When Porsche product planners set out to fill the gap in the ever-growing small SUV segment, they knew they couldn't compromise. Enter the 2015 Porsche Macan (pronounced with soft vowels: mah-kahn), a new vehicle in the Porsche lineup. With the same race-bred performance Porsche lends to all of its vehicles, the Macan is not the usual stuff of soccer moms and dads. Like its larger counterpart the Cayenne, the Macan offers power and road manners that rival many sportscars, plus more space and even a bit of brawn.
Although one might be tempted to dismiss it as a shrunken Cayenne, the 2015 Porsche Macan has its own character, built from the ground up. Its platform is based on sister company Audi's Q5 crossover, but the Macan isn't simply a rebadge job; about 70 percent of the Macan's parts are new or modified.
Design of the 2015 Porsche Macan contains familiar elements that are clearly Porsche. Although from the front, especially in light colors, the Macan's nose looks uncharacteristically high off the ground, beset by a giant wide front grille, the signature slanted Porsche headlights are still easily recognizable, as well as the wraparound clamshell hood, which is made of lightweight aluminum. From the side, one can see the Porsche flyline, the gentle sloping curve that creates the silhouette shared by all Porsche vehicles.
The Macan is available in two variants, though the nomenclature can be confusing to those familiar with Porsche's lineup, as both models use turbocharged engines. The Macan S is powered by a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that makes 340 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Macan Turbo is powered by a 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 good for 400 hp and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. Both models come standard with Porsche's 7-speed, dual-clutch PDK transmission. Fuel economy is the same for both models with an EPA-estimated 17/23/19 miles per gallon City/Highway/Combined.
Porsche's active all-wheel-drive system varies how much power goes to either axle, depending on road conditions and terrain. This makes the Macan suitable for driving in all conditions, including snow and rain. In normal driving, 100 percent of the torque is sent to the rear, creating that true Porsche rear-wheel-drive feel. An off-road mode allows the Macan to handle moderate unpaved hills, mud and ruts.
If there were one drawback to the Porsche Macan, it would be that prices add up fast. While the base Macan S is perfectly capable for everyday driving, the vehicle's full potential is only realized with a number of pricey packages and options. Most notably, the adjustable air suspension makes a big difference in ride and handling, as does the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system (which automatically transfers torque between wheels for better grip and performance while cornering).
If you want the Sport Plus setting, launch control and a faster 0-60 time, you must opt for the Sport Chrono package. These three aforementioned options alone add more than $5,500 to the price tag. And that's not even scratching the surface of the Macan's plethora of options. Of course, this isn't unusual for Porsche, but bear in mind you will be shelling out thousands of dollars on top of the base price for the best performance.
Competitors to the 2015 Porsche Macan include other small luxury SUVs such as the Audi SQ5, which rides on the same platform on which the Macan is based, and is powered by a 354-hp supercharged V6. Less expensive alternatives include the BMW X3, which offers more cargo space, and the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. Those going for form over function might also consider the Range Rover Evoque, which boasts brand cachet and an avant-garde design, but fails to measure up to the Macan when it comes to rear-seat space and cargo capacity.
The Porsche Macan is about six-and-a-half-inches shorter than the Porsche Cayenne SUV, and nearly a foot shorter than the Porsche Panamera four-door sedan. It's also about three inches lower than the Cayenne and a couple of inches narrower.
From the front, the Macan's most distinctive feature is its giant front grille, which is taller and wider than that of the Cayenne. On the Macan S, the gaping mouth is flanked on either side by horizontal lines, including LED accent lights, and round fog lights below. Macan Turbos get a different LED accent light design and different fog lights, as well as a front diffuser. Both models use Porsche's signature slanted headlights and the familiar wraparound clamshell hood.
From the side, one can see the Porsche flyline, that gentle sloping curve that defines the silhouette of all Porsche vehicles. A distinct character line curves up from the front fender and runs the length of the vehicle above the door handles, ending at the top of the wraparound tail lamps. A side blade, borrowed from the Porsche 918, runs along the lower portion of the car beneath a sharp body crease. Macan S models have black side blades, while Turbo models get them in body-color. Wheel designs also vary between Macan S and Turbo models.
The rear design is very clean and simple, with wide wraparound tail lights, also borrowed from the 918. There isn't a grab handle for the liftgate; instead, a small button at the base of the rear window wiper serves as the trunk release (a power liftgate is standard on all models). Below, the Macan S gets a quad exhaust with rounded tailpipes, while the Turbo gets squared pipes.
Like all Porsches, the interior materials in the Macan are top-notch, with supple, soft-touch surfaces, with excellent fit and finish. Leather upholstery is standard, and Turbo models come with sport seats. As usual with Porsche, there are plenty of options for interior materials and colors.
Seating position is low for the typical SUV. Standard seats on the Macan S come with power adjustments, while the Turbo gets 18-way sport seats. The base seats aren't fancy, but we found then supportive and comfortable for both long freeway drives and demanding twisty roads. As expected, the Turbo's sport seats cradled us even better, especially on the technical turns of the Streets of Willow Raceway north of Los Angeles.
Analog gauges and a TFT display comprise the Macan's instrument cluster, all large and easy to see. The tachometer sits front and center, with white numbers on black background, with a gear indicator and big digital speed readout at the bottom. That's good, since the analog speedometer to the left is marked in hard-to-read 25-mph increments. To the right is a multifunction display that lets users choose from a variety of data, including navigation directions and vehicle diagnostics.
In the center is a standard 7-inch color display that shows map and infotainment information. Audio, phone and volume functions sit beneath the screen and are relatively intuitive.
As with other Porsches, the main barrage of switches is in center console, surrounding the shifter. Here you'll find climate control and driving settings, with upwards of 32 buttons, a stark contrast from the minimalist designs found in Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. And although Porsche's layout looks quite busy, functions are easy to access once you're familiar with them, unlike those one-button interfaces that require several steps to change a setting.
Audio systems begin with a single CD, 11 speakers and 235 watts of power, and we found it quite good. The optional Bose surround sound system, with 14 speakers and 585 watts, is loud and clear. It matches anything in most luxury cars.
Storage up front includes a pair of side-by-side cupholders in the center console, a moderately roomy center-console box, a fairly large glovebox, and good-sized door pockets.
In a segment where rear-seat comfort often fails compared to riding shotgun, the Porsche Macan is a pleasant exception. The same bucket-style contours cradle rear seat passengers nearly equally as well, although the center passenger doesn't get such luck; the fifth seat is flat and narrow, though that's typical for this kind of vehicle. Rear headroom and legroom is adequate for nearly all shapes and sizes, though official measurements weren't available as of this writing. In our testing, a six-footer fit just fine.
Cargo space measures 17.7 cubic feet with all seats in place, or up to 53 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. That's close to that of the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, but less than the BMW X3. It falls far short of the Audi SQ5, however, which offers an impressive 29.1 cubic feet of space with the seats in place, up to 57.3 cubic feet with the seats down.
The biggest problem inside the Macan is rearward visibility. The back window is small, and rear headrests block most of the daylight opening. We had to fold the seats flat to get satisfactory visibility, but of course this option isn't very practical if you'll be driving the Macan with more than two people inside.
Regardless of model, the Porsche Macan will feel sporty and capable on the road. It's only when you push it hard that you notice the difference between models and pricey options.
The base Macan S is best as a commuter and perfectly fine for everyday driving. Acceleration is more than ample thanks to the new 340-hp turbocharged V6. Porsche says the base Macan S can go from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds from, or 5.0 seconds with Porsche's optional Chrono package.
During a test on Horse Thief Mile, a tight racing circuit with wildly changing elevation at the Willow Springs facility, we found the standard suspension to be little sloppy, with noticeable nose-dive and body roll. When equipped with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), the ride gets noticeably firmer and in control. Even better is the optional Air Suspension, which includes PASM and provides continuous dampening and three ride height settings, which essentially turns the Macan from family vehicle to track-day car. But to make Macan truly race-worthy, one can add the optional Torque Vectoring Plus system, which automatically distributes torque between the wheels during hard cornering for maximum grip and performance.
To and from the racetrack, we drove the twisty roads of Angeles Crest Highway, and found that even on the streets, our Macan S test car was simply too willowy in Comfort mode, even with the pricey air suspension. Sport suspension tightened things up, but by far the best way to drive was in Sport Plus, which reduced body roll to a minimum and made the challenging roads a joy to drive. Compared to Porsche's sports cars (like the 911 and even the Cayman/Boxters), Sport Plus didn't seem as aggressive, though this is not surprising considering the Macan's role as a multipurpose vehicle.
With the Macan Turbo, the power difference in the 400-hp engine is instantly recognizable. On a test run at the Streets of Willow racetrack, even the slowpokes in our group put down a significantly faster lap time than in the Macan S. Plus, the Turbo's glorious exhaust note made everyone feel like a hero, even if not everyone drove like one. The estimated 0-60 mph time for the Macan Turbo is a mere 4.6 seconds, or 4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono package (the same estimated time as the Cayenne Turbo). The same suspension options for the S are also available on the Turbo.
Though the Macan is technically all-wheel drive, Porsche's active all-wheel-drive system varies how much power goes to either axle, depending on road conditions and terrain. This makes the Macan suitable for driving in all conditions, including snow and rain. In normal driving, 100 percent of the torque is sent to the rear, creating that true Porsche rear-wheel-drive feel.
The 7-speed Porsche's PDK transmission is the only gearbox available on the Macan, and can be used in automatic mode, or in manual mode with paddle shifters. In automatic mode, it will predict and shift into the proper gear just like a regular automatic. With the normal setting, we found it erred more on the side of fuel economy, and didn't give us as much oomph as we'd expect from a Porsche. In sport and sport plus modes, it's much more fun, holding gears longer and shifting at higher RPMs to get the most out of either V6 powerplant. On the downside, shifts aren't always very smooth, especially when accelerating hard in Sport and Sport Plus.
Steering in the Macan isn't quite Porsche 911 pure, but it's impressive for a four-door, even with the all-wheel-drive. It gives the car a nimble, responsive feel, and always gives the driver plenty of feedback. Brakes, too, are firm and confident, and while they might not stand repeated hard braking after a full day on the racetrack, they are more than capable for racing about town and spirited weekend drives.
A moderately challenging offroad course proved the Macan wasn't merely a city slicker. While larger SUVs like the Cayenne are normally tuned on the more compliant side, the Macan's lower ride height necessitates a firmer suspension to maintain ground clearance. With the push of the Offroad button, the Macan stiffens up its suspension and changes the default torque split to 50/50 front/rear (100 percent of torque is sent to the rear wheels in normal driving). On cars equipped with the optional air suspension, the Macan also raised up 1.5 inches.
We felt the Porsche traction management system kick in as we tackled deep ruts in the sandy soil of the Southern California desert, transferring power between wheels as needed to keep us from getting stuck. On the way down, hill descent control, which works at vehicle speeds between 2 and 18 mph, kept us at a steady pace without our having to use the gas or the brakes. Though the Macan isn't suited for serious offroading, it's nice to know it can stray off the beaten path from time to time, even if most of its owners will never attempt more than backing over a curb in the mall parking lot.
The Porsche Macan offers sportscar-like performance with the utility of a small crossover, bundled in a luxurious package worthy of the Porsche crest. Though like all Porsches, pricey options can add up fast.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Laura Burstein filed this report after her drive of the Macan S and Macan Turbo around the greater Los Angeles area and at Willow Springs Raceway.