Porsche Macan Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Sunday 5th February

Driving

What is it like to drive?

It’s very much the Macan’s comfort zone, this. Porsche’s been a dab hand at making SUVs handle improbably well since the original Cayenne arrived in 2003, and the refreshed Macan is no different.

But you probably guessed as much, given it’s really not changed a great deal under the skin. Porsche is coy about what’s been tweaked this time around, saying it’s mainly suspension calibration and new tyre designs, which hints that Porsche thinks the same as we do – there wasn’t much wrong with how the Macan went down the road.

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WHAT MAKES THE MACAN SO GOOD TO DRIVE?

The body control is the standout aspect. The Macan does without the 48-volt 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 AWD 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 wrested 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, it’s TG’s favourite, but the Macan topples it as a more rounded, complete product. Not least because it’s better screwed together.

WHAT’S THE SWEET SPOT IN THE MACAN RANGE?

That depends entirely on what you’re after. The 4cyl entry-level 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 near-two tonne weight. 6.4secs 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 newly arrived Macan 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.

Pay £1000 more and you can have the Macan S with over 100bhp more from a more engaging V6 motor. Less toys, but you won’t miss them. Over ten grand cheaper than a GTS while using a lightly detuned version of its engine, it leaves you a lot more wiggle 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.

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The GTS is the sportiest, hardest cored 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 it’ll seem little higher than the hatchbacks either side of it.

Which you could argue completely defeats the point of opting for an SUV, but given Porsche doesn’t make a small, quick estate – just imagine a dinky version of the stunning Panamera Sport Turismo, a Porschefied Golf R wagon – then perhaps this is the closest thing its engineers can sneak through the marketing team.

DOES IT HAVE ANY WEAKNESSES AT ALL?

While the handling and refinement are still impressive, the engines are the weaker link: the last version of the 2.0-litre 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. 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 4.5secs) 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 car 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.

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