FIRST DRIVE | New 2019 Porsche Macan Turbo is a hot hatch on stilts

31 October 2019 - 07:54 By Sudhir Matai
The flagship Macan Turbo produces 324kW along with 550Nm of torque. Picture: SUPPLIED
The flagship Macan Turbo produces 324kW along with 550Nm of torque. Picture: SUPPLIED

Porsche’s top-selling model, the Macan, recently underwent a bit of a midlife nip ’n tuck. When it emerged from surgery, it had a refreshed appearance and model line-up. At the time of reintroduction, just two derivatives of the mid-sized SUV were available: the entry-level Macan and Macan S.

The line-up now grows to include a Turbo variant. Incidentally, this range of Porsche’s small SUV will be the last to feature petrol power. In future the Macan will be moved along purely by electricity.

Macan Turbo variants are set apart from their lesser-powered siblings by a number of model-specific touches. The changes include a front bumper with larger intakes to feed the intercoolers, lower side skirts, sculpted side-mirror housings, larger alloys, a hunkered-down stance, a twin-element rear roof spoiler and four tailpipes poking through the rear bumper.

Look closely inside the 20-inch standard alloys and you’ll note 390mm discs up front, clamped by six-piston calipers, with 356mm items on the rear. The large braking system is standard on Turbo derivatives and the discs feature Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB), a tungsten carbide coating on iron rotors that improves the life of the disc and reduces brake dust.

Carbon ceramic discs are an option.

Key differentiators in the cabin include a smaller diameter steering wheel, nicked from a 911, Alcantara roof lining and 18-way electrically adjustable seats for the front passengers.

Of course, the most notable change takes place under the bonnet. The new range leader is powered by a 2.9l  twin-turbocharged V6 engine, down from the 3.6l unit of its predecessor. As with many new turbocharged V engines, the compressors are nestled between the heads of the two cylinder banks. Benefits include shorter spool-up times for the twin blowers and quicker throttle response.

This engine can be found elsewhere in models such as the Panamera and Audi RS4. In the Macan application, it produces 324kW (up 30kW) along with 550Nm of torque in a plateau from 1,800rpm-5,600rpm. As with other Macan variants, drive is sent to all four wheels through Porsche’s dual-clutch (PDK) transmission featuring seven gears.

The international launch for the newcomer was held last week in the Western Cape. Porsche’s route dished up some of the most scenic and finest driving roads the province has to offer, as well as a mix of arterial and motorway cruising to evaluate the Macan Turbo’s full repertoire.

Key differentiators in the cabin include a smaller diameter steering wheel, nicked from a 911, Alcantara roof lining and electrically adjustable front seats. Picture: SUPPLIED
Key differentiators in the cabin include a smaller diameter steering wheel, nicked from a 911, Alcantara roof lining and electrically adjustable front seats. Picture: SUPPLIED

From Cape Town International Airport we made our way up the N2, then along the picturesque ocean-side Clarence Drive. On these pristine pieces of tarmac, the Macan proved an ideal companion, cruising effortlessly on that fat torque curve while we enjoyed the scenery. In such a scenario, it is the ideal family vehicle.

When space and traffic allowed, we wound the rotary selector on the steering wheel to Sport or Sport+ and turned up the pace to delve into the car’s dynamic capability, and it responded with enthusiasm. When unleashed, the engine really does shine. It revs with urgency, working in perfect unison with the transmission, and delivers a hard punch through the last 1,500rpm of the rev counter. My only gripe is that its soundtrack isn’t as evocative as it could be.

After a quick fuel stop in Hermanus, we made our way inland away from traffic-laden roads towards our overnight stop. On the incredible Franschhoek Pass, my co-pilot found plenty of grip and sure-footedness from the all-wheel drive set-up, much needed as we were being pelted by an afternoon rainstorm.

The next morning I resumed driving duties, thankfully in completely dry conditions. Through Du Toit’s Kloof Pass (that bypasses the Huguenot Tunnel on the N1) I experienced a set-up that is confidence inspiring and grippy at speeds most Macan owners will probably not attempt.

The electrically assisted steering action feels natural and is quick to react to inputs. All the units on the launch were fitted with optional air suspension, which did a great job of dealing with just about any surface we traversed. Standard fitment is steel coil springs with adaptive dampers.

The Macan Turbo can really be seen as Porsche’s hot hatch. It offers the practicality of five seats and a boot with good capacity. It can cruise along near silently while soaking up road imperfections with ease. When the need or mood arises, the driver can poke it out of its docile slumber to relish in the exploitable set-up with plenty of firepower provided by the force-fed motor.

As far as the “S” part of the SUV equation goes, few, if any, rivals can match the Macan Turbo.

It is available to order in SA at R1.6m.

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