(Pocket-lint) - The Macan is the current "it" car of the SUV world. Since it appeared on our roads in 2014, demand has outstripped supply for Porsche's newest model. Even now, order new and you're likely looking at a nine month wait to get behind the wheel of your new car.
Even for the SUV haters of this world, it's easy to see why: for its type, the Porsche Macan is impeccably designed; it's the right size and price for many well-healed, small-family-in-tow buyers; and it has few real rivals – the Audi Q5 is of pensionable age, the BMW X3 is Bavaria at far from its dynamic best and the Range Rover Evoque is more about style than the dynamic performance that Porsche provides.
Think Porsche, and you think performance. But despite only introducing its first diesel engine (in the Cayenne) just a handful of years ago, in the Macan the biggest seller by some margin in the UK is a diesel model. With 255bhp on tap, the Macan Diesel S isn't going to be shamed in the performance stakes, and is likely to deliver 40mpg on the run. It's a sensible choice.
But here at Pocket-lint we're not always sensible. So when Porsche said "would you like to try the Macan Turbo?" we couldn't help ourselves but say "yes please", let our hair down and live a little dangerously.
When Porsche first made an SUV â the Cayenne â the purists said it would ruin the brand. Instead, Porsche pulled off the enviable feat of building a car that earned it the profits which make the sports car range continually viable, give many customers exactly what they want and which drive better than any SUV rivals.
The Macan very much fits this mould. You might not like what it says, or is, but it's a car which is popular for a reason. It's practical too: the boot swallowed all our small family clobber, it's fun to drive, it's wears the right badge and at Â£60,994 for this Turbo model in standard form, it really doesn't represent bad value.
It's a shame Porsche charge extra for features such as Bluetooth, that the twin-turbo V6 engine doesn't sound a bit more exciting, or that the interface has a degree of complexity that takes some acclimatising. But as far as gripes go, that's literally all we got.
The fact the Macan Turbo also offers the ability to achieve 35mpg out of town makes it a remarkable feat of engineering. And the good news is that you don't need the Turbo model to enjoy its blend of capabilities. Little wonder that, more than 18-months after it was introduced, the Macan is a car that Porsche cannot build fast enough. It's worth the wait.
Porsche Macan Turbo
- Looks great
- Drives well
- Brutally fast
- Some impressive interface elements
- Engine could sound better
- Interface complexity
- Some options should be standard
Porsche Macan review: Turbo with a capital T
In the Macan Turbo's case – and just like the 911 – this is Turbo with a capital T. It's not simply a lesser Macan engine with the dial turned up. The Turbo uses its own, all-new 3.6-litre petrol engine, to which not one but two turbos are strapped. It produces 394bhp, which – despite the Macan weighing 1,925kg – has quite a dramatic effect when you plant your foot on the accelerator pedal.
The Turbo is one of those cars which, upon first acquaintance, you have go through a brain/driving recalibration exercise. Because if you've just jumped out of a "normal" car before driving this you'll instinctively use too much accelerator pedal.
That means in town you'll end up rushing up behind other cars quite quickly, accentuating the misnomer that all Porsche SUVs are driven aggressively. So you have to adjust your brain, trying to keep the thing on a leash, marvelling at the super quick changes of the 7-speed PDK gearbox as you pootle around town (wondering why it's so hard to adjust the climate control given this is a car only designed a couple of years ago) wincing at the computer telling you you're doing 16mpg.
Porsche Macan review: Open road
Get the Macan out of the city, though, and the experience transforms. Hey, it's not that it's bad in the urban jungle – just that it feels caged. But on the open, well-sighted roads of Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire, the Macan was in its element. Road holding, handling and body roll are in a different league to any other SUV you can mention. Which is to say fantastically better. Out here, the Macan turns into a hot hatch. You completely forget you're sat several inches higher off the ground.
And the 394bhp makes light work of traffic. You come up behind trucks, find yourself wondering whether you've the space and time to pass, but then just plant your foot and before any doubt has begun to enter your mind, you've passed.
Pity the engine doesn't sound a bit more aurally exciting when you do extend it though. Nonetheless, the Macan Turbo always feels muscular and rapid in a straight line – and stable and dynamically able in a curved one. Thank the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PVT Plus; a £1,012 option), Air Suspension with self-levelling ride height, and PASM (£1,004) for that.
Given that all of this suspension and drive-train technology gives you the ability to pilot a near two-tonne SUV like a much smaller and lighter car, we regularly found ourselves travelling faster than we should have – so brakes are important too. Porsche brakes tend to be the best in the business, but our car gilded the lily with the optional Carbon Ceramic Composite setup. As an eye-watering £5,463 extra, they're something we suspect most Macan owners will skip over. But the brakes do – once up to heat – provide you with absolutely incredible stopping power, plus the ability to use very little of the pedal travel in order to scrub off great chunks of speed.
Porsche also delivers an object lesson in how to setup a car with big wheels. Our Macan rode on 21-inch numbers with a slither of tyre rubber wrapped around them. But it never drives harsh or crashy – even over speedbumps it's not unpleasant. Good job, because in our view you'll need to have your Macan on at least 20-inch wheels to make it look the part.
All told, Porsche has performed magic, really: making a heavy, high-riding SUV drive as well as though it's a sports car is an impressive feat. But it's one the engineering team has nailed.
Porsche Macan review: Big red Porsche
Whether you'd be so impressed if someone parked a red Porsche on your drive is another matter. The Macan is – from an automotive design perspective – impeccably resolved, and beautifully detailed. The clamshell bonnet alone is a feat of immense technical achievement, it's very hard to stamp a single piece of metal this big and stop it rippling or doing odd things, while also maintaining tight, consistent shut lines with the other panels that join up to it.
But whether the Macan's curves are best shown off in a colour known as "Impulse Red", we're not so sure. A quick Facebook poll revealed an interesting and unusual response – with our male friends tending to like the "Maroon Red" shade, while our female friends laughed at "the big pink Porsche".
We think we'd take our Macan in a nice, subtle shade of dark blue. But whichever colour your choose, it isn't a car you'd call ugly. Only the un-interrupted boot-lid surfacing annoyed us – as it means there's no handle or button to pull or press to get the boot open if you've not got the key in your hand. It electrically opens and shuts as standard though, as perhaps you might expect of a car at this level.
What you might be surprised at is that Porsche make you pay extra for heated seats (£259), Bluetooth connectivity (£271) and a reversing camera (£332). However, 18-way electronically-adjustable leather seats, a 14-speaker Bose sound system and satnav all come as standard, so Porsche doesn't make you pay for absolutely every tech nicety. Were it our Macan, we'd stick with a 20-inch wheel upgrade, grin and bear having to pay for the essential Bluetooth, and add the Sports Chrono pack and PTV Plus because it widens the dynamic envelope.
Porsche Macan review: Interface complexity
Porsche is unique in its approach to interface design, mixing both a touchscreen (which most manufacturers have used as an excuse to bin physical buttons) with a rash of physical controls on the console, which flank the gear-shifter.
As technology and gadget nerds, we find it increasingly difficult to report on car interfaces in a measured way. We love gadgets, but we think most in-car interfaces are poorly designed. They have different operating parameters to smartphones and apps – but is that really an excuse for slow responding screens, that aren't particularly intuitive, having typically bad on-screen graphics? We don't think so – but it's not just a Porsche issue.
In this light, the Macan's interface isn't as good as a car costing £60K really ought to be (well, 72K all-in in this upgraded guise). But it is better than many in-car interfaces today. The centre screen is relatively low set which means your eyes are looking a long way down off the road to take it in.
However, that's made up for by the gear-shifter being situated such that it provides a handy wrist-rest for your hand as it operates the screen. The buttons and menus aren't particularly modern, though, but the buttons are big and the menu logic is generally sound. The climate buttons are also physical – which we like – although they're quite hard to use at times, given their placement.
What makes it all work rather nicely – from the driver's point of view at least – is the digital screen that is the third dial in the gauge cluster. You operate this via a scroll-wheel and button on the steering wheel, which is highly intuitive to use: simply scroll through menus, press the scroll to click into a function, then hit the button to come back out of it. It allows you to pull up vehicle data, satnav map, turn-by-turn, radio, phonebook and more. It's one of the car's best features.
Porsche turbo charges its mid-sized SUV and it’s a blast. Caged in the city, it’s dynamically better than any SUV out of town. An excellent, practical piece of design, it’s hard to criticise without being nit-picky, offering all the Porsche driving thrills you’d expect with the practicality and tech specs you don’t