In the early 2000s, I took my first drive in the Cayenne, the new SUV that Porsche said it needed to build but that Porsche purists hated with the heat of a thousand ghost peppers. The Cayenne Turbo was a cool machine, combining legitimate off-road chops with serious hustle on the street. The lesser models, though, were a bit of a letdown.
The first time I flattened the accelerator of the V8 Cayenne S, a pair of lookie-loos in the next lane easily kept pace in a front-wheel-drive Pontiac Grand Prix. The V6 Cayenne was genuinely slow, accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 9.1 seconds. In Germany, a nine-second 0-to-60 will get you laughed out of die kneipe and right onto ihr gesäss.
The 2015 Porsche Macan, the Cayenne’s new, smaller sibling, will not have a problem outrunning 6-cylinder Pontiacs. Like the original Cayenne, the Macan is available in S and Turbo models. The difference is that all Macans have the power to uphold Porsche’s good name. The slowest Macan will do 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds, and the Turbo is as quick as a 911 Carrera. It’s a feisty little crossover.
The Macan model distinctions are a bit misleading. With previous Porsches, the Turbo models were turbocharged and the non-Turbos were not. This was logical. In the case of the Macan, the Turbo is turbocharged, and so is the S. While Porsche’s “Turbo” mystique is special, turbochargers are no longer a big deal, and the Macan nomenclature reflects that reality. So the Macan S just shuts up about the twin turbos that help its 3-litre V6 generate 340 bhp and 339 pound-feet of torque.
The V6’s output is routed through a drivetrain worthy of a sports car, with rear-biased all-wheel drive and Porsche’s PDK 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Some conventional automatics have narrowed the performance gap with dual-clutch systems, but the PDK is in a different league, delivering seamless power on upshifts and whip-crack, rev-matched downshifts. On Macans with the Sport Chrono Package, PDK also enables launch control starts at high engine speeds, which will really get some attention when you’re leaving the drop-off lane at the charter school.
The Macan’s power delivery favours the rear wheels, but the all-wheel-drive system can send 100% of torque to the front if conditions warrant. This thing has no shortage of traction.
It may look like a crossover, but the Macan definitely drives like a Porsche—solid, serious and fantastically quick. I didn’t drive the Turbo, but with a 3.6-litre V6 and 400 horsepower, it seems like overkill in the finest Porsche Turbo tradition. Whether equipped with a V6 big or small, the
Macan returns an EPA economy rating of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway.
Three suspension systems are available. The base model uses conventional steel springs and non-adjustable shock absorbers. The mid-level version pairs the steel springs with Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, which provides adjustable damping. Finally, you can opt for an air suspension with PASM, which is the set-up that I tested here on the cratered ribbon of canyon road known as Mulholland Drive.
Up there, the Macan S was really the perfect weapon—small and nimble, but with plenty of ground clearance and, of course, power. Carving along the hillside, the exhaust barking out at each shift, the optional torque-vectoring rear end helping point the nose into corners, the Macan can fool you into thinking it’s a really good sport sedan. Which is the point. This is really Porsche’s BMW 3 Series competitor, garbed as an SUV because that’s what people want.
Not that the Macan pushes the SUV theme too hard. The only silly bit of pretense is the standard off-road mode, whose functions include raising the ground clearance by 1.58 inches—but only if you buy the optional air suspension. I predict that the Macan’s off-road button will get pushed about as often as JD Salinger’s doorbell. But it might be a little more useful than the button in the cargo area that lowers the rear end for loading, as if the Macan’s rear bumper is but a cloud-shrouded outcrop somewhere in the misty heavens.
The base Macan S starts at $50,895 and gets vastly more expensive depending on how deeply you wade into the sea of options. The car I drove cost nearly $70,000, and most of the padding came from packages that you’d probably want, like the $2,590 Premium Package (including parking assist, backup camera, front and rear heated seats and other things) and the $1,290 Sport Chrono Package.
Sport Chrono gives you a button you’ll actually use—Sport Plus, which is the mode you want if you ever take your Macan to the Los Angeles canyons.
Of course, the options list also included garnet red seatbelts for $500 and “thermally and noise-insulating privacy glass” for $990. (You’ll want that so you can’t hear what people are saying about your red seatbelts.) Porsche doesn’t charge a cent for the badge-delete option, so you’re not freighted with the horrible shame of an S on the back of your car instead of Turbo script.
Procuring that Turbo badge will cost at least $73,295, which means that the base Macan Turbo starts around the price of a really well-equipped S and finishes in six figures. Porsche knows what it’s doing.
That’s affirmed by the Macan’s robust sales, which Porsche describes as “supply limited.” The Cayenne is the brand’s best seller, so it makes sense that a smaller offshoot would find plenty of takers.
With the Macan, Porsche proves that the Cayenne taught it a few lessons about how to approach a new market in the right way. On the continuum of compact luxury crossovers, the Macan is the fastest and the most expensive, which is as it should be for a Porsche. There will be no Macan that needs 9.1 seconds to hit 60 mph. And Porsche fans will say “Gott sei Dank” for that.