Macan mojo: Porsche's new SUV

Porsche's new SUV has the Cayenne's utility and Cayman's agility

It is no secret that the Macan is based on the Audi Q5, but Porsche emphasises that two-thirds of its new SUV are bespoke.

Coincidentally, the last Q5 I drove is the SQ5, the flagship 3-litre supercharged variant with 354bhp, 470Nm and a century sprint timing of 5.4 seconds.

The Macan S, with its 3-litre twinturbo V6 producing 340bhp and 460Nm, has slightly lower peak outputs than the SQ5. But its ample torque arrives at 1,450rpm, compared with the Audi's 4,000rpm.

The Porsche's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission works quickly. It works even more quickly with the car's Sport Chrono option, which offers not only a Sport Plus mode, for sharper drivetrain response, but also Launch Control, which cuts the century sprint timing from 5.4 seconds to 5.2 seconds.

That is quicker than the Cayman, a dedicated Porsche coupe. The Macan stops very well too. Its disc brakes bite as gently or fiercely as you like, with a brake pedal which has been calibrated perfectly for every stopping scenario.

The Macan S sounds sporty when started up, with a small explosion of V6 revs and a big bark from the exhaust pipes, followed by a purposeful burble as the engine idles.

On the go, there is no lag in the turbocharged output or throttle response. The car speeds up without any hesitation, seeing 200kmh before the rate of acceleration begins to taper off.

The top-of-the-line Macan Turbo, with a punchy 400bhp and 550Nm from its 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6, goes (and sounds) faster than the already lively Macan S.

But it does not feel much faster at first on Leipzig's single-lane country roads. Only on the autobahn does the greater vigour become obvious. Unlike the S, the Turbo continues to accelerate like a rocket above 200kmh, hitting 220kmh in a jiffy and touching 240kmh with just a bit of extra effort.

If the unrestricted German highway is long enough and the traffic is light, I reckon the Macan Turbo could cruise happily at 240kmh to 250kmh for an hour or two without the driver getting tired.

Cruising at any speed, the Macan is unflappable and comfortable, especially the Turbo variant, which employs active dampers with selectable three-mode management (Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus).

Air suspension is also available, giving the Macan the versatility of adjustable ground clearance (three levels) to suit different driving situations and a "low loading" function for easier access to the boot compartment (a first for Porsche).

The car offers 500 litres of cargo space, expandable to 1,500 litres by folding down the 40/20/40 split back seats. The boot is noticeably smaller than the Cayenne's 670-litre capacity, but it has a nice even shape with very little intrusions.

Cabin space is similar to the Audi Q5's, but the Macan's classier interior architecture and nicer headliner of an Alcantaralike fabric ensure that passengers in the Porsche will not mistake it for an Audi SUV. Even the grab handles above the windows seem to retract more gracefully than those in the premium-quality Q5.

The cockpit is where the Macan really sets the pace in its segment. Even though the switchgear, infotainment system and sloping centre console will be familiar to Cayenne owners, the rest of the Macan cockpit feels refreshingly different and more exciting.

The driving position is significantly lower and the steering column is at a sharper angle, with a steering wheel

"hijacked" from the 918 Spyder, Porsche's spectacular hybrid hypercar. Said wheel looks fabulous and feels fantastic, and the same goes for paddles which override the PDK auto box. Too bad the steering-mounted thumbwheels accessing functions such as audio and trip computer are rather flimsy.

Electrically-adjusted front seats provide good support and long-haul comfort. But optional 18-way sports seats are better (and costlier, of course). Whatever the seating package, visibility is excellent in every direction; it is easy for the driver to place the vehicle, whether in town or at the countryside.

And the all-wheel-drive Macan tackles part of the off-road course at Porsche's Leipzig facility without any trouble. But more important than the Macan's ability to venture off the beaten track is its ability on the racetrack - in this case, the one within the same Porsche facility.

Keeping up with the pace car, a 911 Carrera, is easier in the Macan Turbo than the Macan S. But both cars are equally enthusiastic on the circuit. Their body control is tight, their steering feel is spot-on - albeit a little overassisted - and they spear through corners with surprising verve. The only caveat perhaps is the state of the cars' tyres as the laps accumulate.

Clearly, the Macan is a genuinely sporty SUV. It is also a handsome machine, with a striking front end and particularly pretty tail lights. It makes the Cayenne look unfashionable.

The new SUV will be launched in Singapore in July, but the local agent is believed to have close to 100 orders already. When a 2-litre variant is announced next month or in April, you can be sure orders will soar.

The writer is the editor of Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

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