Porsche’s Macan is the most agile and graceful SUV on the road

The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Macan may be based on the Audi Q5 but everything you see and touch feels Porsche. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Porsche's Macan is the most agile and graceful SUV on the road

It is probably pointless now to say how irrelevant and wasteful SUVs are. The world just cannot seem to get enough of them, high pump prices be damned.

This unholy fascination goes back more than 50 years, when Jeep introduced civilian versions of its military vehicle, followed soon by Land Rover.

But fascination became fixation when Porsche launched the Cayenne a little over 10 years ago.

The idea that a sportscar maker could make a success of something so drastically opposed to sleekness and speed was as astounding as it was frightening.

The Cayenne quickly became the bestselling model in the Stuttgart stable.

This probably surprised Porsche as much as it did the rest of the world. So a baby brother to the Cayenne was naturally expected.

What was less natural was for it to be named Macan, an obscure Indonesian term for tiger.

Just as the Cayenne shared a platform with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Macan is based on the Audi Q5.

It would be hard (but not impossible) to identify the Audi bits at the wheel. But almost everything you see and touch feels Porsche. In the case of the Macan Turbo reviewed here, the way the car moves and sounds is also characteristically Porsche.

The car shares the same wheelbase as the Q5 but overall, it is slightly longer and wider. It is also not as tall.

Design-wise, it is clearly Cayenne- inspired, albeit visibly less bulky and awkward. In fact, it ranks as one of the most stylish SUVs around, alongside the Range Rover Evoque. Its rear view is especially striking, more so at night when its slim rows of LEDs light up.

Onboard, a steering wheel right out of the exotic Porsche 918 Spyder is attention-grabbing. And a suite of controls laid out along the centre console like a Vertu phone reminds you of the Panamera. More buttons line the ceiling aft of the rear-view mirror.

What is missing in the cockpit is the Start button. The Macan Turbo's doors can be opened without the car key but you have to insert the key into the ignition to start the car. This is a little infuriating.

The absence of rear air-conditioning vents, juxtaposed with a heated steering wheel, is the other contradiction.

All is forgotten once you get going, though. The Macan is so mesmerisingly sporty and agile, it actually feels more akin to the Cayman than the Cayenne.

Unshakeable balance, resistance to roll and impeccable road holding make it a joy to pilot. And despite 21-inch wheels, the test-car possesses a calmness in its ride quality. (Normally, the Turbo comes with 19-inch rims.)

Throttle response is immediate and linear, power delivery is forceful yet silky, and the steering quick and communicative.

At the heart of its magic lies a 3.6-litre bi-turbo V6 that has 400 horses in rein and 550Nm of torque from just 1,350rpm. Zero to hundred is despatched in 4.8 seconds. These impressive figures set the Turbo apart from the other Macans, which are all turbocharged.

Transmitting power to an active all-wheel-drive system is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It is a little strange that the Q5 gets eight cogs in a Tiptronic, a transmission Porsche popularised in the 1990s.

But given the Macan's quadpipe soundtrack, the configuration of its drivetrain becomes almost secondary.

Its sonic repertoire is as rich and moving as a 911's. It is a soulful sound you never tire of.

That, however, cannot be said about the test car's Bose stereo system. Its bass is jarring even when set at zero.

Another objection may well be found in the centrepiece of the cockpit - the steering wheel. Its metallic trim creaks. And the hidden button on the six-o'clock spoke that activates the embedded heater is yet another distraction (not to mention unnecessary in Singapore).

These, however, are minor distractions that do not dilute the core appeal of the Macan. The car is extremely capable, highly entertaining and thoroughly engaging - more so as the pace quickens.

It is also very attractive and reasonably spacious.

Finally, Porsche declares that even though the Macan shares the Q5's platform, two-thirds of it are uniquely Porsche. The way the car drives proves this beyond a doubt.

However, there are two things that remind you of Audi: the spindly streams from its windscreen washers and the transmission tunnel that intrudes into the driver's foot-well.

christan@sph.com.sg

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