Is the new Porsche Macan Turbo the pick of the fast SUV pack?
Effortlessly fast, the Porsche beats its rivals as the more complete everyday package, but there's another SUV that has the edge when it comes to handling
Hold on. Didn't you drive a turbocharged Porsche Macan earlier this year?
Yes, though that model was simply the new "entry-level" derivative fitted with give or take the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor you find in the Golf GTI - except tuned to deliver 185kW. Starting at a fairly competitive (for the segment) R862,000 it seemed like all the Macan anybody would really ever need.
However, as there are still people who think a) they're the next Lewis Hamilton and b) they're actually setting Nürburgring lap-times on their daily commute, Porsche has just launched a more powerful range-topping Macan Turbo that offers significantly stronger performance.
So has Porsche simply turned the boost up on that 'ol 3.6-litre V6 then?
Far from it. While the previous Macan Turbo certainly wasn't displacement shy, this new version actually sees a reduction in cubic centimeters: pop the bonnet and your eyes will be met by a 2.9-litre V6 that's already seen a fair amount of road action in other Porsche and Audi products.
With two turbochargers nesting between the cylinder heads, it holds a 30kW advantage over the old 3.6-litre, which is a nice extra wodge of muscle to help you on your way. There is a price to pay, however, and that price is engine noise - or rather, lack thereof. Even with the button of the sports exhaust system illuminated, this motor never really sounds inspired no matter how hard you cane it.
As with many modern Porsches, the Macan Turbo is available exclusively with a seven-speed PDK transmission. It's a lovely thing with race-car-rapid shift times and a general smoothness to the way it goes about the business of swapping cogs that comparable units in rival products still can't emulate.
I will, however, say that the ratios used seem ridiculously long - when I was shifting manually on parts of our test route I really didn't see the point of using the last two gears. And I'd guess neither will you.
So how does it drive?
As is to be expected, the Macan Turbo is effortlessly quick when you dial it into Sport or Sport+ mode and stomp that throttle pedal to the floor. For a fairly hefty people-hauler that tips the scales 55kg shy of the two-ton mark, it delivers an easy, horizon-reeling pace that few SUVs of its ilk can match, let alone muster. Well, except for maybe the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV - but then who enjoys breaking down and/or forever visiting the dealership to reset rogue "check engine" lights?
My point exactly. Speed aside, this daddy of the Macan models also knows a thing or two about tackling a mountain pass.
FAST FACTS: Porsche Macan Turbo
• ENGINE: 2,894cc V6 twin-turbo
• POWER: 324kW from 5,700 to 6,600rpm
• TORQUE: 550Nm from 1,800 to 5,600rpm
• TRANSMISSION: seven-speed PDK0-100km/h: 4.3-seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 270km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 9.8l/100km (claimed combined)
• PRICE: From R1,614,000
There might not be much steering feel (especially when compared to the more modern members of Stuttgart's fleet), but the mechanical grip on offer is extraordinary: all-wheel-drive and sticky Michelin Latitude 3 tyres let you push the limits surprisingly high when faced with a series of gnarly curves.
In fact, even across a rain-sodden Franschhoek Pass I was astonished at how well the Macan Turbo clung to the road.
Once you get over the lack of feedback behind the helm, you'll be amazed at this SUV's cornering game - and how well it disguises its weight.
On the flipside, it's also very comfortable when you decide to take things easy and trundle along at civilised speeds. My test car had the optional air suspension system (R26,720) and even in Sport+ mode it hardly ever felt overly firm or flustered - even on rougher surfaces.
Another option it wore was the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake package that did a stellar job at slowing the Macan Turbo down.
As it should, considering it costs R91,560. If your budget can't stretch that far, you'll be pleased to know that you do at least get Porsche Surface Coated Brakes as standard: the fancy mirror-finish tungsten carbide-coated stoppers that produce basically zero brake dust and less fade than conventional iron rotors.
What do you think of the interior?
Much like its "entry-level" sibling, the Macan Turbo sports a cabin that still, in 2019, is the best in its class when it comes to overall quality, fit and finish. It makes rivals such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Jaguar F-Pace seem low-rent in places - especially when it comes to the consistency of plastics used in the dashboard and centre console areas.
To freshen things up a bit and appease those customers who take technology seriously, Porsche have equipped the Macan Turbo with its Apple CarPlay compatible 10.9-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment interface - beautiful to look at (because HD) and a cinch to use.
Other goodies included as standard are 18-way leather sports seats, Alcantara headlining, brushed aluminium interior package as well as a punchy Bose sound system. You also score an ioniser (good for city air), wireless charging plus a small diameter GT steering wheel.
While the driving position is excellent - it feels like you're sitting in a sports car, not an SUV - the centre console is messy and outdated thanks to the myriad ancillary control buttons (I counted 28). Unlike in the Panamera or Cayenne, the Macan Turbo doesn't get the sleek new glass console fitted with haptic buttons, which is a shame.
So it's the best of the fast SUV breed then?
As a diehard Porsche fan it pains me to say it but the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV is, from a handling point of view, a slightly sharper and more rewarding tool to boot about a winding back road. With its lighter kerb weight and better steering, it just edges the Porsche in terms of dynamic enjoyment.
However, the sleek and sharkishly raked Macan Turbo remains the more complete everyday package: one that comes with all the bulletproof engineering integrity we've come to expect from Porsche. With its superior build quality, more compliant suspension and a chassis tuned to excel across a broader range of driving conditions, it gets my vote as the finest of the fastest mid-sized sports SUVs.
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