At first, the idea of Porsche making a compact SUV seems like Heston Blumenthal opening a rib joint. Notwithstanding, Porsche's recipe for mixing a sports car with a small 4x4 were revealed on Tuesday when the company presented the new Macan SUV line to the world at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The Macan, a name derived from the Indonesian word for tiger, isn't the first SUV that Porsche has made, but it's the first compact model, and it does look as if the automaker has grabbed an Indonesian tiger by the tail. The concept involves combining a practical five-door, five-seat SUV with the power, performance and design elements of a Porsche sports car to make it immediately recognizable as part of the Porsche stable. The result of this are three variants – the Macan S, Macan Turbo, and Macan S Diesel.
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Since this is Porsche’s take on the SUV, the emphasis is on lightness, speed, and handling. The aluminum body has a broad and low design with the driver and passengers in a low, sports car position. There are round lines mixed with precision edges, a sloping roof line and the soft rear wings from the 911 mixed with headlamps that Porsche says are based on the 918 Spyder, as are the rear lamps and the front spoiler lip. The bonnet is intended to echo the Porsche 917 and the side profile is what the designers call the "Porsche flyline."
In all, there is a nice balance here. The Macan doesn't look like an SUV playing at being a sports car or like someone's been force-feeding a 911. That being said, it won't be mistaken for an off-road vehicle or something you're going to use to yank tree stumps out of the ground. Even letting the dogs in the back seems a bit daring and the socket for the trailer hitch is a bit of a surprise.
Porsche has put a lot of work into the aerodynamics of the Macan and the the side air intakes are a nice touch, suggesting that there's more going on under the bodywork than meets the eye. However, while the rear spoiler works in terms of style and (hopefully) function, it has an add-on quality to it.
Porsche says that everyday practicality was part of the Macan brief, so along with its 110-in (43.3 cm) wheelbase, the Macan has a large boot with fold-down seats that creates up to 17.7 cubic feet (501 liters) of space. There are also daytime running lights, fog lamps, and the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), which comprises a projector-beam halogen with static and dynamic cornering lights. Bi-Xenon main headlights are standard on the Macan Turbo.
The three variants of the Macan are based mainly around three different engine configurations. The Macan S has a front-located, all-wheel drive, 3.0-liter V6 biturbo engine putting out 340 bhp (250 kW) and 390 ft lb (538 Nm) of torque. The Macan Turbo has a similar layout, though it’s a 3.6-liter job and punches a hefty 400 bhp (298 kW) and 406 ft lb (550 Nm) of torque. Meanwhile, the Macan S Diesel takes up the rear with a 6-cylinder, 3-liter, diesel making a more modest 258 bhp (190 kW) and 427 ft lb (580 Nm) of torque.
The engine difference is reflected in performance. The Macan S can do 0 to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 156 mph (km/h). The Macan Turbo strolls past this as it hits 60 in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 164 mph (km/h), and the Macan S Diesel does 6.3 seconds and 143 mph (230 km/h).
All the Macans share the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), which is a 7-speed flappy paddle gearbox designed for extremely fast gear changes without interrupting power to the wheels, and for better startup performance. Steering is electromechanical, and there are 6-piston aluminum monobloc fixed-caliper brakes with internally vented disks. Brake calipers of the Macan S are silver-colored while the Macan Turbo’s are red.
The Macan comes with a choice of suspensions. There’s the steel suspension and then there’s the air suspension, which are designed to work with the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system. The air suspension is designed to keep the Macan level and adjust the ride height to 15 mm lower than is possible using with the steel springs. Porsche says that it lowers the center of gravity and improves performance and comfort. Meanwhile, the PASM provides electronic damping control with a choice of Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes.
Other features of the Macan include the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) system, designed for better cornering by redistributing drive force to all four wheels and direct and sporty steering action, and the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system. The latter is standard on all Macan models and continuously monitors driving conditions and responds accordingly, adapting to the driver’s style. The PTM ensures that the rear axle is always driven while the front axle receives its drive torque from the rear axle using a controlled multi-plate clutch.
Also standard for the Macan is its off-road mode, which is activated by the touch of a button when the car is traveling under 50 mph (80 km/h). In addition, there’s the Sport button that makes the engine more directly responsive, enables the shift points to be moved towards the upper speed range, and shortens shift-response times.
The interior has an odd roomy cockpit feel about it – not quite enough space to spread out, and not snug enough to make you pretend you're in a fighter jet, while the readout on the optional Sport Chrono package is jarringly prominent.
The emphasis of the interior is on ergonomics with a forward-sloping console and general cockpit layout designed to put the multi-function steering wheel inspired by the 918 Spyder, gear selector, and other controls in easy reach.
The main instrument cluster is built around a centrally positioned tachometer with a gear indicator in it. There’s also a 4.8-inch color display in the right-hand dial to provide computer readouts and navigation information. The Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system is the central information and communications provider that controls navigation, infotainment, and access to online services via a 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen.
In terms of safety, the Macan has the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system, which uses sensors to monitor travel, speed, yaw velocity and lateral acceleration of the vehicle, and stabilizes it by selectively applying the brakes. Meanwhile, the Porsche Active Safe (PAS) cruise control helps to avoid collisions by regulating speed based on the car ahead, and the Lane Change Assist (LCA) system helps to avoid being blind-sided while overtaking, by monitoring neighboring lanes and taking control of the car if a lane change proves dangerous.
The Macan is being produced at Porsche’s Leipzig plant, where the company has invested €500 million (US$677 million), and will be available in April. The Macan S is priced at US$49,900, the Macan Turbo at $72,300, and the Macan S Diesel at $78,500.
The video below shows the Macan going for a spin.