If there are two big trends in the car world in 2014 they would have to be the proliferation of off-roaders and mainstream models’ steady shift upmarket – and Porsche’s new Macan compact SUV soundly ticks both of these boxes.
Porsche’s smaller 4×4 costs from around £40,000 to £60,000 and is an off-roader in name only. With kit like enormous 21-inch alloy wheels (that’ll be £2,388, please) on the options list along with a £1,740 bodykit, the Macan is very much a Hunter Wellington boot than your ordinary green wellies; this is a car firmly intended to spend its whole life on the tarmac.
The Macan lines up alongside other premium Tarmac-dwelling rivals including pricier versions of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque. None can match the wallop that the Porsche Macan offers in Turbo form, however.
What is it?
Following the huge success of the larger Cayenne off-roader Porsche has introduced the smaller Macan, which offers a similar recipe, albeit with lower prices and sharper on-road handling, thanks to its more compact footprint. Slotting in between the Cayenne 4×4 and Porsche’s traditional sports cars, Porsche claims that this new model manages to marry the best of both worlds.
The Macan range starts with the 2.0-litre £40,000 Macan, which is still capable of firing to 62mph in under seven seconds and returning around 38mpg, while the 3.0-litre Macan S cuts the 0-62mph sprint to just 5.4 seconds for an additional £3,000. The 3.0-litre Macan S Diesel costs exactly the same as the petrol S and offers an additional 12mpg – along with a slight drop in performance. A further £16,000 buys you the range-topping 3.6-litre Macan Turbo.
Porsche makes big claims about how much of a driver’s car this new machine is, and the Macan Turbo is the jewel in the crown of the range, with a whopping 395bhp on tap and a top speed of 165mph.
What is it like to drive?
The Turbo is undeniably a rapid car, thanks to its huge slug of power throughout the rev range. However, it cannot disguise its hefty near-two-tonne bulk – some 600kg more than Porsche’s true sports cars.
Don’t think that the Macan isn’t very competent on the road, though. The Turbo takes corners in its stride and provides a relatively smooth ride most of the time, attempting to involve the driver with weighty steering and heavy pedals. The problem is that all of these controls feel rather synthetic and there’s no particular joy to be had from driving this car quickly, unlike in a typical sports car. It’s also a little tricky to modulate the accelerator and brake pedal as progressively as you might like.
The huge 21-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car also unsettle the ride somewhat; with so much metal and so little tyre, the car can never fully isolate passengers from the surface of the road and bumps make themselves heard too, though it does a very good job considering just how little rubber it has to play with. Thankfully, the seats are comfortable and offer lots of side support around bends.
Another side effect of the oversized tyres is a significant amount of road noise on rough surfaces which can become wearing. Overall refinement levels are very high, however, with little wind noise and barely any engine noise either – something that sports car traditionalists may miss.
In Turbo form the Macan offers more acceleration and grip than you could ever need. Switch to Sport mode and the car holds onto gears for longer and the suspension firms up, though this is very much a machine to cover long distances at speed, rather than one to drive for the pleasure of driving.
What is it like inside?
The Macan has a similar interior to other Porsche models, with a slightly baffling array of buttons strewn haphazardly across the cabin and along the transmission tunnel. Due to the location of many of these buttons to the sides of the gearstick – and their similar shape – it can be very tricky to identify the button you’re looking for while on the move.
Despite these quirks, the cabin feels mostly very high quality, with beautifully soft, comfortable leather seats, a chunky steering wheel and leather extending across the dashboard and doors. Unlike in some cars, the rear pews are just as comfortable as the front seats, with plush padding.
Is it practical?
The Macan is surprisingly practical with a very large, usefully square boot and the bonus of an electric tailgate. The boot floor is flat with a handy underfloor section, meaning that the car can swallow more luggage than you might expect.
Passenger space is not quite as generous, though people up to six feet tall should fit comfortably in the rear seats, with adequate knee room and only slightly limited headroom. The middle seat is less comfortable, with a hard backrest and the big transmission tunnel cutting down on foot space, though a fifth passenger should be reasonably comfortable for shorter journeys.
Should I buy one?
As the fastest and most expensive of the Macan range, the Turbo has a hard job on its hands to justify its price tag over lesser Macans. Considering the Turbo’s surplus of power, the Macan S makes much more sense to most buyers, offering a very similar amount of shove for £16,000 less.
Whichever Macan you’re considering though, the power on tap is beyond question. What is more up for debate is whether Porsche’s smaller 4×4 ticks the sports car box. The car undoubtedly grips strongly around corners, offers a comfortable interior and a usefully large boot – but those after a truly engaging sports car experience are likely to be disappointed.
With very high refinement levels and a quiet engine, the Macan is underwhelming compared to more traditional sports car options, due to its sense of detachment. Porsche may have achieved an impressive engineering feat with the Macan but the fact of the matter is that off-roaders and sports cars sit at opposite ends of the car spectrum – and the Macan Turbo fails to straddle both camps.
With its plush, comfortable interior, large boot and bold looks, the Macan does make an appealing high-end family car though, for those who want a boldly styled machine with the right badge on the nose.
Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Porsche Cayenne in our classifieds here.
Porsche Macan Turbo
List price: £59,300?
Engine: Turbocharged, 3.6-litre, six-cylinder, petrol?
Top speed: 165mph
?0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
?Fuel economy: 23.9mpg (urban), 36.2mpg (extra-urban) 30.7mpg (combined)?
Emissions: 216g/km CO2?
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested