FEB 21st 2014
Road Test Review: Porsche Macan Turbo: On track with new off-roader
Porsche’s track at Leipzig is modelled on many of the world’s best corners. There’s an approximation of Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew – as much as is possible within the limitations of the region’s flat topography – Monza’s Lesmo as well as a few others. A few hundred metres away Porsches move a bit more slowly along a production line, though 600 exit its doors every day.
Porsche has added another model to the Leipzig mix, its Macan offering a new competitor in the compact SUV marketplace. Porsche aims to build 50,000 in the first year, though with the first year’s allocation sold out you’ll be in for a long wait for one.
Three models are offered at launch, all turbocharged V6s, the range started by the S Diesel, an S and Turbo making up the petrol range. The Turbo gains a 3.6-litre V6 (over the S’s 3.0 V6), its output a nice round 400hp. The Macan might share some of its basic architecture with Audi’s Q5, but Porsche is quick to point out that over two-thirds of the Macan’s make-up is unique, and the rest has been substantially revised to stay true to the company’s sports car roots.
The Macan may not be a sports car in an SUV body, but it’s as close as any firm has ever managed before. You sit low for an SUV, and for now, in the passenger seat. Walter Rohrl is here, and Goodwood isn’t going to miss an opportunity for a passenger ride and a chat.
As ever Walter’s quick, the Macan Turbo possessed of ludicrous speed and staggering agility when driven by someone with Rohrl’s ability. Walter’s quietly impressed, which is kudos for a man whose heart lies with Porsche’s more focussed, sports car products.
In his hands it’s lapped the Nurburgring in 8 mins 15 seconds, though talk quickly diverts to the new GT3 RS – a car that Porsche has yet to officially announce, Walter saying the aero package on it brings around 50% more downforce and that testing was underway at the Nurburgring until snow stopped play.
Around Leipzig, in Porsche’s Macan Turbo he points out that it works better with the PSM on, switching it off only bringing more understeer, adding that even when off the stability system is doing a little bit in the shadows to keep things pointing the right way.
In Sport or Sport Plus mode, on a damp track in our less capable hands the right way is evidently with varying degrees of opposite lock on the beautiful 918 Spyder-derived steering wheel. The Macan feels entirely in its element on a track, something that cannot be said for any other SUV.
There’s a lightness and agility that belies its relatively hefty 1925kg kerbweight, the engine’s ample power making light work of its mass, though it’s the way the chassis manages it all that’s so impressive.
Turn in is neutral unless you’re cack-handed or over ambitious, while feeding in the power sees the Macan Turbo push the majority of the drive to the rear; enough to require some corrective lock exiting corners. All very entertaining and surprisingly easy on a wet track with a fair amount of rubber down. On the road, in the dry that rear-bias is still evident though, if mated to higher limits, the Macan’s ability on more challenging roads more super saloon than SUV. There’s definitely some credibility to Porsche’s claims that the Macan is the most sporting SUV you can buy, its agility impressive, the feedback and response it delivers being in a different league to its competition.
If there’s a complaint it’s that in this, its fastest, most unhinged guise, it’s all a bit too sensible. Huge refinement – even on mud and snow tyres at speeds approaching its 165mph maximum on Germany’s speed-enlightened autobahns – there’s very little noise, the engine and quad tailpipes very quiet. There’s sometimes the odd suggesting of menacing cackle from those exhausts, but not enough really given the Turbo’s obvious potency.
If the agility surprises so then so too does the ride, on optional air springs – steel springs with Porsche Active Suspension Management are standard on the Turbo – it rides with a fluidity and composure that’s remarkable given its focus and large alloy wheels. The steel sprung cars manage this too, negating the need for the air option unless you have to have its slightly lower ride height. Naturally you’ll want the Sport Chrono Pack for the 0.2 second drop in the Macan Turbo’s 0-62mph time to 4.6sec – after all, if you’re buying the Turbo you might as well have the fastest one you can.
The early adopters are likely to do exactly that, a significant majority of initial sales being made up of the flagship, before normality resumes and diesels take over – in Europe at least. Thing is, even that S Diesel is possessed of the same inherent balance and agility of its Turbo relation, and isn’t exactly slow, either. Expect the production lines to be busy for a while then, which means all the more money in the pot to develop the sort of cars Walter really likes.