Porsche Macan: Smaller and Exciting Sporty SUV

By Lee Pang Seng
PORSCHE has obviously felt the need to reach out to more potential customers with its SUV (sport utility vehicle) and the newly introduced Macan clearly reflected this. This is the compact model to complement the bigger Porsche Cayenne, which has its retinue of loyal customers.

The name may sound similar to the Malay word ‘makan’ (meaning to eat) but it is actually an Indonesian word for tiger, albeit from a less common dialect over there. The link here is to highlight the animal’s aggressiveness, agility and strong spirit in the Macan.

Being part of a big car group, Volkswagen in this case, Porsche has the advantage of choosing an existing platform to develop a car that will carry its sporty profile and performance characteristics. For the Macan, the perfect platform was the Audi Q5. According to Michael Mauer, Vice President, Style Porsche, the team worked on developing a fresh profile that immediately reflects the Porsche persona, being ‘lower, wider and with a better stance’ than the Q5.

This has seen to an SUV that has two-thirds of new parts against the Audi, including the new clam shell bonnet. It is an aluminium item with roller hemmed edges and for now, it is exclusive to the Macan. Whether this new bonnet design would be carried over to the other Porsche models would be decided in due course. In aerodynamic efficiency, the Macan’s Cd value ranges from 0.35 to 0.37 depending on the models.

To preserve the Porsche DNA, distinctive styling aspects from the 911 and 918 Spyder were assimilated in the Macan’s profile, externally in the body design and internally in the passenger compartment, as well as the engines and powertrains. Michael Mauer showed a special liking for the rear of the Macan during the international media presentation at the Porsche manufacturing centre in Leipzig earlier in the year. He pointed out that the dynamic flow of the characteristic shoulders from the roof to the rear wheels highlighted its performance characteristics while looking elegant.

Although Porsche has no distinct ‘face’ in an exclusive front grille to give it an individual character, Michael Mauer held the opinion that the wide and large intake area in the lower frontal area, which provided a good flow of air to the engine compartment, clearly emphasised the Porsche legacy.

The Macan is designed as an all-wheel drive with 90 per cent of the engine power going to the rear wheels on the highway. For other driving conditions, output would be apportioned accordingly via electronically controlled mechanical means (in particular, a multi-plate clutch) to the respective wheel to provide optimum traction and dynamic stability.

Its suspension sees a five-link aluminium wishbone front and an aluminium trapezoidal wishbone rear, complete with coils and twin-tube gas-filled hydraulic dampers. Air suspension is offered as an option. At the time of the international launch, three Macan models were presented and all came with different size tyres front and rear: the Macan Turbo and S models have 235/60 R18 tyres in front and 255/55 R18 at the rear while the Macan Turbo has 235/55 R19 and 255/50 R18 respectively. The bigger tyres provide better rear grip and traction, especially in straight-line performance and acceleration, while smaller front tyres ensure better steering dynamics.

The Macan Turbo and S models have petrol power: Macan Turbo tops the range with its 3.6-litre V6 biturbo that delivers 294kW (400bhp) at 6000rpm and 550Nm from 1350rpm to 4500rpm; and the Macan S 3.0 V6 birtubo has 250kW (340bhp) from 5500 to 6500rpm. The Macan S Diesel 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel delivers 258bhp (190kW) at 4000-4250rpm and lots of torque at 580Nm from 1750-2500rpm.

Both the V6 biturbo all-aluminium petrol engines come with the Porsche VarioCam Plus variable valve control system that is said to be ‘harnessed in a compact SUV for the first time’. The turbodiesel has an alloy head but cast iron block. Another first is that for a new Porsche model range, all variants come with the high-performance seven-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) double-clutch transmission.

Our drive experience with the new Macan was in Leipzig, with the Porsche factory as the central point. By the way, the factory that used to function as an assembly facility for the Cayenne and Panamera is now a full-fledged vehicle manufacturing centre producing the Macan. It saw an investment of about €500 million in the sophisticated paint section and body stamping area.

We started with the Macan S and opted for the longer route of more than 100km that took us through autobahns and country roads. This model does the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 254km/h. The engine is tuned for Euro 6 emissions, which means the Macan introduced in Malaysia would be tuned to run on the less refined petrol available.

There was no lack of pace for an SUV that weighs almost 1900kg kerb as it picked up speed quickly and on the open autobahns (without speed limits), we had the speedometer needle easily at 210km/h a few times and couldn’t proceed further due to heavy traffic. We did find the Macan S a bit light above 200km/h through the steering response while wind noise went up a few notches, in particular the roof area. Nevertheless, it was still a very driveable SUV.

We enjoyed it more through the winding sections of the secondary road route with the Macan S taking comfortably to the slight variances of the tarmac surfaces to pamper its passengers. It also took to the corners well, hardly betraying its taller ride height with body lean nicely checked and an accurate steering feedback for a speedy passageway through.

It was a bit of a surprise not to find the start/stop pushbutton for the engine although auto engine stop/start when coming to a standstill was a standard item. The option to override the function is made available via a button on the dashboard. There is also the coast function that has the PDK decoupling the engaged gear when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal so that the Macan coasts in neutral. When the accelerator or brake pedal is stepped on again, the PDK selects a suitable gear and engages the clutch for safe driving. We found it a seamless function, especially in the re-engagement of gears. This coasting function is said to save up to one litre of fuel per 100km depending on driving profile.

Our subsequent drive impression in the Macan S Diesel on a shorter 50km route confirmed the earlier experience. The lack of horses was well supported by the far higher torque output, leading to an equally quick pace, especially on highway drives. The high torque output probably explains why the diesel Macan has more overdrive gears, starting from fourth gear. We had clearer highway stretches and did almost 230km/h (its top speed) before easing off. Porsche says the Macan S Diesel will sprint to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds. Its other forte is its better combined fuel consumption (6.1-6.3 l/100km or 15.8-16.4km/l) against the Macan S’s 8.7-9.0 l/100km or 11.1-11.5km/l).

Track drive
The highlight of the impression drive was taking the Macan off-road on a 6km track within the Porsche Leipzig factory area that used to be a Russian military training ground. It had all the demanding terrain and courses to gauge the capability of the Macan’s all-wheel drive platform. However, we were not allowed to wade into a water hole as it was too deep and was only suitable for the Cayenne, which has a higher ride height.

Customers who come to pick up their Porsche SUVs are invited to take their vehicles for a drive in this off-road section, under guidance of course. Our experience here was in the Macan S Diesel and the good low end grunt provided by the humongous torque made light work of the respective natural ‘obstacles’ and courses.

It was on another track for assessing a vehicle’s dynamic performance through sharp corners that we fully enjoyed driving the Macan. The drive was conducted on a 2km plus section at the fairly huge complex of tarmac roads for vehicle evaluation (for random sampling of the Porsche models that come off the line).

Our drive experience was done in four-vehicle convoy style with a Porsche 911 Carrera as the pace car and if we were slow, it was to allow those at the rear who had trouble keeping up. We had five laps each, with a ‘learning’ first lap and a ‘cooling down’ drive on the last one.

We couldn’t resist jumping into the Macan Turbo for this drive. We selected Sport Plus so that we could use the steering paddle shifts to select the gears. In this mode, the gear shift characteristics are done in race track engagement for maximum grunt and push. As the second car in the pack, we could keep up with the 911 Carrera, with the Macan Turbo taking smartly to the various degrees of corners with hardly any body roll and the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus working in tandem with the Porsche Traction Management and Porsche Stability Management systems to keep the SUV highly manageable under extreme speeds through winding roads.

Subsequent drives in the Macan S was just as much fun, minus a little less push coming out of the tighter corners. We could charge just as hard into the corners and in a similarly well controlled manner, but had to get on the accelerator earlier to pick up the pace quickly. In fact, we had two sessions in the Macan S, doing the first five laps with manual gear shifting via the steering wheel paddles and the second one on auto shift in Sport mode.

We found both sessions equally engaging and confidence inspiring because the seven-speed PDK double clutch transmission was so spot-on and ‘intelligent’ in its gearshifting operation. For instance, it won’t downshift unnecessary even though we had selected a lower gear (usually second) during manual gear engagement for some corners as it didn’t want the engine to over-rev or the engine was not in the optimum torque zone to provide maximum wheel traction. It was only when we had slowed the Macan down to a proper speed that the downshift would occur.

In auto change mode, the programmed ‘heel and toe’ came into play as we went gung-ho into the corner to downshift. Again, this prevented engine over-revving while matching engine speed to gear speed. It kept us well glued to our lines although the tyres did their share of squeals trying to maintain their grip (traction) on the tarmac. We certainly came away from that track drive fully convinced of the Macan’s Porsche sports car heritage.

The Macan was introduced to Malaysia recently by Sime Darby Auto Performance and its base prices are RM420,000 for the Macan 2.0-litre petrol turbo, RM560,000 for the Macan S, RM545,000 for the Macan S Diesel and RM785,000 for the Macan Turbo.

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