though, is almost indistinguishable but that’s more to the Cayenne’s detriment than Macan’s.
Its pronounced road presence and badge betrays its $84,900 starting price and much like its direct rival, the Range Rover Evoque, it’s unlikely that supply will catch up with initial demand as a result. (The sister Audi SQ5 will also make an intriguing competitor.)
The Porsche Macan S Diesel kicks off the range with an Audi-inspired 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel. Though it’s the most affordable Macan in the range, its price benefits from the higher luxury car tax threshold (from $60,316 to $75,375) thanks to its 6.3L/100km fuel economy figure, a net tax saving of $4969.47 (or about 710 visits to your local GP come July next year).
Step up to the Macan S petrol and you’ll pay $87,200 for a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 that marks the first time a petrol Porsche has been priced below $100,000 in Australia. In reality, this V6 engine is a derivative of the company’s famous 4.8-litre V8, making its value for money equation a rather attractive one.
If you want the best, the 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged Porsche Macan Turbo will set you back $122,900 and that’ll pretty much guarantee the fastest and most dynamic compact SUV on the planet.
Out in the twisty roads of the Great Ocean Road in coastal Victoria, the Macan is more 911 than Cayenne. Though it shares its underpinnings with the Audi Q5, Porsche says that more than 70 per cent of the Macan is unique to the Stuttgart brand - and at no point, inside, outside or even behind the wheel, did we feel a hint of Audi DNA.
Surprisingly then, the Macan S Diesel’s 190kW and 580Nm output figures are actually outdone by the $89,400 Audi SQ5’s 230kW and 650Nm. That and its 5.1 second 0-100km/h acceleration figure (as oppose to 6.1 seconds for Macan diesel), is pretty much all that the SQ5 has over its more prestigious brother in terms of performance.
Behind the wheel, the Macan S Diesel punts around corners with a level of ferocity currently unknown to its class. Its flat and confidence-inspiring demeanour through bends is only eclipsed by its electro-mechanical steering (same as 911), which is bound to impress even the most vocal cynics.
Interestingly, without looking at the rev counter it’s basically impossible to tell it’s a diesel. There’s no diesel clatter inside the cabin, turbo lag is non-existent and when the right foot goes flat to the floor, one can only smile with glee. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (standard on all models) does an impeccable job of matching revs to the right gear and is by far the most complete coupling of engine and transmission in its segment.
The standard petrol S seems to lack the mid-range torque of its diesel twin, but with 250kW and 480Nm, it’s by no means a slouch (0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds when optioned with Sport Chrono package).
We were disappointed with its engine note, which failed to inspire the same type of sonorous, yowling pleasure we’d come to love from the brand’s pure flat-six-cylinder sports cars, which made the case for the diesel Macan even stronger.
It's a difficult challenge to tell the diesel and petrol base models apart. A deliberate act on Porsche’s behalf, no doubt, but one which will likely mean the near 50 per cent of current orders for the Porsche Macan S Diesel are well justified.
Step into the Turbo and it’s an entirely different world of fun. Though on the surface it may seem hard to justify the extra $35,700 on top of the Macan S for a 20 per cent larger engine and an extra 44kW and 70Nm, it’s the Turbo badge and all the underpinnings that justifies its existence.
With a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds (with Sport Chrono), it’s the quickest sub-compact SUV money can buy - and if you must have the best, any arguments are inconsequential. Its mind-bogglingly quick with an exhaust note to match and will make an excellent substitute for a 911 when family needs are the order of the day.
The interior also inspires in the same manner we’ve come to expect from Porsche. Clean, high-quality switchgear blends in with a high level of sophistication and extreme attention to detail which is unmatched by the Audi or even the class-darling Range Rover Evoque.
The front seats are comfortable and supple but the rear seat legroom can be a tad on the small side if front and rear passengers insist on being tall. Headroom is a non-issue even with the optional sunroof that takes away a good 40mm. Buyers will have to make do with a 500-litre boot capacity (which can expand to 1500L with the rear seats folded down).
The Porsche’s 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity teams up with another 4.8-inch VGA screen to provide a comprehensive information and entertainment display package standard across the range.
The nitty-gritty aside, with the Macan range as a whole, the most impressive feature for us was the ride quality over the terribly surfaced roads of country Victoria. Like the Cayman, Boxster and 911, the Macan somehow aligns the worlds between dynamic handling and comfort with near-perfect precision.
A simple switch of the suspension system will see it go from Comfort to Sport and then Sport Plus. Though we never felt it lean into bends at speed even in comfort mode, the three options are far from a gimmick.
With two different suspension options, it’s easy to get carried away and tick the box for air suspension (which is brilliant and standard on Macan Turbo), but the standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) shock absorber adjustment system does such an superb job that the additional cost may be best spent on other options.
And in true Porsche fashion, the options are truly aplenty. Everything from the wheels, exhaust, power steering, additional performance, suspension and literally anything else you can probably think of, can be modified and optioned up.
It’s a negative for some, but the idea of owning a Porsche is not just a statement of values, but also a signal of individuality. And while options pricing can add a substantial increase to the overall price, it’s the nature of the beast and part of the experience of buying any high-end luxury badge.
Perhaps the only legitimate negativity we can think of for the Macan is the arguable dilution of the Porsche brand not just in terms of price but also exclusivity and purity.
Porsche expects to sell roughly 100-140 Macans in Australia per month, which when teamed up with the Cayenne will see the two SUVs eventually make up about 70 per cent of Porsche sales.
So then, is Porsche a sports car company, or an SUV company? Perhaps it’s both.
The 9/10 rating is for Macan S Diesel and Turbo, the Macan S petrol would be 8.5/10