I’m going to say this now so I can get it out of the way: I don’t like crossovers. I don’t care who makes them. My dislike for them is broad and universal. However, certain exceptions can be made for crossovers that are engaging to drive. I know it might be blasphemous to like something that drives like a sports sedan, but isn’t. I have to give credit where credit is due.
The Macan is good. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s good enough to make me think that there should be more crossovers, as long as they drive like this. But that goodness comes with an asterisk.
Full disclosure: Porsche invited me out to a random house in L.A. to drive the full Macan lineup. They tossed me the keys for a day of driving in the Malibu canyons. I also had some really great tacos on their dime at a restaurant I need to get back to ASAP.
In general terms, the Macan is the cheapest Porsche you can buy. That doesn’t seem to bother Macan buyers, though: Porsche told me customers for the midsize crossover are overwhelmingly women, with a median annual incomes of over $400,000. Not your typical entry-level buyer. Since its debut in 2014, the Macan has risen to become Porsche’s best-selling model, with over 24,000 sold in 2021. While its driving dynamics are all Porsche, it rides on VW Group’s MLB platform, shared with various Audi sedans and the Q5 crossover.
When you think of Porsche you think of performance. But Porsche went a bit light with the engines offered in the Macan.
The base Macan and Macan T get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 261 horsepower. You may be saying, “I don’t recall Porsche making a turbo four-cylinder.” Porsche doesn’t. Known internally as EA888, this engine is most familiar from the VW GTI and Golf R, but has been used in everything from the Audi Q5 to the VW CC. Its not a bad engine, but a VW-sourced engine doesn’t mesh well with Porsche’s premium image and the company can get a bit awkward when asked about it.
Higher trims of the Macan get six-cylinder power. The 2.9-liter turbocharged V6 gets either 375 hp in the Macan S or 434 in the Macan GTS. No matter the engine, the only drivetrain option is a 7-speed PDK automatic with rear-biased all-wheel drive. Base pricing for the Macan starts at $57,500 for the base model and runs to nearly $83,000 to get into a GTS. But this is Porsche. You could probably get a base Macan up to the price of a GTS in options alone.
This thing will have Issac Newton and Galileo Galilei spinning in their graves. There’s no reason a crossover should drive this well. I was baffled at how I could toss thing in a corner, how it would rotate and power out with such poise. Turn-in is excellent and the 2.9-liter V6 is a gem. On the one hand, 400 hp in a family five-door was probably unfathomable less than a decade ago. On the other, in this world of high-horsepower vehicles with power you’ll never use on a daily basis, it was great to have a vehicle where the upgrade engine’s output felt just right. Turbo lag is nearly nonexistent and the PDK transmission has lightning-quick shifts. Even better, it feels refined; it doesn’t kick you in the back the way a lot of modern automatic transmissions do, to make you feel like you’re driving something aggressive and sporty.
When it’s not doing a sports sedan impression on twisty roads, the Macan is a decent crossover. I could see this thing making Costco runs or carrying my bikes to the beach with ease. In simple, normal driving it’s surprisingly comfortable. And with all the suspension settings and drive modes available, you can easily go from a leisurely cruise to attacking the back roads at the literal touch of a button.
The Macan T, an all-new trim for 2022 is an excellent execution. Sport Chrono Package, Porsche Active suspension, black accents, and leather and cloth seats? Fantastic. But… keep reading.
Sorry I have to say this, but skip the turbo four-cylinder altogether. It’s weak and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Macan. And while I just praised the new Macan T for its great execution, this new model is let down by the fact that it’s only available with that four-cylinder. The Macan T has an agileness that’s likely thanks to the adaptive suspension as much as the lower weight of the smaller engine, but the lack of oomph is disappointing. Plus, $60,000 or more for a Macan with cloth seats? Where’s the Alcantara?
The base-model Macan is an even bigger compromise. This thing feels like a blatant lease special, designed to give you a Porsche badge without the performance. Throw it into a corner and those 19-inch all-season tires scream in agony. There’s a “sport” button, but it seems to do nothing but remind you that you should’ve sprung for the S. I’d rather a used S or GTS over a new base-model Macan.
First off, there are too many buttons on the dashboard, which is par for the course with Porsche. What’s worse is, for the 2022 update, Porsche got rid of the physical buttons, replaced by touch-sensitive haptic controls on a gloss black surface. Stay stocked with Armor All cleaning wipes because you’re going to need them. This finish is a magnet for smudgy fingerprints.
Rear legroom is sport-sedan tight. If a driver is 6 feet or taller, they’ll crush whoever sits behind them. Also, the window openings are strange: Sitting with the driver’s window down and my arm on the sill, the window opening feels small, with the B-pillar sitting oddly far forward.
And this is a tiny nit-pick, but: Porsche’s gimmicky 911-shaped key fob feels a little silly when you’ll never take it out of your pocket, twisting a permanent dashboard switch to start the engine.
The Macan can be great, provided you choose the right drivetrain and trim. Skip the base four-cylinder engine. The Macan T is a great idea on paper, but its agility is let down by a weak engine. If Porsche had done us a solid and offered a different (or simply more powerful) engine in the T, it would be perfect. But it’s hard to justify a nearly $64,000 base price for a four-cylinder Macan that doesn’t have the sport-sedan magic of its siblings. Especially when the Macan S is just a few grand more. The S and specifically the Macan GTS are two of the best-driving sporty crossovers on the market. Porsche worked magic with what they achieved in terms of driving dynamics in the six-cylinder Macans. If every crossover felt like this, every car enthusiast would be a crossover fan.