Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 25, 2019
The Macan is Porsche’s best selling vehicle in Canada and for good reason. As one of the most dynamic, athletic, and spirited compact SUVs on the market, the Macan drives like a dedicated sports car, carrying with it considerable brand prestige, top-shelf materials, and the interior quality to compliment it. In fact, the Macan outsells the fabled 911 by three to one, and even though its diminutive size puts it squarely against the Range Rover Evoque and BMW X2, its price is more in line with the larger Range Rover Velar and BMW X3.
For 2019, Porsche’s golden cash cow has gone under the knife with slight exterior and interior revisions, and is currently available in two trims: Macan ($56,100) and Macan S ($63,600), with a GTS and Turbo surely to be added to the stable soon. The biggest upgrade is the full LED taillight bar that spans the entire width of the rear, a nod to the styling of the upcoming 992. The S model retains its quad exhaust tips, while the non-S Macan keeps its rectangular dual tips.
Even though I was not a fan of the Cyclops rear lights at first - it looked too much like a Mazda CX-9 - the 992-esque styling grows on you. I still prefer the outgoing model’s separated recessed lights better but appearances will always be subjected to criticism, especially the Miami Blue paint as pictured in our photographs. It’s one of the most striking blue hues I’ve seen in the past decade, and unlike Estoril Blue and Long Beach Blue from the BMW palette, I don’t see this one aging anytime soon. And if none of the paints are to your liking, Porsche will offer you any colour you like for a Paint to Sample spec, but with one catch. It costs an eye-watering $13,050.
Unlike the newly refreshed Cayenne and Panamera, the Macan retains its last-generation interior but with a substantially larger 10.9-inch touchscreen, harbouring customizable menus and a shortcut bar running along the left. The infotainment unit demonstrates lag-free responses and crisp graphics, though the small and scattered prompts make it difficult to search for the intended button whilst driving. Luckily, the majority of the high-traffic features are controlled via real buttons and dials like the HVAC, volume, and radio tuning.
The remainder of the cabin remains untouched, with the same phallic gear stalk and an army of plastic buttons surrounding it. We have mixed feelings about the latter. On the one hand, it’s a nice change from automakers becoming overly dependent on touch capacitive feedback buttons, which saves a lot of room but are a nuisance and distracting to use while driving. Most of them require carefully finessing of your fingers as well. Hard buttons on the other hand offer a solid confirmative action when pushed, so there is no ambiguity as to whether or not the system has recognized your input or not. That saves time and offers simplicity. On the other hand, it’s not as sleek in appearance or as clean as other variations, coming off as low-rent to some. And if you haven’t fully loaded your Macan with options, you best get used to the flurry of blank buttons that are sure to plague the center console. To each his own but I find the plastic hard buttons very useful and convenient.
The Macan doesn’t make use of the same premium materials that you would find in the Cayenne, like metallic knurling on the fan vents and volume dial, and leather stitching around the center console. Instead, black grainy plastics are littered throughout with some leather garnishing on base models. A full-leather interior is available but only for a pretty penny. That said, the overall vibe is still upscale. The steering wheel is perhaps the most premium feeling part of the cabin: small framed, leather-wrapped, and will even appease owners coming straight out of a 911. Even when you open the main doors, the lack of detectable hinge points are a nice effect, meaning the door can stay open at whatever position you leave it. Characteristic of a Porsche, SUV or not, the seating position is near perfect: low, with a heavily telescoped steering wheel that sits perpendicular to the floor, and without an overly elevated dashboard getting in the way of forward visibility. Every dial, screen, and touch point is within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat. That, and the flat window sill serves as a cozy arm-out-the-window rest point.
The rear seats are comfortable and spacious, though headroom is not as impressive as the rivaling Evoque or E-Pace, possibly due to the Macan’s large sunroof cutting into precious head real estate. The seats are also less reclined than the others. Cargo room on the other hand is competitive, boasting 1,500 L with the rear seats folded down, compared to 1,445 L in the Evoque and 1,775 L in the BMW X3.
Whether or not you are a fan of the new taillights or button-laden interior, it is the driving experience that ultimately sells the Macan. The base Macan utilizes a 2.0-litre turbo-four that pushes out 248 hp and 273 lb-ft, while the Macan S (the one we tested) receives an upgraded 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 with 348 hp and 352 lb-ft, enough for it to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.3 seconds (5.1 with the Sport Chrono Package equipped). The Macan S may not be the fastest horse in the stable but the V6 is a smooth operator, understressed and purring along without much drama or strain. Even with added accelerative pressure, it never huffs or puffs to squeeze out all that torque. It may not rev as quickly, as high, or with the vocal output to back up its credentials like the enthusiastic inline-six in the BMW X3, but it’s undoubtedly the most expensive feeling. You can poke that V6 all you want but the most you will ever get are subtle burbles on aggressive upshifts. Don’t expect M or AMG levels of sonic bliss here. Porsche has left a great deal of breathing room for the upcoming GTS and Turbo models in the Macan hierarchy.
The 7-speed dual-clutch PDK is the sole transmission choice. Good thing then, that it shifts mighty quick, just like a Volkswagen DSG, with the same, polished, buttery smoothness expected from a Porsche. That said, even in Comfort mode, the PDK has a tendency to hold gears perhaps a bit too long, more notably during slow driving and rolling stops, where it hangs onto second gear until 4,000-5,000 rpm, before finally and reluctantly shifting into third. A bit odd, as we never experienced this with other Macans using the same PDK.
Steering feel is crisp and well executed, though a bit heavier than what many luxury SUV owners may be used to coming from a BMW or Mercedes. Not to say that’s a bad thing. There are oodles of feel and feedback from the wheel, linearly building up weight under rotation. It’s incredibly satisfying to launch the Macan around a corner at speed and let the chassis flawlessly sort itself out, all while you eagerly direct the front wheels around. It offers that vaunted two-way phone line which many other sport-oriented SUVs seem to have lost in translation.
Furthermore, the Macan demonstrates a masterstroke of body control that puts it right up there with dedicated two-door sports cars. Much of that praise boils down to the optional air suspension with three ride height positions, which we highly recommend. Air springs are a rare commodity in this SUV segment, yet it makes a significant difference to ride quality. Combined with the three-mode adaptive damper system that Porsche calls PASM, and you have a sophisticated ride that silences the bumpiest of roads even when wearing 21-inch wheels.
The Macan never loses composure and demonstrates exemplary road manners, managing its weight and center of gravity better than the comparative Evoque, X3, or even the GLC 43 AMG. No other compact SUV we’ve driven has this impressively managed damper and chassis control in the way that the Macan, almost nonchalantly, has. There is no doubt that the athleticism of a 911 has been sewn right into the chassis - you simply don’t get this kind of body control anywhere else.
Those coming from a 911 or those who are simply adding an SUV to the family stable will find much to like with the new Macan. There are no shortages of similarities to Porsche’s signature rear-engined sports car, and it’s dynamic drive, sophisticated ride, and buttery smooth powertrain will keep the smiles coming whether it’s on the daily commute or on your favourite back road. The plastic-laden interior will be a hit or a miss with consumers, but the new widescreen display is impressive and the overall interior vibe is undoubtedly upscale, especially if you are willing to spend a little more on options. The Macan is easily one of the most expensive compact SUVs in the range but it justifies that with a world-class chassis and air suspension setup. There’s a reason why the Macan is Porsche’s golden cash cow, and its dominance remains undisputed even five years since its initial and controversial debut.
Model: 2019 Porsche Macan S
Paint Type: Miami Blue
Base Price: $63,000
Price as Tested: $85,820
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,696 / 1,923 / 1,624
Unladen weight (kg): 1,947
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 348 hp @ 5,400 - 6,400 rpm
Torque: 352 lb-ft @ 1,360 - 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch PDK
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.1