Porsche's Macan S Diesel drives like a sports car

The Porsche Macan S Diesel has a sharp, contemporary styling and is frugal when it comes to fuel consumption.
The Porsche Macan S Diesel has a sharp, contemporary styling and is frugal when it comes to fuel consumption.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Porsche Macan S Diesel has a sharp, contemporary styling and is frugal when it comes to fuel consumption.
The Porsche Macan S Diesel has a sharp, contemporary styling and is frugal when it comes to fuel consumption.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

Turbodiesel sport-utility vehicles usually make good sense. The high torque and low consumption often associated with diesel power plants translate into huge benefits in an SUV.

So, no one can blame Porsche for embracing the diesel engine - something it had abhorred before it ventured into the SUV turf with the Cayenne not so many years ago.

The Cayenne Diesel works well. It is endowed with enviable low-end pulling prowess. Its acceleration is sharp, linear and uncannily effortless for a car its size (the last four words must be emphasised).

And its drivetrain is nearly as refined as the one found in the diesel variant of the Jaguar XJ, which is undoubtedly the best example of a highly polished diesel.

The Porsche Macan Diesel comes close to replicating what its big brother achieved, but misses by a sliver on a few counts.

Although clearly possessing the monumental torque of the same engine used in the Cayenne - a 3-litre TDI cranked up to produce tonnes of torque - and weighing 300kg lighter than the bigger Porsche, it is a wee bit short of sparkling.

Yes, it is quicker to 100kmh (6.3 seconds versus the Cayenne Diesel's 7.8), but for day-to-day commutes, it feels less sorted and at ease.

It will still have no problem galloping away from the pack, mind you. But besides full-throttle exploits that will eventually earn you negative brownie points from the authorities, the car feels less breezy than you expect.

It is hard to pinpoint why, but it may have to do with the transmission: The Macan uses a seven- speed dual-clutch gearbox while the Cayenne employs an eight-speed Tiptronic.

Elsewhere, there are other differences that separate the two. The Macan has a sportier (read: harder) suspension set-up, which is great for those full-throttle exploits mentioned earlier as well as for cornering finesse, but it is a tad taxing for daily drives.

Likewise, the Macan's grippy brakes are best appreciated on the race-track. On the road, the brake pedal is hard to modulate. You get hard, coffee-spilling stopping power with just a tap.

The opposite is true for the accelerator pedal, which requires vigour and commitment on the part of your right foot. This is, of course, rather similar to what Porsche sportscars require of the driver, but in an SUV, the driver is seldom in the same frame of mind.

Add all these up and you have a car that is prone to what may be best described as disruptive dynamic inflections. I made that up of course, as there is nothing fundamentally flawed with the Macan Diesel.

It delivers what Porsche promised it would deliver: sportscar-like performance and characteristics. And if you get to drive the compact SUV like a sportscar, you will find very little to complain about.

In fact, the only ones who might complain are the oil companies. The Macan Diesel is frugal. Drive it hard and long and the needle on its fuel gauge hardly moves.

Like the Macan Turbo tested earlier, the car is likeable in many ways. Its sharp, contemporary styling is a winner. And despite its compact status, it has a huge road presence.

Unlike the Turbo, though, the Diesel test-car comes with a key fob affixed to the ignition. That makes sense for a car that comes with keyless access. In the Turbo, you often find yourself fumbling for the key in your pocket after you are seated comfortably behind the wheel.

Although the car's interior is done up in inimitable Porsche style, you are constantly reminded of the Audi Q5 that it shares a platform with. Like in many Audis, the driver's footwell is severely constricted on the left side, which makes long-distance driving a deep vein thrombosis risk for more mature individuals.

The absence of a rear air-conditioning vent is also a bugbear.

But on the whole, the Macan Diesel is still a rather attraction proposition. You get the performance of a sportscar, the economy of a compact, the practicality of an SUV and the brand name that says you have arrived.

All that for less than a quarter of a million bucks (before COE), too. Of course, you will have to pay a bit more if you want optional features - such as the fob that allows you to start the engine without inserting the key.

christan@sph.com.sg