Does The New Porsche Macan Live Up To The Hype?

Porsche LogoIt’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Porsche debuted it’s first SUV, the versatile and acclaimed Cayenne. As hard as that is to believe for some purist Porsche aficionados there is now another and it’s arguably the best crossover SUV you’ve ever driven. In fact, the 2015 Porsche Macan Turbo is so good that we wager it will cement Porsche’s presence in the utility vehicles market and bolster a whole new decade of Porsche sportscar innovation and motorsports fueled by SUV sales.

First, some background. Porsche’s been building five-seat Cayenne SUVs since the 2004 model year. It’s been a runaway success, responsible for about 80,000 sales a year. So why not drill a little deeper? With the ground broken, Porsche began planning the five-seat Macan as a companion piece, even giving it the code name “Cajun,” for “Cayenne Junior.”(“Macan” means “tiger” in Malay–and “little boy” in Scottish Gaelic.)

Like the Cayenne, the Macan shares some VW Group DNA–in this case, about a third of its parts with the Audi Q5. Turbocharged V-6s are standard with all-wheel drive, with a turbodiesel and possibly a turbo four to come.

It’s even built alongside the Cayenne in Leipzig, Germany. Porsche’s turned part of Leipzig into its own Hamtramck, building a 2.3-mile test track, as well as a visitor’s center that’s best described as a Close Encounter of the Patti Labelle Kind.

But as Porsche’s chief designer Michael Mauer says, “The Macan has to be much more than a shrunken Cayenne.” It has to be more sporting than a BMW X3; more grunty than a Mercedes GLK off-road; more than an Audi Q5 cannibal; more evocative than an Evoque.

Is it? Yes, but it’s a matter of degree. The Macan S, at $50,895, threads its way through those thorny comparisons. A $73,295 Porsche Macan Turbo, with premium suspension and torque vectoring, blasts by them, removing any doubt. It’s a vehicle that lives up to every letter of the SUV acronym.

The only shocks you’ll get with a Macan are the ones under the sheetmetal. It’s styled with all the favorable features of the bigger Cayenne, with a faster rear glass, and with attractive new blades down its sills to lighten its visual load.

2015 Porsche Macan SCompressed into a shorter span than on the Cayenne, the same cues work themselves out well. Porsche’s usual massive front-end intakes and strakes and compound headlamps stack neatly. The hood has no cutlines, save for big headlight cut-outs: it’s wrapped over the front corners to incorporate what would be the front fenders, which means the actual fenders are small triangular panels aft of the wheels.

From the side, the Macan factors in a deeper shoulder line than the Audi Q5, and a more steeply sloped rear glass, which Porsche believes will connect the Macan with its 911 more than that Q5. The rear end’s simple and spare, with LED taillamps banded slimly on the wraparound tailgate.

Spotters can pick out body-color brackets on the front air intakes on the Macan Turbo, and gray-metallic ones on the Macan S, unless they’ve been replaced with optional carbon-fiber inserts. It’s easier at the rear, where the Macan S has four round exhaust outlets, and the Turbo four squared-off tips.

The Macan’s cabin is smothered in buttons and switches, not incomprehensible TFT screens, and it feels as appropriate as the left-mounted ignition. At least a dozen buttons flank either side of the shift lever. There is a central screen, but it hosts secondary controls–the primary functions represent in the gauge binnacle, with a high-resolution screen in the right pod serving as a redundant display.

A simple black-and-grey scheme gives way on more polished Macan SUVs, which wear aluminum or carbon-fiber or dark walnut trim. You can have Alcantara seat inserts, full leather trim, a leather key pouch. The Macan has a relentless list of pay-up touches that make your order as singular as a trip through the Sears Christmas catalog. (If you’re not yet 30 years old…see…there used to be a place called Sears….)

That’s the economic lesson at the heart of the Macan: spend more, love more. To get the classic Porsche experience–scalding acceleration, effortless grip, impeccable balance–you need to tick a few boxes. When you do, make sure you belt everything down. Except your debit card. That will need to fly.

2015 Porsche Macan S with Maria Sharapova