The newish 2019 Porsche Macan range has landed in Aussie showrooms – something of a facelift by conventional car-making definition, yet something else according to the local arm. “It’s more half facelift, half new-generation” is the claim, and of course off goes the spin-doctoring alarm, though in fairness Porsche Australia does have (half) a point.
Changes to the now-five-year-old Macan aren’t merely some nose-and-tail remodelling and nicer, larger infotainment screen, all of which rings true in this more-than-just-an-updated guise. There are “new engines”, structural changes under the skin, key alterations to the suspension hardware to go with the expected and obligatory retuning of the ride and handling characteristics, as well as engineering upgrades in braking and driveline departments.
The 'half new-gen' claim is a way of saying 'we’ve put some bloody inordinate effort in'. Fair call. And given that the cat has bolted from the bag about the (properly) next-generation Macan going all-electric, buyers old and new of the so-called “entry point to the Porsche family” might as well consider this as all-new as the current internal-combustion era version is likely to get.
But here’s a crucial point: surely the success of any newish model range isn’t merely about how much change the maker has invested, but how different, new and fresh it feels according to the user.
Despite both base four-banger and high-spec six-cylinder S versions imminently lobbing into local showrooms, only the latter was available to sample at the Aussie launch. And it’s with this version alone we’ll initially be able to judge how much the newish Macan has conspicuously improved over the oldish version.
The answer is: frankly, not much. But given the predecessor knocked the sport SUV concept for a six to begin with, what feels like a good hard polish here and there is certainly no bad thing.
Take appearance. It’s quite conservative and unadventurous. The sharpened front end and tidier rear, complete with corporate ‘strip tail-light’ approach à la any other contemporary Porsche, leave it looking like honey-I-shrunk-the-new-Cayenne. And it works a treat. Bar sitting a little too high on its suspenders on standard-fit 20-inch wheels – 21s are optional – it looks a lot of upmarket mid-sized SUV for its $97,500 list price; the only Porsche bar the entry four-banger Macan that’s under six figures before on-road costs.
Climb in and you’re greeted with rich, upmarket materials minted in smart, if typical, unpretentious Porsche design, all anchored in faultless craftsmanship and genuine solidity. Leatherette and Alcantara are standard, though our test cars were trimmed in optional full leather that’s wonderfully supple and pleasant.
It always strikes me about the marque’s most affordable machinery – be it Macan, Boxster or Cayman – that there’s almost nothing about presentation and execution that smacks of ‘cheap’ or cost-cut anywhere you look in the way that, frankly, is conspicuously present in rival German machinery. It’s here, specifically, that Porsche rarely gets due credit.
The visual anchor point is that new high-definition 10.9-inch touchscreen in place of the predecessor’s modest 7.2-inch unit. It is razor sharp in resolution, chock-full of slick new-school Porsche Connect trickery such as online-enhanced navigation, web radio, intelligent voice control, and the latest app-based smartphone-to-car communication features that, like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto mirroring, are standard fitment to the Macan. For an in-depth look, check out the video here.
As featured in the current Panamera, Cayenne and forthcoming 992-gen 911, this latest infotainment system adds a neat cutting-edge vibe to the cabin… so it’s a real shame the rest of the centre console design looks and feels so behind the times.
Porsche has moved on in the three aforementioned model lines to a slick, haptic-touch glass effect in place of its old, fussy, airplane cockpit-style button frenzy the Macan still persists with. If considerable effort has gone into making this a new-generation model, it’s certainly not here and in the most conspicuous of manners. Yes, there’s logic in having one physical button for so many of the car’s functions, and some buyers truly like this arrangement – it’s quick and intuitive once you get acclimatised – but it’s terribly old hat against the latest design in other models.
Infotainment apart, nothing much is new. Yet almost everything, from the classic central analogue tacho to the superb outward visibility of the excellent front-row seating, is hard to fault. Packaging and general features-wise, it’s all very familiar to anyone who has spent time in either seating row of the outgoing Macan, right down – or perhaps right back – to the 500-litre boot space expandable to 1500L with the rear seating stowed.
However, one very cool small detail hides in the central button of the (optional) drive mode switch of the (optional) 911-esque ‘GT’ steering wheel as part of the (optional, $2790) Sport Chrono Package: one push provides 20 seconds of ‘boosted’ powertrain response for impromptu overtaking manoeuvres when a more leisurely drive mode is activated.
Which brings us neatly to the newish V6, in that it’s new for the Macan, if architecturally similar to the unit found in the Panamera and Cayenne. Whereas the old Macan fitted a 2997cc twin-turbocharged six-cylinder, this revised spec is 2995cc and features a single twin-scroll turbocharger in the engine valley – or ‘hot inside vee’ as the catchphrase goes – producing 260kW and 480Nm, which is an improvement of 10kW and 20Nm over the outgoing engine.
Mated to a recalibrated seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and all-paw system now boasting an infinitely variable fore-aft torque split via a centre clutch, sprint times to 100km/h have dropped by 0.1sec to 5.3 seconds, and minus another two-tenths if you use the Sport Chrono’s launch-control feature. That’s not-too-shabby performance for a device tipping the scales at a formidable unladen 1865kg. The engine runs exclusively on high-grade 98RON with a combined consumption claim of 8.9L/100km and 11.3L for the around-town stuff.
The newish V6 engine goes… alright. There’s no hesitation in response, no dips and humps in delivery through to its 6400rpm power ceiling, with little in the way of soundtrack or mojo. Nice, pleasant and workmanlike? Yes, yes and yes. But a convincingly Porsche vibe? No. A good many Macan owners past and current may tell you that you need to tick the Sport Exhaust option ($5390) to liberate more suitably blissful sonic goodness.
Given the existence of a wonderful (Audi RS-fitted) 2.9-litre biturbo V6 in the broader corporate parts bin, Porsche wasn’t going for outright fire with the Macan S, though, in all fairness, nor does the sport SUV’s pricepoint justify such a spirited engine. Buyers will have to wait and splurge more for the inevitable GTS and Turbo variants for a firmer and swifter V6 kick.
The seven-speed PDK, for its part, is superb and oh-so Porsche-like. Few other dual-clutch designs offered by any carmaker can match the unflappable slickness and responsiveness of the Porsche designs in any mode the user chooses. Or, at least, that was my impression from our largely extra-urban drive program.
The drive modes are well sorted: Comfort is responsive yet casual enough for any all-round driving; Sport adds noticeable purpose to proceedings; while Sport Plus is largely superfluous in real-world usability outside of a racetrack or German autobahn, neither of which most Macan owners in Australia are likely to frequent.
This also extends to the modes of the suspension systems, where the steel springs, standard-fit PASM active dampers and (optional) air spring (where fitted) calibrations have been reworked. Further, “detailed improvements with a completely new set-up” applies to the hardware, where aluminium now replaces much of the old version’s steel componentry for higher rigidity and a reduction in unsprung mass.
The collective upshot is subtle by the seat of the pants, if only because the old Macan was so damn good, and it's tricky to pinpoint where the revisions offer tangible benefit. Comfort is beautifully resolved in its ride and handling balance – only slightly terse over sharp road acne, if a worthy trade for what’s naturally assertive body control and a fine sense of connection to the road from behind the wheel.
Find some lumpy, poorly cambered, typically unkempt Victorian backwater twisties – of which there were plenty during our test drive – and the firmer Sport tune offers impressive resolve in maintaining composure and generating fantastic grip from its staggered 265mm front and 295mm rear rubber.
Porsche claims the tuned balance is more neutral than before, more “sports car than ever before”, which may indeed ring true once you really push on deep into the lose-your-licence danger zone, you get the tail wagging and the dynamic package flexes maximum muscle. But at a brisk, legal and somewhat more restrained pace during our drive, the Macan S is wholly a machine of planted and predictable poise.
Some describe the Macan as a jumbo-sized hot hatch. Others, including Porsche itself, love to drop the 'sports car' association. Neither comes close to accuracy when you’re flinging nigh on two tonnes with two adults aboard through a tightening switchback with a head of steam. You’re still contending with a lot of lateral inertia and an SUV centre of gravity, so when you really push on, all that lovely Goodyear or Michelin grip – depending on wheel size – has its limits.
Thing is, the Macan has, since it lobbed in 2014, always proven to be been measurably more hot hatch and sports-car-like in dynamic abilities than any rival. This one feels a little more polished, a little keener in direction change, a little more capable in getting from A to B through curves quicker. And while I won’t stake the claim that this revised Macan remains an untouchable king of the nicely warmed over medium SUVs, I’d be really, really surprised if it doesn’t continue to trump key rivals when it comes to the business of driving enjoyment.
As a family device, though, the lack of standard autonomous emergency braking might seem a curious omission, if mostly because Cayenne and Panamera fit it as standard in Oz. That's no slight on Macan's safety credentials and perhaps more an issue of price point: Adaptive Cruise Control with Porsche Active Safe pack, which includes AEB functionality, can be had for a nominal $2410.
Porsche only offers three years of factory warranty, which looks slim pickings these days, though this does cover unlimited-kilometre driving and comes with 24-hour roadside assist for the duration.
Even bundling in the new LED exterior lighting, the revised braking mechanisms with 10mm larger and significantly thicker brake rotors, the new Traffic Jam Assist feature (between zero and 65km/h) in the adaptive cruise control, and even a wireless heated windscreen – much of which is optional – the newish Macan S leans much more into facelift territory than it does into so-called new-generation. Somewhat expectedly, too.
That slightly more polished all-round lustre comes at a slight price increase, too, and not much of a compelling hike in value for money given what remains on the cost options list.
A high watermark in medium-sized premium SUVs, then, if not really higher nor lower than its forebear.