I’m not going to claim a car that costs $94,120 is “practical” in every sense, but if you’re cashed up and want an easy-to-use luxury vehicle that’s fairly fun to thrash–and basically elite at everything it does–the Macan Turbo is undeniably impressive. Purist Porsche it ain’t, but, I’m a performance crossover cynic and I can’t deny that this thing is just good.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche offered to loan Jalopnik several vehicles to test and review, and we have decided that the pandemic situation is at such a point where the risk of spreading illness is minimal with Point-A-to-A safe driving. Both Porsche and the press fleet companies have stepped up sanitization efforts and I personally am convinced necessary pandemic precautions were satisfied.)
What Is It
The Macan is a medium-small “crossover” that feels something like a sports car, which is to say the advertised billing is accurate. Now I say “crossover” because while a crossover is typically classified as a cross between a car and a sport-utility vehicle, the Macan’s more of a cross between a luxury sports car and, well, a crossover.
It is a Porsche, after all.
The Turbo spec we have here is the top of the range, with a healthy 434-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. Porsche’s naming system is sort of goofy these days, because even the base-model Macan has a turbocharger. But only one, and it’s on a four-cylinder engine, which can only cough up a comparatively paltry 248 HP.
The Macan Turbo’s certainly no slouch off a stop: Porsche claims zero-to-60 in less than four and a half seconds. But only at higher RPM, when the boost hits just right, does the car really feel fast off a line. No, it’s in the turns where you start to understand why these cars are so expensive.
After cantering across Los Angeles I thought, “hey, the ride’s nice and smooth. I’m so much more relaxed and comfortable than I was in the new Supra.” (The Supra simply being the last new car I’d driven.) As the car built up steam ascending Angeles Crest in Sport+ mode, an equally important epiphany: “Hot damn, this car’s got ferocious grip.” Resilliant brakes were the next thing I noticed.
There’s a fair bit of pedal effort required, more so than I expected from a car for normies. But it rewards the driver with great precision in modulation. And resistance to overheating. Corner after corner I put a lot of weight into the brake pedal, and consistently, the Macan Turbo reeled itself in from speed without showing fatigue.
I have no doubt whatsoever that talented pilot could haul objective ass in this car, then switch driver response modes, pick up my grandmother and oma wouldn’t complain at all about a rough ride. (The last Porsche I showed my oma was a Cayman GTS, and she declined a ride because she didn’t care to “climb that far down.” She’s picky.)
The paddle shifters are made of a light metal alloy (not a plastic as I originally thought), and they’re mounted with the steering wheel rather than the column. Here’s why both those things kind of suck: The experience of clicking them isn’t satisfying. And when they spin around with the steering wheel... I know people have strong opinions about this, but I hate it. A control as critical as shifting needs to happen in the same place all the time.
I’m not a manual-only fanatic, and while I certainly think many cars would be better with three pedals, the Macan Turbo isn’t one of them. It’s fine to just stick it in drive and have fun steering.
The Macan’s only other citable weakness is its relative lack of... flavor. There’s an intangible aura of awesomeness that many “driver’s cars” at this level (about $100,000 list price) exude, including many Porsches, but I wasn’t getting strong whiffs of it in the Mac T.
That said, of course, you’re going to feel a hell of a lot sportier and excitable in a Macan Turbo than any other car in this category. Which is, of course, the whole point.
I’ll admit it’s a little bizarre to mention the Supra twice in a Macan review, but having driven it right before this Porsche was an effective reminder of how stiff modern sports cars can still be. (Ouch, by the way, the new Supra’s like a dang tuner car.) But the Macan really, really isn’t. On the contrary: In fact, it’s very nicely balanced between “responsive” and “soft” for busy city driving.
Seat comfort and visibility are also pretty good. I’m neutral on the interior design, which will be pretty familiar to anyone who’s been in a Porsche in the last five years or so. It’s button-heavy and simple enough to age well, I guess.
With me driving, especially in pandemic times, “aggressive” is pretty low key. So if you’re looking to extract optimal lap times, I couldn’t tell you how the car rides at its true limits. At my pace, the Macan Turbo felt heavy but it’s got so much grip that the car could behave spryly when I asked it to. I really only made its tires groan once, on a turn I overcooked just enough to see if I was going fast or if I simply felt like I was fast. (Turned out, in that moment, a little too fast.)
But at a good clip through great roads, it’s not just fun “for a crossover.” It’s just plain fun to drive.
It’s tough to empirically rate the entertainment value of a car, but this should give you a pretty good idea of where the Macan Turbo lands: I drove it all the way to the “Watch Out For Big Sheep” sign on Angeles Crest Highway, and even took the long way home down Big Tujunga instead of just zipping straight down the mountain by Strawberry Peak.
Still unclear? Well, I had a good enough time in the Macan Turbo to add about three hours of pointless driving to my test loop. I consider that very high praise for a sporty not-a-sports-car.
- The exhaust note, even with the “loud mode” engaged, is innocuous and forgettable. That’s not a bad thing in a crossover, just something I noticed.
- Very comfortable front seats. I particularly like the balance between “snug” and “soft” that Porsche’s achieved here.
- The lack of a sunroof usually bums me out but it didn’t bother me in this car. I think that’s because the driver’s placed close enough to the front windshield that you still get plenty of vitamin D.
- Probably the best looking new crossover, right?
- “Off-Road Mode” raises the suspension a little. Probably most useful in deep snow.
The Porsche Macan’s been getting favorable reviews since the first version came out, circa 2014. Jalopnik Editor Emeritus Travis Okulski said the 2015 model was better on a racetrack than it was on the road. I gushed over the last Macan Turbo back then, too. (Can’t believe I used “On Steroids” in a headline, though. God that’s lame.)
More recently, I said the Macan GTS was Subaru-like (Porsche probably hated that, though it was meant as a positive), and just the other day Matt Farah called the Mac T a “luxury rally car.”
All this to say: Macans have consistently been amusing and comfortable machines and the current model’s no different.
The high-end performance crossover community has been steadily swelling, but the Mac T still has a critical edge. The Lamborghini Urus and Audi RS Q8 are larger, more expensive, and a lot angrier. The F-Pace SVR, a better-scaled rival, is far less dignified. The Macan looks good without being flashy beyond its Porscheness, which is the correct posture for such a car. Similarly: It’s perfectly pleasant around town, but when you want to turn up, the car rewards driving enthusiasm.
(Correction: I originally thought the paddle shifters were made of plastic, they felt like it to me, but Porsche’s people have informed me that they’re made of a metal alloy! Really sorry about that error!)