“Cute little Cayenne you got there!” Yeah, keep laughing at this 2015 Porsche Macan Turbo. I can’t hear you over the sweet sound of the exhaust and perfect-click upshifts. Call it a big hatchback or a small SUV, I don’t care. I just want to drive it all day.
[Full disclosure: Porsche insisted I have a delightful brunch with them before they’d hand over the keys to the Macan Turbo.]
The brochure says Macan is the “one-car” alternative for folks who want Porsche performance, need greater flexibility than a sports car allows, and don’t want the heft and cost of a large SUV. A cynical critic would say the Macan exists because somebody at Volkswagen HQ mentioned that, hey, the Audi Q5 is selling well “so hurry up and put a prancing horse on that sucker so we can start making more money!”
Well, they did. But as Travis wrote after his track day in a Macan, Porsche went ahead and spent half a billion dollars injecting awesomeness into this little crossover and ended up with a lot more than a rebadged peoplemover. This here’s actually a pretty incredible car, and answers the question of “can a crossover be cool” with “of course, if you spend a crapload of money.”
It’s kind of sad to think about, but I guess that’s kind of the answer to everything isn’t it?
Regardless of whether this car came out of a simple cash-grab scheme or some engineer’s genuine desire to build a high-riding high-performance hatchback that’s tremendously fun to drive, I chose to focus on the user experience. And it’s wonderful.
We drove the closest thing to an “enthusiast spec” Macan Turbo; no luxury options, 21” rims, high-performance tires, and the Sport Chrono pack (launch control, Sport Plus mode for a more aggressive configuration on-the-fly, also a really nice clock on the dash) for a total build price of around $85,000.
As soon as I saw this car in person (I’ll be calling it a car for the rest of this story) in the valet line at the Standard, I felt what I think they call “arousal at first sight.” It becomes clear right away that this is no bloated 911 or compacted Cayenne; the Macan is perfectly proportioned and stands just fine on its own. Which is a weird thing to say about about any vehicle based on another vehicle, but here we are. More evidence of just how complete that “redesign” really was I suppose.
The cockpit is specked with buttons everywhere, which blend into the panels with simplistic elegance. Kind of exactly like the first cellphone you had. Seriously, look at the center console and then google a Nokia 6610. And I promise I mean that comparison to be complimentary!
Up front you’re staring into the face of a giant tachometer, and some other stupid gauges you don’t need. It is fortunate that speed is “also” displayed in a little digital readout in the tach, because the analog speedometer is cowering in the corner of the cluster like a well-beaten house elf.
Kick this car in the spurs and it leaps ahead with enough force to suck a lifetime of belly flab into the seatback and just about scare the life out of your shotgun-riding grandma.
Stay on it, snap the seven-speed doppelkupplung (dual-clutch transmission) and an upshift is executed immediately with extreme prejudice.
At this point you’re already ten miles from where you started and since you’re too pretty to go to jail, it’s just about time to reel the Macan back in. No problem; six-piston aluminum monobloc calipers will bring the car to a halt as rapidly as sticking your foot your bicycle wheel spokes. Thankfully, with a lot less drama.
But even though the Macan’s 400 horsepower 3.6 liter turbocharged engine is rated to do zero to 60 in under five seconds (4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono pack) this car’s primary designation is not straight-line speed.
No, it’s a canyon carver. And it carves like a lightsaber at the Skywalker family thanksgiving, boys and girls.
The Macan’s so well balanced that you can hurl yourself into corners you have no business spreading rubber on and still come out looking like a hero. Just nudge the Sport Plus button to increase the engine’s appetite and set the car into a more aggressive stance. Firmed shocks keep you planted as you pivot around corners.
Science, engineering, and other things I don’t understand translating to a lot of fun.
But my biggest takeaway, as a terrible driver and a general slowpoke, was how incredibly eager the car was to break loose and then button itself right back down again at the bidding of your right foot. Of course I couldn’t bring the Macan to its limit on the street, but the car felt like a mentor guiding me to better performance driving with every mile.
There’s a button that says “off-road” on the console. I’m pretty sure that’s the rich-adult equivalent of a plastic steering wheel you mount to a baby seat, because what the hell?
The car’s on rubber-band thin tires, is not that high off the ground, and for godsakes man what kind of monster would want to let this thing get dirty?!
I’ve been told Macan’s traction-control system is actually quite capable of coping with low traction and off-kilter surfaces. But who cares. It doesn’t need to run the Rubicon, just get up that gravel driveway to your sweet-ass slopeside condo. And for those few harrowing seconds when you and your water polo buddies are white-knuckling lattes, it’ll probably be convenient that the car has a decent shot at keeping those sport tires moving across a loose surface.
If anybody’s brave enough to see what it takes to get one of these things stuck, I hope we hear from you. But I bet the only Macan that ever goes off-road is this one that drew short-straw when it came time to take press photos.
Relative to how tight the cabin feels, the cargo bay looks massive. Rear seats are suitable for grown people, sitting three across back there would be unpleasant though.
Four people and a weekend’s luggage will fit no problem, but this isn’t the car to help your cousin move. I mean, good. Right? Let that deadbeat get us stanky couch up the stairs on his own.
Hell yeah! Okay well, sort of.
The Macan boils down to an Audi Q5 in architecture, and it shares an engine option. But that’s basically where the family resemblance ends.
The Macan’s ride height makes it easier to get through potholes and into garages, and while you’re going to want to keep those gigantic rims out of real rough stuff the suspension soaks up more than you’d think in “Normal” mode.
To put it in terms a four-door Porsche driving plutocrat might understand; you’ll probably won’t feel a small cat going under the tires but you’ll still have to slow down for pedestrians.
Rear seat room is tight for a 6’ adult, but it is usable. Fronts are on the aggressive side but can be power-adjusted to lay off the squeeze a little when you’re not whipping around corners. (Which is ideally never, but sometimes you gotta be stuck in traffic).
The car’s impetuous attitude is easy to keep under control when you don’t want to go fast, gas milage is downright lean for a car at this level of performance (23 MPG highway), and it’s high enough off the ground to get away from the “butt-dragging” sensation you might get in a sports car without being too tall to fit in a city garage.
The big glaring blemish on the Macan Turbo is the fact that I can’t afford it. With a starting price of about $74,000, your cost out the door skyrockets toward six-figures as you start to personalize. The cool thing there is you can personalize. Sure it’s $1,900 to have the infotainment surround painted, but what other automaker lets you order that at all?
As I mentioned, our test-spec vehicle booked out at over $80,000, which really is a lot of money to working stiffs like you and me. But think about it another way; it’s about 2.5 times what a new VW Golf R costs. Having driven both, I know that’s a great car. And I have no issue claiming the Macan is 2.5 times more fun. So... value?
It’s a beautifully executed hatchback with insane performance and a high level of luxury that can tow almost 4,500 pounds (as long as your trailer has brakes). Seriously, aside from hardcore off-road abilities what more could you possibly want?
For years now, (decades?) literally as long as I can remember, automakers have been pandering to American’s obsession with utility vehicles while still trying to give us cars we won’t hate driving.
The result has been stubby station wagons on stilts. But while “not quite a hatchback, not quite SUV” sells, also it’s a shite recipe for an enthusiast car. Too tall to be engaging on-road, too low to be worth anything off-road. And aggressively lame looking. Unless it’s built by Porsche.
The Macan Turbo’s greatness stands as proof that you can have a car with room for four adults, decent cargo space, and SUV proportions that’s not just “pleasant” to drive. It’s flat-out exhilarating.
Images by the author, Mark Victor Arnold