The Porsche Macan compact crossover is a sports car and an off-road climber. And I wouldn’t have believed my words, either, had I not scorched the Streets of Willow Springs road course and then followed the leader on the off-road course.
Porsche engineers are obsessed with creating a dual-purpose crossover, which, of course, is nearly impossible given budget and size restraints. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to make perfect this so-American creation.
And there is motivation. The midsize Cayenne crossover/SUV is usually the top-selling model of the month (1,619 November sales versus 945 for 911) and now the baby-Cayenne Macan is the second best seller in the lineup — 987 sales last month.
There is good profit margin in Macan because it is a shared architecture among the Volkswagen Group, also underpinning the Audi Q5. But most of the components — powertrain, interior and suspension — have been significantly modified. And the exterior styling is more reminiscent of Cayenne. Porsche will tell you that Macan is the Q5 that Audi would’ve built if they didn’t have to worry about the bottom line.
And there is truth to that. The Macan — sounds like pe-CAHN/me-CAHN — is sold in two well-equipped, all-wheel-drive models with two power choices and one seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Macan S starts at $50,895, including the $995 freight charge from Leipzig, Germany. That buys a 340-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbo and direct-injection V-6 capable of 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds or in 5 seconds with the Sport Chrono performance pack, $1,290. (That’s the price for two-tenths of a second quickness.)
Along for the ride are six piston, 13.8-inch internally vented front disc brakes with single piston, 13-inch rear discs, 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, 11-speaker audio system, bi-xenon headlights, 10 air bags, a leather- and alcantara-trimmed cabin and upholstery and eight-way power front seats.
The Turbo, today’s test car, starts at $73,295, which includes a 400-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 with 406 foot-pounds of torque from 1,350-4,500 rpm. With options and accessories, the sticker was $102,435. There may not be many more factory accessories to add, of which some items seemed frivolous, such as a painted key for $365 and a leather key pouch for $165. Porsche crest wheel center caps added $185 and gloss black window trim was $230. Heated front seats are $525 and vented front seats are $660. The carbon-fiber trimmed steering wheel is $365.
Big items included the air suspension and active suspension management for $1,385. (Yes, please.) Torque Vectoring Plus was $1,490. (Shouldn’t this be standard on the Turbo?) Park assist — front and rear — with a rearview camera was $1,460. (Pricey but useful.) Lane Keep Assist added $1,380. Adaptive cruise control with Porsche Active Safe was $1,600. (No, thank you.) The Burmester audio system was $4,290. (Meh.) And 911 Turbo Design Wheels were $3,300. (Maybe.)
These compact crossovers all work well, with good sightlines, manageable parking parameters (38.7-foot turning circle) and better cargo capacity than back seat accommodations. But the Macan sits oddly tall, with much air between the tires and body, likely to give it the SUV-look the Germans think Americans want.
The cabin in the tester was a man cave of black leather and charcoal-gray alcantara (suede-like) spanning the headliner and pillars. The seats are full bodied and supportive and the gauge array is typically convoluted Porsche: a useless speedometer crammed with little numbers (but saved by a digital speed readout) and a large tachometer, which has just occasional purpose with an automatic transmission.
There is a lot of wasted space on the dramatic-appearing shift console that slopes from dashboard to merge with two in-line cup holders and a small armrest-storage-box combo. There are lots of switches for fan-temp and performance controls, but, mercifully, no computerized central controller.
Porsche hasn’t provided interior specifications (yet), but the Q5 has 39.4 inches of front headroom and there are 37.4 inches of rear legroom. Those specs will accommodate tall front seat occupants; the back seat has a short bench but good footroom. The rear window seats are broad and bolstered, so much so that the center position is good only for its pull-down armrest. Macan should be a four-seat Porsche.
There is usable, squared-off cargo space — 43 inches wide by 30 inches tall (at the opening) with about 5 1/2 feet of length when the 60/40 split back seat is folded.
In standard drive mode, the Macan is a luxury vehicle: compliant and very Audi-like. Hit the Sport or Sport Plus mode and ferocity bolts to the pavement — as if the big-ugly wide-mouth grille scans the roadway as a predator. The pipes rumble, the driver smiles. Steering inputs are minimal, cornering is like a spider — and without intrusion from the network of electronic driver safety aids. Or I just didn’t reach that level to cause activation.
The Macan is a good mix of fury and utility. Porsche will sell a lot of them, and not just because of the badge and fast styling. But it is a luxury vehicle, not a visceral sports car. There’s not much encouragement to grab it by the scruff of the neck and wring it out — until the turbochargers are pressurized and you are holding on for dear life.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage