Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
In the grand scheme of car manufacturers jumping aboard the SUV gravy train, Porsche’s heritage is actually not at all bad. The original Cayenne of 2003 was not only among the first of these tall and heavy vehicles to truly justify the Sport part of the acronym, it also played the lead role in transforming Porsche into the most profitable car company in the world.
The decision to launch a second SUV to sit alongside it can’t have been too taxing, but even so, you have to admire how the German company operates. For while the Macan that resulted might borrow its base structure from the Audi Q5, to drive it still feels entirely authentic. Whether or not that also makes it a car worthy of the GTS designation, however, we shall find out.
The first Porsche Gran Turismo Sport was a version of the 904 race car from the 1960s. That car won the Targa Florio, whereas any Porsche that wears the GTS badge today (and aside from the new Panamera they can all be ordered with it) is more likely to be bought for its red dials or sporty bodykit as for any kind of latent motorsport ambition.
That is not to say, however, that Porsche’s current GTS models deserve short shrift. Quite the opposite in fact. In the Macan’s case GTS adds a Sport Design bodykit with a mixture of gloss and matt black highlights, 15mm lowered suspension and 20-inch matt black wheels. Inside, the GTS-embossed sports seats and flashes of Alcantara (including on the steering wheel) sit comfortably alongside a slick touchscreen and Audi-like build quality.
Buying a GTS is not about choosing the outright fastest model in the range, but rather the one that most carefully combines everyday comfort (of which the Macan has plenty) with an extra dose of driving enjoyment. Part of that results from an increase in power, which in today's example means an extra 20bhp for the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol motor to take the total to 355bhp.
Along with 369lb ft of torque, a superb seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a rearward-biased four-wheel-drive system it means the Macan GTS can slingshot from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, which is plenty fast enough when you’re that high off the ground. Throw in a sweet V6 howl and a 159mph top speed and there’s no doubt that this is a proper performance car.
The way Porsche can take a type of car that really shouldn’t be sporty and then make it handle like a very well-sorted hot hatch is quite extraordinary. That it can then find incremental improvements for models such as the GTS is arguably just as impressive, with detail changes such as a more aggressive Sport+ mode (an option that comes with the Sport Chrono pack), brakes taken from the Macan Turbo, and the standard fitment of recalibrated PASM active suspension giving this car a subtle sense of aggression not evident in other Macans.
The Turbo might be faster and the Diesel S an easier car to live with on a daily basis, but if you want a Macan that most closely resembles what Porsche as a company stands for, our advice is to go for the one with the GTS badge on the boot.