The new Porsche Macan road test: it's all things to all men

 
Adam Hay-Nicholls
The new Macan Turbo

Subtlety is not my Porsche Macan Turbo’s strong suit. In fact, it feels rather out of place. I’ve driven it to the Goodwood Members Meeting, a rather exclusive affair reserved for owners of historic cars, experienced racers, and the tiny handful of civilians who managed to get their hands on tickets. The throngs that come to Lord March’s Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival aren’t to be found.

The limited numbers here today are allowed to roam around the paddocks, kick the tyres, and strike up conversation with four-wheel celebs such as Gerhard Berger and Dario Franchitti. Many are among the world’s most esteemed collectors and automotive aristocracy. So here I am, dressed head-to-toe in tweed, climbing out of a shiny new pinkish-red Porsche SUV that looks like the ultimate drug dealer’s ride.

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I’ve given it a nickname: Layer Cake. It reminds me of the bright yellow Range Rover from that film, the one with the idiotic owners. Like, if you’re going to bring boxes of class-As back from Holland, maybe don’t do it in a car the colour of a citrus fruit. But there’s nothing idiotic about the Macan Turbo. It is a highly intelligent, refined and capable beast, not to be underestimated.

It also makes perfect sense. Purists will tell you a Porsche should have two doors and an air cooled engine in the boot. Yet the success of the Panamera and Cayenne prove they are heavily outnumbered. Indeed, the Macan has established itself as Porsche’s best-selling car and used values are up as much as 25 percent over new, with impatient punters trying to jump the waiting list.

So, it is an incredibly desirable car. But is it a blue-blooded Porsche?

The biggest draw at Goodwood are the Le Mans prototypes, and the sight of a long line of 1970s wedge-shaped hell-raisers waiting to take to the track makes one’s knees buckle. Dozens of Porsche 917s – the most iconic car of the period – in a variety of heart-pounding paint jobs, from Martini’s white, red and dark blue stripes to Gulf’s light blue and orange. For race fans of a certain age this car is possessed by the spirit of Steve McQueen, who was seen racing one in his 1971 movie Le Mans. McQueen’s picture hangs in some of the garages and autojumble stores around the track. He’s a patron saint for the amateur drivers, striving to live out their childhood fantasies.

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Can I picture Steve steering his way round southern California in a tall-bodied Porsche? It’s a bit of a stretch. The Porsches, Jaguars, Mustangs and Lotuses McQueen loved were all elegant, simple, lightweight, focused cars and the Macan isn’t really any of those. Instead it’s designed for people who want it all, a 4WD utility sports car that can handle anything that’s thrown at it. In this respect it’s one of the most capable cars I’ve ever driven.

Following the prize giving at Goodwood I chauffeured some Rolls-Royce engineers to the pub. Professionally sensitive to the slightest bump in the road, throttle jolt or turbo lag they confirmed my assessment that this car has incredible ride and power delivery. Feeding it through roundabouts and along twisty b-roads at speed, the car was utterly composed, its 400 horses as tame as a merry-go-round’s.

This is thanks to my Macan boasting an optional torque vectoring system that is supercar quality. Put the hammer down to overtake and your obstacle is in the rear view mirror within a single tick of the indicator. Yet if your passenger were to hold a brimmed cocktail glass there would be no spillage, at least not till you hit the brakes. This car has ceramic composite anchors, which are a £5,463 option. For a two tonne car its stopping ability is eye-watering. The standard Turbo weighs in at £61,000 but with options fitted mine costs £75,000. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, given the engine and everything that harnesses it to the road.

The cabin is ergonomic and familiar to Porsche users, the main instrument panel up high and a rank of buttons steeply raked all the way down to the arm rest. My ride has red leather – red on red – suggesting it was specced by Iceberg Slim. The metallic Impulse Red exterior looks almost pink in low light but much more vivid and racy under the sun. I have grey 21-inch five-spoke sports wheels, wrapped in chunky 295/35 rubber, which enclose massive yellow brake callipers. In a field in West Sussex it looks outré, but in Yas Marina, Ibiza and Aspen it’d look the berries.

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It is unashamedly Nouveau. But if you want a mid-size SUV with the performance to embarrass an F-Type Jag then look no further. Range Rover may have more Sloane-y cachet, but the smaller Evoque can’t possibly keep up, while the bigger Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 SVR can, just, but costs a whopping £35,000 more. That’s a whole Evoque. The Macan Turbo’s real rivals are the Maserati Levante and Aston Martin DBX, and they’re not on the market yet. The Audi RS6 Avant is faster and more practical but again it’s nearly £20,000 more and, despite the Porsche’s rather modest rear legroom, its high-body is non-negotiable. SUVs outnumber estate cars in Knightsbridge 100 to one.

So let’s talk purity. Does this car threaten to dilute the Porsche brand, built upon the 917s I saw celebrated in Goodwood, the badge proudly sewn into the mechanics’ overalls? Not with that engine it doesn’t. Not with those chassis dynamics. Not with that steering. The Macan Turbo does Dr Ferdinand’s marque proud.

It’s more worthy of the badge than the Cayenne because its relatively compact size keeps it sporty, both in its handling and silhouette. In many ways it feels like a stretched hot hatch, albeit one with the engine of a proper Porsche. It’s the best of all worlds.

What threatens Porsche with mainstream status are the non-turbo Macan, Cayenne and Panamera, for they lack the trousers. At £43,500 the standard Macan looks much the same, most people will never know the difference. But 252bhp and 6.7 seconds to 60 is not sporty enough. That is suburban, which is likely its destination. I’d venture it’s really an Audi Q5 in drag. In fact, those are the underpinnings of the Macan, though two-thirds of the Porsche’s parts are unique. If you buy the Turbo, however, you‘re keeping the spirit of Porsche alive, not just the accountants, because it feels like and goes like a sports car – one that just happens to be 1.63 metres high.

Once you’ve understood that, the only thing you need to get your head around is the name. How should one pronounce Macan? In the UK people tend to say ‘Mack-ann’ which doesn’t sound terribly sophisticated, and if overheard at a dinner party could be confused for “Renault Megane”, which would see your social status plummet. Porsche, at least the German end, pronounce it ‘Mack-harn’, which sounds rather affected to my ear, like people who say “parster” instead of pasta. But the name is derived from that of an Indonesian tiger. And a chum of mine who knows a lot about Indonesian tigers (we all have friends like this, surely) tells me it’s pronounced “Match-ann”.

Looking down the model list, here’s how it goes: there’s the Mack-ann, the Mack-harn S, and the Match-ann Turbo, because the top of the range is a real beast. And regardless of the pimp specification, it’s also the only model that can hold its own at the Goodwood Members Meeting.

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