FIRST DRIVE | Identifying the pick of the new Porsche Macan range
During last week’s 911 GTS launch Porsche also availed to the local motoring press its recently facelifted 2021 Macan line-up. Cramming three model derivatives into only a few hours of driving was certainly something of a challenge but we managed nonetheless.
Endowed with aggressive new styling and a welcome boost in engine power across the range, this tells you everything you need to know about Porsche’s refreshed and best-selling SUV – and which model might be the most deserving of your hard-earned cash.
What is it?
The entry-level Macan is known, well, quite simply as the Macan. Starting at R1,050,000 it comes equipped with a reworked 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (a Porsche-tweaked version of VW’s venerable EA888) that pushes out 195kW and 400Nm of torque (an increase of 30Nm over the outgoing model). Paired to a seven-speed PDK transmission that sends power to the ground via all four wheels, Porsche claims that the Macan will reach 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and a maximum speed of 232km/h.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Macan is its fresh new styling that also happens to carry through to the rest of the range. Up front you get a redesigned nose with an inlay in exterior colour plus a pair of LED headlamps sporting Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) technology. The side profile is dominated by redesigned 19-inch alloy wheels (you can go larger should you so wish) and new protective side blades with a revised 3D structure. The rear has been freshened up with a new air diffuser design and a pair of 3D tail light clusters linked by a full width light bar similar to what you get on the 911.
What stands out?
Definitely the interior that, as with the Macan S and Macan GTS, adopts Porsche’s black panel centre console that splices in touch-sensitive, haptic feedback buttons for actuating functions like passenger and driver ventilation zones, driving modes and traction control. These are supplemented by mechanical buttons and switches for items such as fan speed and temperature — a good mix of digital and analogue then. You will also spy a new gear lever, small-diameter GT Sport steering wheel and a rather spiffy looking 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Porsche's latest infotainment software.
How does it drive?
Unfortunately I didn’t get to drive the Macan much. And when I did it was on the dull N1 highway between Paarl and Cape Town so suffice to say I wasn’t exactly testing the limits. Still, the Macan proved an effortless cruiser that’s big on refinement and offers ample urge for quick overtaking manoeuvres. Sure, it’s not as explosive in a straight line as its more powerful siblings but for most people it's probably all the Macan they will ever need.
The Macan S
What is it?
Starting at R1,271,000 the middle-tier Macan S offers a whole lot more performance courtesy of its 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol motor that now delivers 280kW (+20kW) and 520Nm worth of torque (+40Nm). This extra grunt will see the Macan S go from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds (4.6 seconds if you specify the optional Sport Chrono package) and reach a top speed of 259km/h. A recalibrated steel-sprung suspension system is standard as is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) that, with a quick press of a touch-sensitive centre console button, allows for more dynamic handling on the limit. Full-fat adaptive air suspension is also available as an option.
As with the entry-level Macan, the Macan S sports the full list of exterior styling tweaks I already touched upon. However, filling those wheel arches here is a set of newly penned 20-inch alloys with a handsome dark titanium painted finish. Behind them lurk large grey-steel brake rotors (360mm front and 330mm rear) with sporty red-painted calipers. Inside the cabin the driver and front passenger sit on eight-way-adjustable comfort seats that also manage to provide ample lateral support when scything through corners.
What stands out?
I’d have to say its all-round versatility. Despite being quicker and more focused than the Macan, the Macan S still feels like an SUV should with a comfortable, commanding seat position and a controlled yet surprisingly agreeable ride that doesn’t scare you from venturing down the odd dirt road or two. Sitting slap bang in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone (just right), the Macan S appeals to those of us who love ripping up winding back roads without alienating customers who really do want some soft-roader capability.
How does it drive?
I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the Macan S. Poke it with a stick and it reels in the horizon with a pace and enthusiasm that would embarrass supercars from not all that long ago. Matching this straight-line urge is a sharp (for an SUV) chassis that delights in devouring sweeping mountain passes and offers up a surprising amount of feel and feedback. While body roll is nicely contained, the ride offers up an impressive amount of compliance that makes the Macan S particularly suited to tackling our bumpy SA roads. Of the three new Macan models I drove this would be the one I would sign on the line for.
What is it?
The king is dead, long live the king. With the demise of the Turbo model the R1,551,000 GTS is the new supreme ruler of the 2021 Macan range. Under its beautifully engineered clamshell bonnet resides a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol motor tuned to deliver a whopping 324kW and 550Nm worth of torque — numbers that will see it reach 100km/h in 4.5 seconds (4.3 when fitted with the optional Sport Chrono package) and 272km/h.
Strip away that steely skin and you’ll discover that the GTS is fitted with a trick new chassis that makes it the most athletic Macan on the market right now. Key to this is Porsche’s sport air suspension system that reduces ride height by 10mm for a lower centre of gravity. This setup is further bolstered by the fitment of stiffer springs (+15% front, +10% rear) than what you got in the outgoing Turbo.
Braking duties are taken care of by a standard Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) package that offers shorter stopping times and considerably less dust than the grey-steel set-up you’ll find on the Macan S — a nice addition. Those seeking an extra shot of vehicular dynamism can specify the optional GTS Sport package that bolts on a set of 21-inch GT design wheels wrapped with sticky Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus and the Sport Chrono package.
What stands out?
Well aside from all that added under-bonnet muscle, definitely the exterior styling. To help differentiate itself from lesser Macan models the GTS comes fitted with darkened LED headlights, 21-inch RS Spyder design wheels and a model-specific roof spoiler with a double-wing design. While the lower front and rear aprons are painted in exterior colour, the nose panel is finished in black — something that makes it look particularly menacing when viewed dead on. At the rear you’ll spot a set of tinted LED taillights as well as a pair of black tailpipes belonging to the standard (and very growly) sports exhaust system.
What’s it like to drive?
Speed wise the Macan GTS doesn’t feel all that much quicker in a straight line than the Macan S does. Well until you punch through the 200km/h mark — that’s when its extra power and torque certainly does give it a performance edge. Far more noticeable is the way the GTS handles. Indeed, that racier chassis and suspension set-up makes it feel even more like a Cayman on stilts with increased mechanical grip, sharper reflexes and noticeably more rear-wheel bias when really pressing on — it's a playful little beastie this. Add in that ultra quick, ultra direct steering and you get an SUV that really does thread through corners like a proper sports car. Thing is though, does it really need to? For as much as I enjoyed the impressive dynamic poise of the GTS there were times where its firmer, less compliant suspension just seemed like overkill. It’s a star performer for sure but in my eyes the more affordable Macan S is nearly as quick and offers more everyday comfort and usability. Maybe I’m getting old but to me it remains the pick of the bunch.