One thousand kilometers in a Porsche Macan S Diesel – it sounds like a long way.
It’s roughly the distance you’d normally travel in a month; to the shops, the office, dropping the kids off and generally running around. It’s 30 days behind the wheel – time enough to get to know the car you’re driving.
But what if you were to condense that? Like … cramming a month’s worth of driving into just nine hours. Could you get to know the same car just as intimately despite the much shorter timeframe?
This is what is going through my mind as I load up the $84,900 Porsche Macan S Diesel ahead of an overnight rush up the Hume Highway from CarAdvice’s Melbourne office, to our Sydney headquarters.
Now, the Hume Highway has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It wasn’t that long ago you still had to deal with one-up/one-down lanes in central NSW, and have to travel through Albury, Holbrook and Tarcutta. But they are merely signs at an off-ramp now, with the Hume bypassing everything for the entirety of its route.
The road is of exceptional quality and, while sadly capped at 110kmh, still makes for an easy, albeit long, drive.
Melbourne’s freeway network feeds directly onto the interstate artery, meaning that after checking tyres and filling the tank (both car and driver), I drop directly onto CityLink at Montague St, bidding farewell to traffic lights for the next megameter of road.
Yes, I am aware that at this point this sounds like a chapter of a boys-own adventure story: A lone driver in a brand new Porsche, armed with a camera and a packet of jelly snakes, setting out on an epic drive… But why would I choose to rush, overnight in the middle of the week, when I could be somewhere more comfortable (read: bed)?
Well, you see, the CarAdvice logistics system usually runs like a well-oiled machine. Cars and talent (see what I did there?) are booked to be in the right state at the right time to produce great content for you, our lovely readers.
You may recall our recent tri-test where the Macan was pitted against the BMW X4 and Audi SQ5, and when we ran the Macan S Diesel against the reigning diesel SUV speed champ, the SQ5, in a straight-line gentleman’s race for pink slips.
Both tests were scheduled to occur in Melbourne but, due to factors beyond our control, the Audi and our off-street testing facility weren’t going to be available down in Victoria. The stars would, however, align for Sydney-based testing. So with location, BMW and Audi now all sorted, all we needed was the Porsche. Enter yours truly…
I was due to be in Sydney for a meeting anyway and, well, someone had to draw the short straw.
The Porsche Macan has been an eagerly awaited model across the globe, and suburban Melbourne was no exception. Being part of Porsche’s official press fleet, our Agate Grey example was one of the first on the road, and noticed all the more for it.
At school pickup on the Tuesday afternoon, a number of mothers, who never engaged in much chit-chat, were making a bee line for me. New shirt? Better haircut? Nope. Macan.
The baby SUV Porsche is hot property, but to answer the questions of, “What is it like?”, I had to defer with jargon as at the time I had barely put 10km on the clock.
Time to hit the road.
As I pass the turn-off to Seymour, the Macan and I are already becoming good friends.
The ‘Porscheness’ of the car is there in spades. You sit low in the cockpit and the switchgear looks and feels like it has come straight out of a 911. In fact, if not for the taller ride height, the Macan seems more sports car than shopping utensil.
It’s punchy, too, the 190kW/580Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel providing enough zap for entertaining freeway on-ramp bursts. Efficiency is far from ignored, though, with the car returning impressive economy of 7.9L/100km for the entire trip (a bit higher than its 6.3L/100km claim).
Alas, though, a twisty alpine run this is not. So rather than unleashing the Macan’s full gamut of Prussian ponies, I settle in with my jelly snakes and the adaptive cruise control (a $1990 option) set at a licence-keeping speed.
And then it starts raining… I mean, really raining.
I’ve been driving for a shade over 20 years and I’m not sure I have experienced rain like this before.
It’s so heavy I can barely hear Dave Zalstein chatting away via my Bluetoothed phone, and the sky is so dark that even the xenon headlights and front foglights simply reflect the wall of rain I’m driving through.
I hit a large patch of standing water and the Macan feels immediately light. This sort of circumstance could prove very dangerous in a great number of cars, but the little Porsche, unperturbed, simply adjusts its traction settings and AWD torque split to hold true to my line and continue on its way, ready for the next obstacle.
20 minutes later, and the torrential rain has escalated into a stunning electrical storm. Dutifully soldiering on, the Macan feels solid and unfazed, continuing to give me nothing other than total confidence.
It’s still raining and it’s as heavy as ever. It’s here I discover a legitimate weakness of the Porsche. The wipers aren’t fast enough. Seriously, they’re not. So there, the Macan is not perfect.
It’s now 10pm, so I make a quick call to the family to wish them good night, then motor on under radio silence – figuratively speaking that is. With phone conversations now restricted to emergency calls only, I have a good opportunity to test out the Macan’s stereo and some of its other tech.
The ‘third pod’ – on the far right – of the traditional Porsche triple-gauge cluster is an LCD screen that can be configured to display a variety of functions.
Letting you view call-lists (as I’d already used several times), the car’s AWD activity or the satellite navigation system’s map, the ‘multi-pod’ is a clever way to provide drivers with additional information. It also means the primary seven-inch touchscreen is left to handle more important functions, such as music selection…
The clock strikes midnight and I’m just out of Yass. The Porsche’s tank isn’t totally empty but I take the chance to refill. At 60 litres, the fuel tank should, in theory, hold enough juice to see the Macan reach Sydney on one tank. But given the weather and time, I don’t want to be sitting on the side of the road, just shy of a service station, re-evaluating my primary school maths calculations.
The small tank is another minor issue for me, mainly because I use this trip as a standardised test. Today, a diesel car of the Macan’s size and caliber should be able to make the journey from Melbourne to Sydney without stopping for fuel. A 1000km-plus highway range is standard fare in many other diesel-powered cars, including my own BMW X5. It’s no deal breaker, but if nothing else, stopping for fuel more often is just a hassle.
Nearly there. My jelly snake supplies are exhausted and my head is feeling the same. I’m largely alone on the roads, with the only other traffic being large semi- and B-double trailers hauling logistics between our two major cities.
It’s amazing how much more draining a drive can be in bad weather. Your required level of concentration has to be that much higher. Letting the Porsche handle the speed, I maintain direction and crank up the music I never get a chance to listen to in the family car – goodbye Frozen, hello Nine Inch Nails.
The rain is easing and this near-final stretch of the Hume, between Bowral and Sydney, is still pretty and enjoyable even in the wee hours.
Speaking of wee hours, I stop at the Sutton Forest services for a… well, you get the gist. A quick top up of caffeine and I’m ready for the last leg of the trip.
Returning to the Porsche, and its always-welcome heated seats (an $890 option), I have to admit, it’s growing on me.
I didn’t want to buy into the hype leading up to the release of this car. I cross-shopped a Cayenne with my X5 a couple of years ago and didn’t love it. Given I knew it would largely be an urban family shuttle – that my wife would scrape the wheels of and (as with the BMW) drive into the back of a Golf – I couldn’t see the value.
The smaller Macan to me was initially going to be a ‘nicer’ Q5 – another car I cross-shopped and disregarded due to being a bit dull.
But here I am, the remaining distance now down to double digits, and I’m both surprised and impressed with the Macan.
No it isn’t cheap. The $84,900 list price of our test car rises to over $107,000 once you include options that, honestly, you want. Panoramic roof ($3790)? Yes. RS Spyder 20-inch wheels ($2710)? Tick that box. Sport Chrono package ($2690)? Absolutely. In fact, Porsche offer so many personalisation options on the Macan that you can add almost double the car’s value from its original purchase price.
Don’t believe me? Fire up Porsche’s Macan configurator and try it – my record is $134,790 worth of options. And no, that doesn’t include the price of the car.
But that’s being a bit silly. For about $100k, though, you can have a nicely spec’d Macan Diesel ready to roll. Then your only catch is that order books are full and wait times are out to well into mid-2015.
The long drive complete, both car and driver are ready for a rest. Perhaps not always the most fun, racking up 1000km in one sitting is a fantastic way to get to know a car. And, when done during daylight hours, is also a great way to see our wonderful country.
So all done and dusted, how do I feel about the Porsche Macan S Diesel? It has well and truly won me over. And like Alborz before me, it’s likely to make it to the very short list for the next family car…
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