We have had our base-model Macan (or Macan as I will refer to it) for around 12 months. The first thing I learnt when looking at this car is that Porsche don’t need to pay a marketing department – the owners and enthusiasts more than sort that out! Just check out on forums and reviews to see the passion and the push to spend up big. Of course, the conjecture still reigns regarding whether the Macan can ever be a real Porsche – especially given that it’s an SUV with a 2.0-litre engine sourced from VW. But I will leave that up to others to debate and work out, because it was never a consideration for us when looking at this car or its competitors.
So why did we get the Macan? Well, it wasn’t because it’s cheap – ‘cos it ain’t. It wasn’t because it had the most features, ‘cos it doesn’t. Our brief; a car that is more than a one-trick-pony. It must make you feel special when you get into it. It must be easy to get in and out of (for all ages), but not feel like a truck. It must be confidence-inspiring, engaging and go well enough to be grin-inducing. It must be comfortable for the family, practical(ish) and able to deal with the reality of everyday life in the city. It must be luxurious in terms of quality of materials (just sayin’, there is leather and there then is leatheraahhh) and with tech that is not overwhelming. And lastly, whilst our budget was deep, it was not a bottomless well. For us the Macan ticked a lot of those boxes, and to find out why, read on…
Choices, money, choices. Upfront, the Turbo and GTS were well beyond our wallet’s capability. Diesel was not the best fit for how we would use the car and the bowser experience was the final nail in that coffin (lack of pumps at the servo and the diesel smell). So we were left with looking at the Macan and the Macan S. We drove a few test cars, but none in the combination we wanted in terms of suspension, wheels, seats, features etc. All I can say is “whoa” to those of you who found a test car with the options/spec you wanted – you are one of the chosen few!!
When comparing the Macan with the Macan S we ran into issues with the differences between the models – a lot of the additional features we wanted were options on both, so it meant spending a lot more and giving a lot more to the tax man. The other difference was the way the cars handled. We drove both cars around the city (where our Macan lives 98% of the time) and could not feel any performance difference in tight areas and general traffic. I am not race car driver, but for me our Macan with the 4-cylinder in the front feels a lot lighter, more manoeuvrable and spritelier – relative to the Macan S. In a long, straight line, there are lots of cars that are faster (like the S), but the Macan is still quick, so don’t be under any illusion that it won’t encourage you to go north of any speed limit you care to think of (as it happily seeks out the redline). I like the standard exhaust note in the Macan over 4000rpm. Peak power comes in at 5000rpm and the 4-cylinder is more than capable of giving you a shove in the back if you hit the go-fast pedal at these revs. It’s not a “lazy” engine that has more cylinders than it knows what to do with it, but that doesn’t mean it feels stressed to me (there are no problems keeping up with traffic). You just have to drive it if you want to get the most out of it, which from my perspective, is no bad thing. I will admit when it starts up, those around you don’t get an aural pleasure hit (as opposed the petrol V6), but I didn’t buy this for the bystanders.
Around town and on long trips our Macan is a fantastic car to drive and be driven in. I switched from a 330i M-Sport wagon and in comparison, the Macan is better in all situations (sorry wagon lovers). I find myself shaking my head with how good the thing is to drive. It has gone over mountains, to the shopping centre and taken a few fully-loaded long trips in some of the recent 40-degree heat days, and it has never missed a beat. The seats (we chose comfort) and driving position are the best we have ever had in a car. I have owned other Euro makes (including one with certain orthopaedic credentials) and Japanese cars and I have never felt so refreshed after driving 400-500kms in one stint. On the highway and country roads our Macan never feels short of power. It is a comfortable cruiser, and overtaking has never been a concern, regardless of the situation. Cabin insulation is really good; it’s a pretty serene place to sit. At around 100kph there is some wind noise off the mirrors, but not enough to make me pull over, kick it and stomp off. I just turn up the volume and normal transmission resumes. Fuel consumption is just okay. On the highway it will dip into the 7’s, and around town we average closer to mid 9L/100km.
From our perspective the Macan interior really hits the mark for luxury feeling and tech we will use (and yep love the ‘old skool’ buttons in the centre console). It is not as “blingy” as some but it feels substantial, nothing feels cheap and to our eyes everything is beautifully integrated. The tech is okay, without being distracting or too involved, allowing room for us to focus on the task at hand – driving. The steering wheel is a lovely thing to hold in your hands. It feels really special and the metal roll balls (or whatever you call them) are sweet to use. I do feel a bit smug knowing that the steering wheel in the base model is as good as the one in much more expensive cars. The shifting paddles feel fantastic and whilst the PDK is excellent (though the ratio gap between 2nd and 3rd is a little annoying), I have no qualms using the paddles to take control. Inside, the door bins and cup holders are actually good, though the under-seat storage is useless with a capital U. If you like to keep lots of stuff in your car, this may not be the right car for you. For us there is enough storage for what we need, without encouraging any hoarding.
It’s not all good, though. Yes, some options should be standard on a car like this, for starters I am looking at you keyless entry, LED headlights and interior lighting (light comfort package)! The inbuilt sat-nav is pretty rubbish in terms of accuracy and intuitiveness. A little more room for rear passengers would be nice – but we knew that when we bought it. The SD/CD slot is annoying – we don’t use CDs and would have preferred a nice little spot for the phone to sit. The cover for the slot also creaked not long after getting the car, but after a bit of jiggling and tightening at the dealer, we sorted it out! Lastly, whilst I love the steering wheel, I do miss not being able to change songs on the wheel. You have to use the touch screen instead (you can set skip to next song using the one favourite button on the wheel – but only forward or back. You have to choose your weapon, because you can’t have both). I am also not a big fan of the standard-issue VW cup holders in the back.
Some stuff I have learnt, if you are interested (otherwise go to the next paragraph): Stop-start is okay, and I like the little trick that I can tug on the steering wheel slightly to get it to start up again before I take my foot off the brake. It makes it easy to use in the traffic and I never feel that panic that you get when waiting for everything to get going before someone runs into you! The shortcut button on the steering wheel is better than not having any, though more short cut buttons would be better. We use it for the 360 camera, which is very handy! The coasting function is easy to use (and does save fuel), by taking your foot off the accelerator and pushing up to higher gears with the paddles to tell it you want to disengage any engine braking (though stop-start must be active).
No-one who reads or looks at Porsche can avoid the topic of options, so I will share feedback on some of the options we chose. In an attempt to keep in line with our brief, we tried hard to option the car as lightly as possible, with a focus largely on everyday convenience, more luxury and practicality. For us, this meant missing out on options that were more focused on aesthetics (like embossed head rests) and sportiness (like torque vectoring).
The 360-degree camera is very good, and cheap insurance when you look at the price of your wheels (a feature that is now standard on the new Macan, unfortunately for us). Power steering plus makes this car so much easier and pleasant to drive at low speed and around town. Regarding PASM, I like the control it gives in different situations and I feel it improves the ride over the standard springs. The loadspace management option is not bad value (yep, I said it) and really increased the safety and flexibility of the boot. The comfort seats, I have already mentioned that these are awesome and not as stiff as the sports seat, which suits us. The big wheels look very good on the Macan, but we stuck with the 19-inch wheels, as comfort was still a priority for us, and the 19’s with PASM provide a great daily ride. We optioned the bi-xenon Dynamic Lights, and they are fantastic – they throw a long high beam for country driving (much better than the LEDs from previous premium cars I have owned) and we really like the cornering function. There are heated seats, and I can tell you that they are so quick and will have your butt on fire within 60 seconds!!
I will touch on the one option that I was too quick to dismiss; Sports Chrono. It’s often referred to as a must-have, but when we bought the car my view was; I won’t ever track it, I don’t need the stopwatch, and whilst launch control is interesting, it’s not something I am going to use every day. So, we didn’t initially option it, but since buying we have had it retro-fitted and I don’t regret it at all. I get it now – it’s not really about the track or launch control; it just makes the car more responsive and more engaging to drive. Press the button and well, it kinda makes the car better, especially on the move coming out of your favourite backroad bend. My wife was also nonchalant about Sports Chrono – but after getting it, she also agrees. It just makes driving a good thing even better.
I didn’t go for lane keeping assist and the like, even though this is a family car. I have thought these options were expensive, and in other cars I have found them annoying. I will admit in the past I have benefited from better driver aids like AEB, but that was because I was too distracted by all the tech in my car and not paying enough attention to the road. The 2018 Macan did not have proper AEB as an option, and to be honest I have not needed any of these aids in the Macan. The speakers are good – don’t get me wrong I would be happier with more sound, but one must draw the line somewhere, and I don’t feel short changed in that department.
Last word on options; yes they are not cheap, but I found they also generally do what they say they are going to do, and they do them very well. Negotiate hard on the cost of your options as there is room to move here, and whatever you do don’t be paying for mats or boot liners at the very least!!!
The Macan is not perfect. If you want the ultimate in practicality, or have every bit of tech under the sun then go for it, but note it’s probably not going to perfectly fit the bill. As for whatever a “real” Porsche is, I don’t really care. If you remove the badge, this is still an awesome car that met our brief better than anything else we looked at. My tip is if you need/want a car the size of the Macan and it’s within your budget, drive the 4-cylinder and ignore the engine size and 0-100kph stats. Just be prepared to forget the nit-picking; it’s like you either unwittingly took some kinda’ potion or they pumped something through the aircon…Yes, some options should be standard, which is very annoying to your wallet, but for us, the sum is greater than the parts. There is magic beneath your feet that you won’t read or find on a feature list. In my Porsche SUV, I face down driveways and gutters without fear or favour and when I am allowed to drive the car, I always, always want to take the long way home.
Upon reflection I think I may have unwittingly started my own Macan 4-cylinder marketing department. Damn you are good, Porsche. Damn!