Macan is the sports car of SUVs

07/11/2014 7:00 PM

07/14/2014 10:46 AM

It only takes a few blocks behind the wheel of the Macan S to realize that Porsche has created a compelling car that marries the performance of a sports sedan, the versatility of a wagon and the off-road capability of an SUV. In my estimation, it sits atop the compact utility segment without any peers.

Macan, Indonesian for tiger, could well become one of the best selling vehicles in the Porsche lineup. It certainly is off to a fast start. The first year’s production is sold out, so buyers will have to wait several months for delivery. In the meantime, Porsche is offering buyers short-term leases on a Boxster or a Cayman while they wait.

The Macan S has a black sideblade in the lower rocker panel that is supposed to have a stylistic connection to the 918 Spyder. For me, however, it disrupts the continuity of design in lighter colors. The sideblade is body color on the Turbo, and that is optional on the S.

The Macan, derived from the chassis platform of an Audi Q5, is pure Porsche because performance comes first. There are two models: Macan S and Macan Turbo. The S has a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower while the Turbo has a twin-turbo, 3.6-liter V-6 with 400 horsepower. Prices start at $49,900 for the S and $72,300 for the Turbo.

I drove a Macan S for a couple of days.

I was impressed by the Macan’s Lexus-like lack of wind and road noise, even when zipping well past the speed limit. The audio system could be played at a soft volume even at 70 mph.

One sound that can be heard is the engine. Under acceleration the exhaust has hints of a 911. It is loud enough to deliver a tingle when the throttle is opened, quiet at cruising speed. The 340 horsepower of the S is more than adequate. It can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and has a top track speed of 156 mph. The Turbo hits 60 in 4.6 seconds and has a top track speed of 164 mph. Fuel economy is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway.

The transmission is a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel.

The Macan’s sports sedan handling comes in part because the rear wheels are one inch wider than those in front and the all-wheel-drive system is biased toward the rear wheels. It corners as well or better than any SUV I can recall. In low-traction situations such as snow or ice, power is diverted to the front wheels as needed.

Porsche offers two optional suspension packages. One is the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings. The second is an air suspension that includes height adjustment and leveling. The air suspension lowers the vehicle slightly in Sport Plus mode or raises the vehicle for off-road use.

Typical of Porsche, the brakes are big and strong.

The cabin has a seating position that feels more like a sedan than an SUV. The console, designed like that of the Cayenne or Panamera, creates a cockpit feeling because it contains several buttons and switches for climate and vehicle settings. The instrumentation is similar to those of the 911 or Boxster. My only wish was that the numerals were lighted all the time because they were a bit dim in certain situations. Fortunately there’s a digital speed readout at the bottom of the center-mounted tachometer.

The car I drove had the optional 14-way power seats and they were excellent. Under-thigh support was adjustable, and so was the fore-aft orientation of the headrest.

The split folding rear seat gives several cargo options. Backseat legroom was not overly generous.

Price

The base price of the test car was $49,900. Options included a trailer hitch, center wheel caps with the Porsche crest, Walnut wood trim, blind spot monitor, Bose surround sound, 14-way power seats, navigation, premium plus package and the sport chrono package. The sticker price was $64,640.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles.

Tom Strongman’s e-mail is tstrongman@gmail.com

2015 Porsche Macan S

Engine: 3.0-liter, 340-horsepower twin-turbo V-6

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 110.5 inches

Curb weight: 4,112 to 4,641 pounds

Base price: $49,900

As driven: $64,640

MPG rating: 17 in the city, 23 on the highway

At A Glance

Point: The Macan is a compact SUV that performs and handles like a sports sedan. It sits atop a segment that is bound to grow as more manufacturers offer similar products. The ride is smooth, the cabin is quiet and the seating position feels like that of a sedan.

Counterpoint: The base price is competitive, but many items such as navigation and blind-spot monitor are optional, and that boosts the price considerably.

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