Porsche's 2-litre Macan charms despite smaller displacement

Porsche's 2-litre Macan is a charmer despite tinier displacement

They say good things come in small packages, and that is certainly true for the 2-litre entry-level variant of the Porsche Macan.

Of all the Macans tested so far - including the monumental 400bhp Macan Turbo that nails the century dash in 4.8 seconds - the one with the relatively puny engine proves to be the sweetest.

Despite its size, it has 237bhp to its name, which is not insignificant for the compact crossover. That allows the Macan 2.0 to clock a 0-100kmh sprint in 6.9 seconds.

That makes it breezier in day-to-day driving than its bigger brother, the 3.6-litre Cayenne. But that is not what makes the biggest impression.

The biggest impression comes from how the Macan goes about delivering the goods. The car is smoother, calmer and more at ease in the urban environment than other Macans.

Throttle response is linear and therefore pleasantly predictable. While it is not as devastating as its better-endowed siblings, it does the job efficiently and with decent aplomb.

At the wheel, it often feels like it is squeezing every ounce of energy out of its smallish engine, and yet it does so without any sign of struggle or protest.

When extended, it emits a convincingly sporty exhaust note befitting its image. But when driven at a leisurely pace, it is quieter than the six-cylinder units in the Macan range.

There must be something right about the power plant, because it has proven its mettle in a car before the Macan. In a 2-litre version of the Audi Q5 tested two years ago, the engine also outshone the others in the Q5 line-up.

Like the Q5, the 2-litre Macan offers substantial savings in road tax and fuel bills. Its smaller sticker price makes it even more attractive.

Despite being an entry-level variant, it is not short on amenities. It comes with eight-way adjustable front seats, motorised tailgate, keyless access with built-in key fob for ignition and a coasting function that helps the crossover save fuel.

So, even though the Macan's engine is tuned to produce more peak power than the Q5's, and the car is 0.2 seconds quicker than the Audi in the century sprint, it is 5 per cent more economical.

A difference in transmission type could have been a contributing factor. The Audi uses a Tiptronic transmission while the Porsche employs a more efficient dual-clutch gearbox.

Both cars, however, suffer from a constricted driver-side footwell. After all, the Macan is based on the Q5. But unlike the less costly Audi, the Porsche's list of standard-issue features does not include rear air-conditioning vents.

The test-car had these vents, which are a necessity once warmer weather returns.

But the Macan remains the top crossover choice for those who enjoy driving. Its level of handling is unsurpassed, with a suspension set up to resist body roll as well as to enhance road holding.

Like its petrol brethren, the 2-litre model has Power Steering Plus, a variable ratio system that maximises high-speed stability while ensuring effortlessness at low speeds.

With smaller wheels, the 2-litre is also a bit cushier than the other Macans.

All things considered, it is easily the most captivating Macan so far - one that gives the biggest bang for the buck. It may not offer the boasting rights of a car with a larger-capacity, multi-cylinder engine, but in this day and age, small is more.

In fact, there is speculation that Porsche will downsize further, with future engines as small as 1.6 litres. They should be a hoot, especially if they are "Boxer" engines.

christan@sph.com.sg