Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 19, 2021
Porsche have always structured their GTS trims to hit the sweet spot of the model range. Not as hardcore as the Turbo, but with enough performance upgrades to justify the premium over the base or S models. The GTS is baked at that perfect temperature for both relaxing journeys to the mall and spirited runs up the canyon road, and that claim also holds true with the new 2021 Porsche Macan GTS.
Starting at $79,200, the Macan GTS utilizes the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 as the Macan Turbo ($96,500) but has been de-tuned to make 375 hp and 383 lb-ft. That’s a 59 hp and 23 lb-ft deficit but the difference is hardly felt during casual driving, and the GTS actually clocks in 35 kg lighter. The GTS will sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, and 4.7 seconds with launch control (only in vehicles spec’d with the Sport Chrono package). For reference, that’s three-tenths of a second faster than the outgoing GTS, while the new Macan Turbo will do that in 4.3 seconds.
Out on the open road, the GTS really doesn’t feel that much slower. The V6 is plenty potent and will never have you regret settling for the second-fastest Macan. It’s a remarkably satisfying SUV with plenty of kick to the seat back and like the Turbo, the new 2.9-litre is brimming with character. The V6 loves to rev, and while the needle doesn’t swing as quickly as a BMW straight-six, the clever dual-clutch transmission makes use of the swelling torque and distributes it evenly, making delivery linear, predictable, and rapid. Picking gears assertively yet executing shifts with a gentle smoothness, you won’t find a better dual clutch gearbox outside of Porsche.
Let’s stop looking up the Macan food chain for a moment and instead look down at the Macan S. Is the GTS a worthy upgrade over the S and its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that produces a still healthy 348 hp and 354 lb-ft? Only if performance, exhaust noise, and the GTS’ standard features appeal to your emotional side. The GTS comes equipped with a standard adaptive air suspension, chassis that has been lowered by 25mm for better handling, a louder sport exhaust system, 20-inch RS Spyder wheels, a more aggressive body kit, and blacked out exterior elements, but nothing that is absolutely necessary. If you were planning on spending extra cash and adding those options onto your Macan S already, why not just pay a little more for the GTS? But in the end it really does not matter what trim or mode or propulsion you choose - the Macan platform consistently delivers an exceedingly athletic drive.
Light on its feet with life-like steering and an alert front end, there aren’t many SUVs out there that drive like this. The adaptive air suspension adds road compliance, allowing the GTS to manage its weight and center of gravity better than the rivaling Range Rover Velar, and never seems to lose its composure over rough or pockmarked surfaces. Furthermore, there’s a sharpness to its electric power steering, and a natural sense of rotation off-center that gives you the confidence you need to explore the grip limits. It’s not as artificial as the BMW X3 and not as light and deliberate as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, but there’s a great deal of road feedback flowing through your fingertips.
Taut and tightly strung, even driving at low speeds feels particularly special, and Porsche seems to have found a way to make that V6 sing. While unnervingly quiet in the Audi RS5 and Cayenne S applications, the Macan GTS exhaust is brimming with bass, soulful notes, and crispy howls on the upper RPM registers.
The one tradeoff with the Macan’s athleticism is the slightly stiff ride and its moderate dose of firmness when negotiating vertical motions from bumps and pockmarked roads. The GTS is not as taxing or as punishing as the BMW X3 M Competition due to the latter’s weight problem, but firm enough to notice. It’s clearly not as comfort-oriented as the standard Macan S, and prospective buyers should expect that. That’s in the GTS’ softest suspension setting too. There are two more firmer settings to choose from via the center console, though I found neither of them particularly useful or made a significant difference during spirited driving.
There also aren’t many SUVs out there that cost as much as the GTS. Loaded up with options, the price tag on our Carmine Red test vehicle swelled up to over $100,000. You could have a V8-powered, 500 horsepower Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S for that kind of money, not to mention the sonorous Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio with its Ferrari-derived V6, or the bonkers Jaguar F-Pace SVR and its chainsaw ripping exhaust. Take what you will from that value comparison but just be aware of the Porsche entrance fee and the significant cost of the options it commands.
Over the Macan S, the GTS receives a handful of interior upgrades, most notably the Alcantara inserts everywhere from the seat centers, center console armrests, and door panels. The multi-function steering wheel also comes standard, as do the 8-way adjustable seats. The Macan’s cabin design has easily withstood the test of time but after spending a week with the Taycan and its overflowing digital real estate, hopping into the Macan’s button-reliant cabin was head-scratching.
We’re glad the Macan has stuck with analog gauges as they are easier to read and more classic in appearance than a digital one, and the army of buttons along the center console do offer a satisfying clicking feedback that not only serves a nostalgic purpose, but as an auditory confirmation that the car has fully received your input, something that goes amiss with touchscreens and creates frustration for many, us included. Dedicated hard buttons are clearly the way of the past but we can’t help but admire its ease of use.
The beautifully integrated 10.9-inch widescreen display embedded within the center stack elevates the cabin aesthetics to what consumers have come to expect from 2021 vehicles. The unit is responsive, lag-free, and the menus are easy to follow. There are sensors that detect when your hand is approaching the screen as well and will automatically summon the shortcut bar. Outside of BMW’s rotary dial, touchscreen functionality doesn’t get much better than this.
The Macan GTS sits in the sweet spot of the trim ladder, delivering a handful of performance-oriented upgrades while satisfying the ears and heart with a delightful exhaust and potent straight line acceleration. Yes it’s a discount Turbo and there are cheaper alternatives out there with more power and just as much brand prestige, but the Macan GTS is remarkably satisfying to drive with surgical movements and first-rate dynamic acuity. If the slightly firm ride, button-laden cabin, and hefty entrance fee don’t bother you, then you really can’t go wrong with the confident and driver-oriented GTS. Can’t appreciate the added performance and want a more relaxed daily driver? You will find just as much satisfaction with the Macan S instead.
Model: 2021 Porsche Macan GTS
Paint Type: Carmine Red
Base Price: $79,200
Price as Tested: $101,090
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,686 / 1,926 / 1,609
Unladen weight (kg): 1,910
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 375 hp @ 5,200 - 6,700 rpm
Torque: 383 lb-ft @ 1,750 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.5 / 10.5 / 12.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.8