MA­CAN-ICAL MARVEL

It’s ruggedly mus­cu­lar and stands 1.6 me­tres tall, but the sporty spirit of Fer­di­nand Porsche is alive and well in the Ma­can Turbo, writes Adam Hay-ni­cholls

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

The sporty spirit of Fer­di­nand Porsche is alive and well in the lat­est it­er­a­tion of the Ma­can Turbo

Subtlety is not my Porsche Ma­can Turbo’s strong suit. In fact, it feels rather out of place. I’ve driven it to the Good­wood Mem­bers’ Meet­ing, a rather ex­clu­sive af­fair in Eng­land re­served for his­toric car own­ers, ex­pe­ri­enced rac­ers and the tiny hand­ful of civil­ians who man­age to get their hands on tick­ets. The throngs that come to Lord March’s more high-pro­file Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed and Good­wood Re­vival aren’t to be found. The lim­ited num­bers here to­day are al­lowed to roam around the pad­docks, kick the tyres and strike up con­ver­sa­tion with four-wheel celebs

such as Mika Häkki­nen and Dario Fran­chitti. Many are among the world’s most es­teemed col­lec­tors and au­to­mo­tive aris­toc­racy.

So here I am, dressed head to toe in tweed, climb­ing out of a shiny new Porsche SUV that looks like the ul­ti­mate drug dealer’s ride. I’ve given it a nick­name: Layer Cake. It re­minds me of the bright yel­low Range Rover from the 2004 film, the one with the idiotic own­ers. Like, if you’re go­ing to bring boxes of class-as back from Hol­land, maybe don’t do it in a car the colour of a cit­rus fruit.

But there’s noth­ing idiotic about the Ma­can Turbo. It is a highly in­tel­li­gent, re­fined and ca­pa­ble beast not to be un­der­es­ti­mated. It also makes per­fect sense. Purists will tell you a Porsche should have two doors and an air-cooled en­gine in the boot. Yet the suc­cess of the Panam­era and Cayenne prove they are heav­ily out­num­bered. In­deed, the Ma­can has es­tab­lished it­self as Porsche’s best-sell­ing car, and se­cond-hand val­ues are up as much as 25 per cent over new, with im­pa­tient pun­ters try­ing to jump the wait­ing list.

So it is an in­cred­i­bly de­sir­able car, but is it a blue-blooded Porsche?

Ar­guably the big­gest draws at Good­wood are the Le Mans pro­to­types, and the sight of a long line of 1970s wedge-shaped hell-rais­ers wait­ing to take to the track makes one’s knees buckle. Dozens of Porsche 917s—the most iconic car of the pe­riod—in a va­ri­ety of heart­pound­ing paint jobs, from Mar­tini’s white, red and dark blue stripes to Gulf ’s light blue and or­ange. For race fans of a cer­tain age, this car is pos­sessed by the spirit of the Hol­ly­wood star Steve Mcqueen, who was seen rac­ing one in his 1971 movie Le Mans. Mcqueen’s pic­ture hangs in some of the garages and au­to­jum­ble stores around the track. The late ac­tor is a pa­tron saint for am­a­teur driv­ers striv­ing to live out their child­hood fan­tasies.

Can I pic­ture Steve steer­ing his way around south­ern Cal­i­for­nia in a tall-bod­ied Porsche? That would take a lot of imag­i­na­tion. The Porsches, Jaguars, Mus­tangs and Lo­tuses Mcqueen loved were all el­e­gant, sim­ple, light­weight, fo­cused cars, and the Ma­can isn’t re­ally any of those. In­stead it’s de­signed for peo­ple who want it all, a 4WD util­ity sports car that can han­dle any­thing that’s thrown at it. In this re­spect it’s one of the most ca­pa­ble cars I’ve ever driven.

Af­ter the prize-giv­ing at Good­wood I chauf­feured some Rolls-royce en­gi­neers to the pub. Pro­fes­sion­ally sen­si­tive to the slight­est bump in the road, throt­tle jolt or turbo lag, they con­firmed my as­sess­ment that this car has in­cred­i­ble ride and power de­liv­ery. Be­ing fed through round­abouts and along twisty B roads at speed, the car was ut­terly com­posed and the 400 horses as tame as those on a merry-go-round.

This is thanks to my Ma­can boast­ing an

op­tional torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem that is su­per­car qual­ity. Put the ham­mer down to over­take and your ob­sta­cle is in the rear view mirror within a sin­gle tick of the in­di­ca­tor. Yet if your pas­sen­ger were to be hold­ing a brim­ming cock­tail glass, there would be no spillage, at least not till you hit the brakes. This car has ce­ramic com­pos­ite an­chors, which are a HK$77,000 op­tion. For a two-tonne car, its stop­ping abil­ity is eye­wa­ter­ing. The stan­dard Turbo weighs in at HK$1.328 mil­lion, but with the op­tions fit­ted mine costs HK$1.9 mil­lion. I don’t think that’s un­rea­son­able, given the en­gine and ev­ery­thing that har­nesses it to the road.

The 3.6-litre V6 is so ef­fi­cient, pow­er­ful and torquey. My car, fit­ted with an op­tional per­for­mance pack­age, can hit 100km/h in 4.6 sec­onds. That’s just a tad slower than the As­ton Martin DB9 GT and the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal W12. I am get­ting around 9.5 litres per 100km of cruis­ing on the mo­tor­way and 14 litres on coun­try lanes. The noise is muf­fled but au­di­ble, a sneeze from the ex­haust as the seven-speed PDK trans­mis­sion up­shifts fol­lowed by a turbo whine like that of a kit­ten that’s hurt its leg.

The cabin is er­gonomic and fa­mil­iar to Porsche users, the main in­stru­ment panel up high and a rank of but­tons steeply raked all the way down to the arm rest. My ride has red leather—red on red—sug­gest­ing it was specced by Ice­berg Slim. The metal­lic Im­pulse Red ex­te­rior looks al­most pink in low light but much more vivid and racy un­der the sun. I have grey 533mm five-spoke sports wheels, wrapped in chunky 295/35 rub­ber, which en­close mas­sive yel­low brake cal­lipers. In a field in West Sus­sex it looks outré, but in Yas Ma­rina, Ibiza and Aspen it’d look the berries.

It is unashamedly nou­veau. But if you want a mid-size SUV with the per­for­mance to em­bar­rass an F-type Jag, then look no fur­ther.

Range Rover may have more Sloane-y ca­chet, but the smaller Evoque can’t pos­si­bly keep up, while the big­ger Range Rover Sport SVR 5-litre V8 can, just, but it costs a whop­ping HK$1.26 mil­lion more. That’s prac­ti­cally a whole base Range Rover Sport ex­tra. The Maserati Le­vante has an equally al­lur­ing badge but nowhere near the same level of per­for­mance. The Audi RS 6 Avant is faster and more prac­ti­cal but, like the SVR, it’s more ex­pen­sive, and for Ma­can suit­ors, the high­body is non-ne­go­tiable. SUVS out­num­ber es­tate cars in Knights­bridge 100-1.

So let’s talk pu­rity. Does this car threaten to di­lute the Porsche brand, built on the 917s I saw cel­e­brated at Good­wood, the badge proudly sewn into the me­chan­ics’ over­alls? Not with that en­gine it doesn’t. Not with those chas­sis dy­nam­ics. Not with that steer­ing. The Ma­can Turbo does Dr Fer­di­nand’s mar­que proud.

It’s more worthy of the badge than the Cayenne be­cause its rel­a­tively com­pact size keeps it sporty, both in its han­dling and sil­hou­ette. In many ways it feels like a stretched hot hatch, al­beit one with the en­gine of a proper Porsche. It’s the best of all worlds.

What threat­ens Porsche with main­stream sta­tus are the non-turbo Ma­can, Cayenne and Panam­era, for they lack the trousers. At HK$689,000, the stan­dard Ma­can looks much the same; most peo­ple will never know the dif­fer­ence. But 252bhp and 6.7 sec­onds to get to 100km/h are not sporty enough. That is sub­ur­ban, which is likely its des­ti­na­tion. I’d ven­ture it’s re­ally an Audi Q5 in drag. In fact, those are the un­der­pin­nings of the Ma­can, though two-thirds of the Porsche’s parts are unique. If you buy the Turbo, though, you are keep­ing the spirit of Porsche alive, not just the ac­coun­tants, be­cause it feels like and goes like a sports car—one that’s 1.63 me­tres high.

Once you’ve un­der­stood that, the only thing you need to get your head around is the name. How should one pro­nounce Ma­can? In the UK peo­ple tend to say Mack-ann, which doesn’t sound ter­ri­bly so­phis­ti­cated, and if over­heard at a din­ner party could be con­fused for Re­nault Me­gane, which would see your so­cial sta­tus plum­met. Porsche, at least the Ger­man end, pro­nounces it Mack­harn, which sounds rather af­fected to my ear, like peo­ple who say parster in­stead of pasta. But the name is de­rived from that of an In­done­sian tiger. And a chum of mine who knows a lot about In­done­sian tigers (we all have friends like this, surely) tells me it’s pro­nounced Match-ann.

Look­ing down the model list, here’s how it goes: There’s the Mack-ann, the Mack-harn S, and the Match-ann Turbo, be­cause the top of the range is a real beast. And re­gard­less of the pimp spec­i­fi­ca­tion, it’s also the only model that can hold its own at the Good­wood Mem­bers’ Meet­ing.

MAS­CU­LINE AP­PEAL The Porsche Ma­can Turbo has a mus­cu­lar front apron and side air­blades (left), and it comes with a large touch­screen nav­i­ga­tion mod­ule and Bose sur­round sound sys­tem (be­low)

HIGH GEAR Clock­wise from be­low left: The stan­dard Porsche Ma­can Turbo fea­tures leather seats, bi-xenon head­lights with dy­namic turn in­di­ca­tors and a spe­cially de­signed ex­haust sys­tem

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