Calgary Herald

Porsche Macan highly sporty

Fast, sexy SUV comes at hefty premium


You’ve heard none of the hue and cry that accompanie­d the launch of the Cayenne. No Chicken Little “Porsche’s sky is falling” doomsday prophecies lamenting the diluting of the storied brand. Nor even the questionin­g of marketabil­ity that accompanie­s every model that threatens to stretch any brand.

Indeed, the anoraks that decried the arrival of Porsche’s first SUV back in 2000 have uttered not a solitary peep at the arrival of this, Stuttgart’s second sport utility vehicle.

That’s, of course, because the Cayenne has been successful beyond even Porsche’s wildest dreams (the company sold more than 77,000 in 2012 alone), responsibl­e — along with the four-door Panamera — not just for the survival of the brand but the kind of profitabil­ity that has allowed the company to expand its much-ballyhooed lineup of sports cars. Purists might blanch at the thought, but there is a 918 Spyder because Porsche has made so much money selling Cayennes. Ditto for seemingly uncountabl­e variations of the 911 and something as relatively low on the sales volume chart as the Cayman. Those cars might never have seen the light of day if the people enthusiast­s deride as dilettante­s hadn’t been parking Cayennes in their garages in record numbers. So, don’t expect much controvers­y to accompany the introducti­on of Porsche’s latest profit-generating “truck,” the Macan.

Certainly, the naysayers will find little to complain about in the Macan’s execution. Oh, there might be tut-tutting that it’s based on Audi’s Q5 — true, but with substantia­l alteration­s — or that it might eventually be available with diesel and/or even four-cylinder engines. But, as delivered, the Macan Turbo is, as befits anything wearing the Porsche crest, the most sporting of SUVs.

The Turbo — a confusing moniker since both models are, in fact, powered by turbocharg­ed V6s; a 3.0-litre for the S, a 3.6 for the Turbo — boasts a classleadi­ng 400 horsepower (the S but 60 h.p. less) and can accelerate to 100 km/h in less than five seconds (the S is about half a tick behind). And while that’s slower than anything else wearing a Turbo badge in Porsche’s lineup, lack of power will never be a Macan complaint.

One thing that is surprising, however, is that those 400 horses are not the important number on the spec sheet. The Turbo boasts 406 of those foot-pound things and they’re available at such a low 1,350 r.p.m. that one seldom sees the tachometer swing past 3,000 r.p.m. in the course of everyday driving. Indeed, the seven-speed PDK consistent­ly short shifts keeping the V6 in the lower ech- elons of its rev range; one really has to be deep in the throttle before getting any serious engine revving. And, if there’s any disappoint­ment at all to the Turbo’s performanc­e, it’s that the twinturbo-ed V6’s low-r.p.m. response is so impressive down low that you expect it to build to an almost 918 crescendo at higher r.p.m. when, it fact, it goes flat above about 5,000 rpm. Nonetheles­s, 4.8 seconds to 100 km/h — 4.6 with the Sports Chrono package — is amazing stuff for something that portends to go off-road.

Keeping the revs low does have positive benefits, though. One presumes it helps fuel economy, though the Macan Turbo’s 14.2 litres per 100 km in the city and 10.1 highway figures seem strikingly consumptiv­e — that highway figure, for instance, worse than what Porsche claims for the Cayenne Turbo, two pistons richer and some 325 kilograms heavier. It is important to remember, though, that the Macan is using Natural Resources Canada’s new, more stringent five-cycle testing regimen, so direct comparison­s are not yet possible.

Nonetheles­s, keeping the revs down at least reduces the thrashines­s typical of a V6 and, indeed, the Macan’s powertrain may be more impressive for its sophistica­tion than its performanc­e.

The same impressing-beyondits-humble-origins applies to the chassis. Yes, the 2,807-millimetre wheelbase is essentiall­y the same as the Q5’s and, yes, the various suspension links and geometry are also identical (Porsche says that they were fully prepared to change it all, but that Audi did such a good job that they left well enough alone), but pretty much everything else has been Porsche-ified.

Dampers and spring rates are notably firmer, the tires are bigger and wider and the steering ratio is noticeably quicker. Porsche also incorporat­ed its own electronic­ally controlled allwheel-drive system that offers, says the company, more variation in torque splits than the quattro system’s mechanical diff.

Not having a racetrack at my disposal, I did not test the efficacy of this last, but I can say that the overall result is a taut ride with precious little body roll and turn-in that is almost sports car-like. Indeed, if there’s a reason to opt for the Macan’s comparativ­ely small cargo space (17.6 cubic feet, which is barely bigger than some sedans), it is its lithe, athletic steering.

The Macan’s cabin will come as no surprise to anyone who has sat inside a recent Porsche. The centre console is dominated by the performanc­e modifying buttonry — suspension, traction control, etc. — that surrounds the gear lever. The upper console has all the multimedia gadgetry and there’s more to be had on the steering wheel. Truth be told, it’s all just a little too busy for my liking.

Another departure from my normal road tests will be to comment on the Macan’s exterior styling. Normally, since beauty is so much in the eye of the beholder, I would let the ac- companying pictures speak their thousand words. But I find the Macan so fetching — and not just for an SUV — that I feel obliged to comment. Depending on your viewpoint, it can be seen as the Cayenne distilled — it looks lithe while the Cayenne always seems a little football-lineman-goneto-seed to me — or perhaps a big Boxster wagon.

With performanc­e worthy of the badge, styling equal to the best of the segment and aimed at the fastest growing segment in the luxury market, the Macan is well positioned to continue the success hewn by the Cayenne.

Faults are few, although, in the case of the Turbo version at least, significan­t. For one, the LaneKeep Assist program is simply wonky as all get out. Unlike, say, the Mercedes-Benz system on the S-Class, which could convince you that the era of autonomous driving is nigh at hand. Left to its own devices (i.e. taking your hands off the wheel), the Macan snakes down the road like a preOprah Lindsay Lohan weaving down Sunset Boulevard. I tested it just long enough to become suitably annoyed and then shut it off.

The safety nanny may be annoying, but it is hardly a deal breaker. More difficult to justify is the Turbo’s pricing. Although the S model starts at a reasonable, we’re-just-trying-to-get-youin-the-door $54,300, the Turbo rings in at a positively pricey $82,000. And my tester’s sticker topped out at a seriously usurious $102,685, including $1,670 for a rear-view camera (which surely should be standard on an $82,000 compact sport ute) and $3,700 for a set of wheels.

Porsche’s station in the marketplac­e is indeed exalted. And the Macan is without a doubt the fastest, best performing and possibly sexiest sport ute on the market. But you’ve got to be pretty desperate for Stuttgart cresting to pay almost $50,000 more than the base price of an SQ5.

This pricing premium was the one valid criticism levelled at the original Cayenne (versus the Volkswagen Touareg on which it was based). It remains Porsche’s most significan­t fault in general and the one chink in the Macan Turbo’s otherwise bulletproo­f armour.

So I took the time explore what I might buy as an alternativ­e to my $102,865 Macan Turbo purchase. For instance, I found that if I anted up a little less than $15,000 more, I could buy a base Audi RS7.

One could also, for the same money, drive around in the base version of Land Rover’s Range Rover, a brand surely equally prestigiou­s to Porsche and a model at least two rungs higher up the luxury ladder than the Macan.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Porsche asking more than $100,000 for a fully optioned Macan Turbo. If people are willing to pay such a premium for the luxury of boasting the famous crest, then Porsche would be stupid not to take their money. On the other hand, one has to believe that there will eventually be a limit to such indulgence.

 ?? Photos: Nick Tragianis/Driving ?? The 2015 Porsche Macan’s dampers and spring rates are more firm, the tires are bigger and wider and the steering ratio is quicker.
Photos: Nick Tragianis/Driving The 2015 Porsche Macan’s dampers and spring rates are more firm, the tires are bigger and wider and the steering ratio is quicker.
 ??  ?? The Macan’s performanc­e controls surround the gear lever.
The Macan’s performanc­e controls surround the gear lever.

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