There are few things I approach with same abject disgust I reserve for association football, but the shrunken ‘performance’ SUV wearing a Porsche badge is one of them. In the past I have justified the Cayenne on grounds of the profits it generates funding Stuttgart’s proper sports cars. I can also say from a year and 20,000 miles in the saddle that the Panamera Diesel is a fabulous machine. So I don’t share the purist-mantra which dictates that Porsche should only build rear-engined, fan-cooled Beetle clones – the world doesn’t work like that. But even with my most democratic, libertarian, meritocratic hat on, the concept of the Macan makes me shudder.
“I think Porsche is getting very close to becoming mass-market. A dangerous place to be…”
What specifically? The fact it’s a pimped VW Tiguan; the fact it belongs to a genre of machinery that I think fills a void no-one really needs to fill; the fact that Porsche’s people will correct you if you pronounce its name as you see it (think Minder, as in Terrence Macan) and insist it should be Macaaan, as in Tehran. Not that many will be sold there.
Porsche’s accountants need the Macan to satisfy the demands of big-daddy VW; its brand image needs the Macan like Rosberg needed an ERS failure on Sunday – I think Porsche is getting very close to becoming mass-market. A dangerous place to be.
And it was with this baby-Porsche-SUV positivity swirling around my mind that the white Macan Turbo arrived – with enough frontal air-intake to ingest, well, a small rear-engined, fan-cooled sports car. Really, take a look at the Macan’s facial expression, concentrate on the separation between what your eyes determine as being a point of ingestion and what looks like coachwork. It’s weird – not unattractive, but quite strange.
The footprint is small, and this manifests itself not in terms of front cabin space – where the Macan feels very much an only slightly smaller Cayenne – but in the rear seats. I’m a very short man, and I like to sit close to the wheel, and still my four-year-old was still gleefully and successfully kicking the back of my seat as he ignored my repeated threats of violence if he did it again. This is not a substitute for a small estate car.
It is of course a lifestyle statement – but I am not entirely sure what type of lifestyle statement. Within the brand hierarchy, I suppose if the Cayenne tends to shout ‘I’m quite a bit richer than you and I partly redeem my tastelessness with an underlying appreciation of chassis dynamics’, then the Macan says much the same. Or maybe it just says ‘All my friends have Evoques’.
The mistake most people will make with the Macan, and it’s one I made for much of the time I spent with it, is to ponder what the thing is for and what the hell people might want with one. This is a waste of time because the second part of the question is adequately answered by the order books being completely rammed, and dwelling on the first part is probably a mind-trick designed to avoid acceptance of the painful truth – the Macan Turbo is a staggeringly capable fast car in its own right.
Forget class classification, forget the usual motoring-media qualifications for an SUV it is very talented etc, the Macan Turbo, on a damp, twisty A-road is an outright weapon that will stay with pretty much anything on four wheels.
The motor, a twin-turbo V6 petrol pushing 400hp, makes suspiciously light work of a claimed 1925kg – the 405lb ft probably means more in the context of its hilarious, for a small SUV, mid-range shove. And it wants to rev-out too: from 5000 to 6000rpm it makes a cracking noise and just keeps going.
And wouldn’t you just know it, the chassis is even better. The driving position is very clever, with legs more horizontal than rival machines and a feeling of not sitting too high. Beyond detailed technical descriptions of how a car behaves over specific road surfaces one subjective behavioural trait matters far more: how confident a driver feels and how quickly that confidence manifests itself. The Macan Turbo is freakish in this respect: you turn the wheel and you have a sixth sense of where the car will be placed on the road. Not many sports cars can manage that.
If I were to be lobotomised and wake-up with a new set of rather uncouth priorities then the Macan would be the only car in its class I would chose. It is very, very talented
The ride is adequate in the softest damper setting, disastrous in the firmer ones. Fuel economy hovered in the mid-20s and crept into the early 30s on a light foot and tyre noise wasn’t too bad given the hey-look-at-me 21in 295 section rubber.
Boot space is limited by the sloping tailgate to the extent that it’s not a 2x large hound machine and I thought the leather coverings on the front seats were especially good quality, but the exposed plastic sections of the dashboard were unacceptable on a machine worth, as tested, £67,000.
You could easily make a case for the Macan Turbo instead of an RS4, or a C63, or any other relatively small performance machine if you had scant need for space, but I would rather not. If I were to be lobotomised and wake-up with a new set of rather uncouth priorities then the Macan would be the only car in its class I would chose. It is very, very talented.
But I remain mostly in charge of my faculties and prefer proper estate cars, and I always will.