Advertisement
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature
WELCOME TO HYUNDAI’S HAPPINESS MACHINE
View the latest news
Advertisement

Driving

What is it like to drive?

If there is one area where the Macan has never felt particularly under threat from rivals, it's on the move. Porsche has been a dab hand at making SUVs handle improbably well since the original Cayenne arrived in 2003, and the Macan is no different.

There haven't been too many changes to the engineering fundamentals over the years from Porsche, which indicates what a solid package the firm started off with. Suspension, tyres, upgrades here and there. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

So what makes the Macan so good to drive?

The body control is the standout aspect. The Macan does without the 48V anti-roll active suspension tech of more expensive premium SUVs, but the way it sustains momentum, avoids lean and controls its wheels over road imperfections is deeply impressive. It’s been done slightly at the expense of ride comfort – the suspension feels short travel and firm – but there’s agility, a definite sense of rear-biased all-wheel drive balancing the car mid-corner. Just don’t expect it to be as pliant and calm as a Discovery Sport.

But that’s not what the Macan is about. The only SUV that’s come close to taking the Macan’s throne as king of the handlers has been the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which is even defter and feels lighter on its feet. For a squirt down a B-road, the Alfa is TG’s outright favourite, but the Macan topples it as a more rounded, complete product. Not least because it’s better screwed together.

So what's the best Macan to go for?

That depends entirely on what you’re after. The 4cyl entry version is hugely popular, says Porsche, helping fill the sales hole left behind by the diesel. It’s now up to a healthy 261bhp. But that turbo engine is pretty flat and uninspiring, and struggles a little with the Macan’s nearly two tonnes of weight – 6.4 seconds to 62mph isn’t slow slow, but this engine doesn’t like being thrashed that hard.

And that definitely makes it the wrong power plant for the T. This is a recipe Porsche has used to great effect in the Cayman and 911: the base engine fitted with the tastiest handling bits. But it doesn’t translate well to the SUV and isn’t anything like as charismatic and interesting to drive as it pretends to be.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Pay £1,000 more and you can have the Macan S with over 100bhp more from a more engaging V6 motor. Fewer toys, but you won’t miss them. Over £10k cheaper than a GTS while using a lightly detuned version of its engine, it leaves you a lot more wriggle room with the options list. Amusingly, Porsche says most of its buyers pick a sober colour and delete the rear badging, which (pleasantly) surprises us.

The GTS is the sportiest, most focused Macan you can buy, and among its chief boasts is that its 10mm ride height drop makes it the ‘lowest Macan to the ground’. Walk up to it in a car park and it’ll seem little higher than the hatchbacks either side of it. Which arguably defeats the point of opting for an SUV, but given that Porsche doesn’t make a small, quick estate then perhaps this is the closest thing its engineers can sneak past the marketing team.

Does it have any weaknesses at all?

While the handling and refinement are still impressive, the engines are the weak link. The 2.0-litre 4cyl motor struggles to top 30mpg in daily driving and the V6s suffer from lag and a strained top end. They’re not pure Porsche engines, after all: they've been shipped in from Volkswagen.

And whether or not it’s a ploy to sell more optional ceramic brakes, the standard steel stoppers aren’t Porsche’s best, particularly in the downright fast (0-62mph in 4.5s) GTS. But you’ll only notice when properly wringing it out. Which we highly suspect you’ll do once or twice then just mooch around basking in the Macan’s general refinement.

Because while the ride is firm, the car feels reassuringly solid and well insulated making it a relaxing family vehicle that is composed and settled if – sorry, when – you do choose to hammer it about a bit. Overall then, this veteran of the SUV world is still buyable for its handling poise alone. Impressive.

Variants We Have Tested

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

subscribe