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Driving impression: Porsche Macan

31 July 2014

On arrival in Cape Town, we see the Macan for the first time and immediately realise that an image on a computer screen simply doesn’t do it justice. Its proportions are far sportier and less awkward-looking than those of its bigger brother, the Cayenne. There’s something right about the styling of this car. Where the Cayenne looks like an overinflated 911, the Macan looks like a Cayman that’s been stretched over the frame of an Audi Q5.

Not that the Macan is closely related to the Q5. Yes, some of the parts are shared, but Porsche says that two-thirds of the Macan are unique to Porsche, and it’s those two-thirds that elevate it to heights the humble Q5 can only hope to achieve. In fact, those parts are so good that the Macan not only sets a new standard in its own segment but in every other SUV segment out there as well.

A big claim like that needs to be justified, so let’s get cracking on an explanation.

If you’ve ever read a review on a performance SUV, you’ve probably come across the phrase, “It handles pretty well… for an SUV”. It’s that “for an SUV” part that the Macan tears to shreds. It handles very well, full stop.

It seems we’ve entered a new era where the SUV perfectly captures the dynamic abilities of a well-sorted performance sedan. We have no idea how the engineers at Porsche managed to pull this off, because it makes a mockery of the laws of physics. If Isaac Newton were still alive, the Macan would definitely drive him to an existential crisis.

It’s also extremely fast, in whatever guise you choose.

One diesel and two petrol models are on offer. The range kicks off with the Macan S diesel, which comes equipped with a twin-turbo V6 oil-burner. The claimed power output is rated at 180kW and 580Nm of torque. This model sprints to 100km/h in a Volkswagen Golf GTI beating 6,3 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 230km/h.

Next in line is the standard Macan S, equipped with a 3,0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine. This powertrain churns out 250kW and 460Nm and is good for a 5,4 second sprint to 100km/h. The top speed rises to a highly illegal 254km/h.

For most people, that would be enough, but since the Macan competes in a segment where the customer’s ego plays a big role, no line-up would be complete without a “Turbo” model.

On the twisty roads outside Cape Town, the Macan intensified our lives quite a bit with its sporty character. We have no idea how far you can push the car before you reach the limit, but we can tell you that it’s far beyond the extent of our bravery.

It’s a very easy car to drive fast, but that’s no great surprise. Porsche rewrote the SUV book once before with the Cayenne, so there was never any doubt that the Macan would be impressive when it came to pace. What interests us more is how easily it settles down and gets on with the business of just being an SUV.

With that in mind, we put the Doppelkupplung back into “auto” and spent the rest of the day leisurely driving through the best scenery in SA. Like its bigger brother, the Macan does this very well. Driving around at sedate speeds is, if anything, even more enjoyable than pushing it, because it gives the driver the opportunity to focus on the refinement and luxury.

The interior is adorned with every modern comfort and entertainment feature, but that was to be expected. The materials used in the cabin are a joy to look at, but we must make mention of the steering wheel. Its design is based on the wheel in the 918 hypercar. This doesn’t help the Macan go any faster, but it does make it feel a smidgen more special.

As an SUV, the Macan has to have at least some off-road potential. One can tap into this by pressing a button marked “Off-Road” on the centre console. How wonderfully unpretentious is that? No fancy dials or knobs given some fancy euphemism. You just press one tiny button and the car knows that things are about to get rough.

The relevant electronic systems are optimised for off-road terrain. If the car is fitted with the optional air suspension, it will even lift itself a few millimetres for added ground clearance.

We didn’t get a chance to experience this first hand, but if the Cayenne is anything to go by, the Macan should be more than capable off-road.

All things considered, the Macan is a splendiferous vehicle and yet another winning car from the company that can do no wrong at the moment.

The only odd thing about the Macan is the pricing, which stands at R873 000 for the S, R862 000 for the Diesel S and R1 239 000 for the Turbo. It’s roughly the size of a BMW X3 or Audi Q5 but is a lot more expensive than both. The Macan is actually priced closer to the Cayenne than to any of its segment rivals.

While we think it’s expensive, the Macan’s wide range of talents does go a long way towards justifying the price tag. Not that it matters to the manufacturers. Porsche is having no trouble in selling every single Macan it makes. In the UK there’s a waiting list of roughly a year and the same will probably happen in SA.

If you want a Macan – and you probably do — get your name on that list, because a year is a long time to wait for the new king of the SUV hill.