Porsche has broadened its reach amazingly in the past decade or so. First there was the Cayenne, an SUV that we were all prepared not to love too much, possibly because the Volkswagen Touareg on which it was based, was, in many people’s opinion, better looking.
Porsche fixed that with the second-gen Cayenne, with its much more aggressive snout, and fortunately it is this styling cue that is the dominant feature of the new Macan, a junior SUV that Porsche claims is the first sports car in this segment.
Based on Audi Q5 and VW TiguanThe Porsche shares a platform with its VW Group stablemates, the Tiguan and the Audi Q5. Yet Porsche has re-worked every single aspect of the Macan in terms of appearance, interior feel and ergonomics, and more critically, drive-train and engine behaviour.
It shares nothing with a Tiguan or a Q5 in this respect, and no short-cuts have been taken to pass it off as a merely badge-engineered VW. This is a Porsche through and through, even, one may say, in respect of its slightly eccentric overall styling.
InteriorThis you realise as you climb aboard, settle in the snug driving area of the cabin, and glance back to see there is capacious leg room for three adults back there, as well as a boot with 500 litres of luggage capacity.
Unusual in this day and age of infotainment screens containing regularly-used functions such as climate adjustment, is the array of switchgear on the console, using good old fashioned buttons to control just about everything. Yes, I like that. It gives the Porsche a traditional feel, and may not look as Bauhaus as some of the architectural cabins from its rivals, but there is nothing quite like adjusting something without having to scroll through a computer-display menu.
Porsche Macan S first driveWe kicked off our launch drive in the Western Cape with the S model, which is the base petrol version. The S is more than punchy enough, and what’s more it has a silken power delivery that is one of the smoothest I’ve experienced from a V6. It revs up to 7 000 without so much as a tingle through the throttle pedal, and with vocals that are refined, yet audible enough to be considered sporty.
Yes, this is a sports car, albeit one with a degree of off-road capability thanks to its all-wheel-drive configuration, and of course space for five. But in virtually every other way it behaves like a sports car, not a hot hatch. The best part for me is that it reacts with such precision and yet palpable feedback to changes in road surfaces, movements on the throttle and steering wheel, and the brake pedal. In this respect it has none of the remoteness typical of a larger SUV.
Okay, that doesn’t apply so much to the Cayenne, which also has amazing chassis feedback, but the benefit here is the much lower body mass, measured at an average of about 1 900 kg for the model range. That compares to about 2 140 kg for the Cayenne, and 300 kg is a lot of mass when travelling at 200 plus, which this Macan does so easily.
All models are equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission which operates brilliantly as a full automatic, and personally I never felt too much need to operate it as a manual, although the option is there via paddle shifting.