‘Project 116’ is a modern interpretation of a Bentley Blower
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A new Porsche SUV? Meet the new Macan GTS, the last of Porsche’s smaller SUV range to get the mid-life update treatment. It arrives in a political climate where overly tall, overly powered hatchbacks are proving harder to defend, so it has a minor task on its hands proving its worth. The GTS’s big claim? “No Macan has been closer to the road than this,” thanks to 15mm-lower suspension. Doesn’t that defeat the point of an SUV? Yup. The Macan has always been at the titchier end of its market, though, feeling more like a chubby hot hatch than many of its behemoth rivals. Seeing the new GTS parked up, we can’t help but wonder why Porsche didn’t just make a more traditional fast estate. But then we don’t run a profitable carmaker, and likely never would by commissioning such old-hat products. The Macan and Cayenne bankroll Porsche at levels so stratospheric us luddite enthusiasts simply have to learn to accept – indeed, welcome – their existence.
So what’s new here? The engine. It’s a detuned version of the Macan Turbo’s 2.9-litre V6, which itself is a detuned version of the Audi RS4 Avant’s powertrain. Here, it produces 375bhp and 384lb ft, the latter delivered in a “wide and practical plateau” between 1,750 and 5,000rpm. This isn’t Porsche speaking the traditional language of sexy sports cars. The Macan GTS rather goes like one, though, with a 4.9sec 0-62mph time and 162mph top speed. It’ll hit 100mph in less than 12 seconds, which is annoyingly impressive. Why would I choose the GTS over the Turbo? It’s for people who want to shout louder about their performance SUV, says Porsche. So the GTS gets bolder alloys and detailing, Alcantara and contrast stitching aplenty inside and a more vocal exhaust map for both passengers and bystanders to enjoy. Or admonish. In contrast, vast swathes of Macan Turbo buyers choose a sober colour and delete the tailgate lettering. And likely steer well clear of the optional body-coloured wheels displayed above… Go on, then. Does it drive well? Yes, I’m mildly embarrassed to say. Do SUVs need to sit this low, rev this keenly or handle this tautly? No, they do not. But that’s rather the point. The surprise and delight of a car so thick-set being so easily cajoled into stern-faced driving is enjoyable on a level I’d be afraid to admit in the company of anyone preoccupied by climate change. Porsche claims its four-wheel-drive system is heavily rear-biased, and while there’s no hint of oversteer per se – at least not at road speeds – it’s a significantly nimbler car to drive than any of its rivals lacking an AMG badge. This is the performance SUV least troubled by physics, but that’s because its dimensions and ride height mean it lives on the periphery of its target market. We suspect some of Porsche’s engineers would rather be making a dinky fast estate like the RS4 it shares its engine with, and this is the closest car to it they can sneak past management. How is it inside? The seating position, steering wheel size and visibility are all classic Porsche: absolutely bob on. What’s less ergonomically pleasing is the wildly congested stack of buttons lying either side of the PDK gear selector. It proves a) how much kit Porsche has thrown at the GTS to ensure it rides, handles and sounds as its badge promises and b) why touchscreens and haptic feedback have become a ‘thing’ in Porsches introduced since the Macan’s original 2014 launch. It’s wildly distracting to fiddle with it all individually, so we suspect you’ll stick to the Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes contained within the rotary dial on the steering wheel to keep your eyes more firmly fixed on the road ahead. Anything else I should know? This is sportiest internal combustion Macan we’ll ever see. The next one will be entirely electrified, sharing a platform with the new Audi Q5, and there won’t be a Macan Turbo S or suchlike between now and then. So perhaps this car can be enjoyed with a little less guilt, knowing it’s essentially the last of its breed. If you can live with the image – or indeed completely own and relish said image – then it’s a mighty way to go out. Score: 7/10
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