The Porsche Macan is a new SUV designed to sit below the Cayenne in the company's line-up. The BMW X3 and Audi Q5 rival is designed to be the class benchmark in terms of its driving experience.
The Macan is on sale now, with 255bhp diesel and 335bhp turbo petrol models – both badged Macan S and costing £43,300 – in the heart of the line-up.
A Turbo model, with a 394bhp, 3.6-litre turbo petrol engine, tops the range with a price of £59,300. All versions come with active four-wheel drive and a seven-speed, PDK automatic gearbox as standard.
A cheaper, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol model is also available as a special order, at £40,276, and a hybrid model is also likely to appear at some stage later in the model's life. Porsche says it will shift around 1500 Macans in the UK this year - and that 2014’s allocation of cars is already pretty much sold out.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Macan like to drive?
It might be the least powerful Macan, but the 3.0-litre diesel model is certainly no slouch. It pulls strongly and cleanly from below 1500rpm to ensure overtaking is done with confidence. It's quieter at low speeds than the equivalent Cayenne diesel, too, but emits the same gravelly six-cylinder note when worked hard.
The 3.0-litre petrol S is even faster on paper, but its character means that the margin is barely noticeable in real-world use. That’s because the petrol engine’s best work is done at higher revs, so you need to push it hard before it really starts to pick up speed. The good news is that should you do so, it’s smoother in power delivery than the diesel, and it emits a more addictive howl when pushed.
There's a noticeable step up in performance when it comes to the Turbo, though. As with the other two engines, it suffers no turbo lag, and is always smooth, but the greater ferocity of its 3.6-litre engine's power delivery and the growl from its exhaust (it even gurgles as you lift off the throttle) make it feel more like you're driving a sports car than an SUV.
Whichever engine is fitted, the handling is similarly impressive. In town, the steering is light enough to make parking easy, but head out on to twisting country roads and the Macan is just as capable, helped by its precise steering and the impressive grip.
Every Macan comes with a 'Sport' button that sharpens the steering, gearchange and throttle response. Cars fitted with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) – a £785 option on S models and standard on the Turbo – also have their suspension stiffened. With all of this in action, there's no doubt Porsche has succeeded in making its Macan the best-handling SUV on the market.
There are three suspension set-ups available; either standard steel springs, steel springs with PASM adaptive dampers, or air suspension, which comes with adaptive dampers as standard.
We didn't get a chance to try a version on standard steel springs. However, with PASM set to 'Comfort' mode – the softest of three settings – and with optional 19-inch alloys fitted, the Macan tends to pick up on imperfections at low speed. That said, it's never uncomfortable and things improve as the speed builds; you’re unlikely to complain of discomfort, even on poorly surfaced British B-roads.
At £1789, air suspension is expensive, but it's well worth the extra if you can afford it, helping the Macan smooth out road scars at all speeds, even with relatively large 20-inch wheels fitted.
For all its agility, though, the Macan makes a relaxing cruiser when you need it to be; every engine settles nicely on the motorway and wind and road noise are well suppressed. You’re more likely to be bothered by tyre rumble, particularly if you’re on a car with the larger 20-inch alloys.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Macan like inside?
It certainly lives up to expectations. Both driver and front occupant have comfortable, supportive and electrically adjustable seats, with a sense of a defined space for each created by the high centre console running down the centre of the cabin, on which the gearlever and switchgear are positioned.
The cabin doesn’t feel as roomy as some competitors', and the sheer number of buttons crammed on to the centre console mean it takes a while to learn where everything is. However, the fit and finish are as exacting and solid-feeling as in any other Porsche model.
Rear passengers have less legroom in the back than in a BMW X3, and while the Macan offers enough rear headroom for passengers of all sizes, it's best to avoid the optional panoramic sunroof.
The 500-litre boot is also smaller than a BMW X3's, but it's a practical, square shape, the rear seats fold flat easily, and the tailgate is electrically powered on all models. Ultimately, there’s enough room for a useful amount of luggage, or a couple of sets of golf clubs. Should you choose air suspension, the car will also lower its rear end slightly to make it easier to load heavy items into the back.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, electric leather-and-Alcantara seats, climate control and a DAB radio, but it's disappointing that Porsche demands you pay extra for features such as cruise control (£348) and Bluetooth (£271) on a car costing this much.
Should I buy one?
If you're attracted to the Macan primarily for its promise of performance, handling and luxury, then the answer is a resounding yes. Dynamically, in all guises, there is no question it's superior to its closest rivals, the BMW X3 and Audi's Q5, and it has a better-quality cabin.
However, space and practicality have to be taken into consideration, and in that sense, the Macan lags behind. Although those with small children will be happy enough in the Macan, teenagers and adults will welcome the greater rear space offered by a BMW X3.
The Macan doesn't come cheap, either. An X3 xDrive35d M Sport and Audi SQ5 cost less after speccing either Macan S model to the same equipment level, and both are significantly faster, too.
Of course, if you're prepared to fork out for the far pricier Turbo, you'll enjoy unrivalled performance. For most buyers, though, the cheaper S models will make far more sense.
What Car? says…
Porsche Macan S Diesel
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Price from £43,300
Torque 428lb ft
0-62mph 6.3 seconds
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
Porsche Macan S
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 petrol
Price from £43,300
Torque 339lb ft
0-62mph 5.4 seconds
Top speed 158mph
Fuel economy 31.4mpg
Porsche Macan Turbo
Engine size 3.6-litre V6 turbo petrol
Price from £59,300
Torque 406lb ft
0-62mph 4.8 seconds
Top speed 165mph
Fuel economy 30.7mpg
Want to see more? Watch our exclusive reader preview of the Porsche Macan