First drive: Porsche Macan
What is it?
Porsche will tell you at great length that the new Macan is not a downsized, shrunken version of the Cayenne SUV. They'll gladly regale you with tales that the Macan's shape takes great inspiration from the 911 and the 918 hypercar. They'll even let slip that during the Macan's testing regime, the 911 was used as a benchmark for the results. The fact is, however, the new Macan is based – loosely, it must be said – on the Audi Q5 and is a new entrant into the hugely profitable and popular compact SUV sector. It expands Porsche's SUV range by 100 per cent and, judging by the larger Cayenne's sales history, it will sell by the bucketload.
What's under the bonnet?
One of the reasons the Cayenne has proved such a hit for Porsche in the UK has been the choice of engines – and the Macan is no different. There's the option of a 335bhp 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol or a 254bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel. What with its 143mph top speed and combined fuel consumption of more than 44mpg, the latter is predicted to take 60 per cent of UK sales. The range is topped off with the 394bhp, 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged Turbo – it's ludicrously fast, but doesn't put the lower powered V6s to shame as they are equally punchy. There is, however, a fourth option. Porsche will sell you one with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder unit pushing out 234bhp. Badged just 'Macan' it's order-only and isn't set to be a big hit here in the UK.
What's the spec like?
For now at least, the range is awfully simple. Both the petrol and diesel Macan S cost £43,300 and (surprisingly for a Porsche) come well specified with an electric tailgate, part leatherpart alcantara upholstery, dual-zone climate control, MP3 connectivity and 18-inch alloys. The Turbo at £59,300 adds 19-inch wheels with red brake calipers, sat nav, Bose sound system, leather upholstery with electric front seats and alcantara roof lining. There is of course a healthy options list which includes such pleasantries as Porsche's PTV torque vectoring system (£1,012), self-levelling air suspension (1,004 and a first for the compact SUV sector) and the Sport Chrono Package (£728). All come with Porsche's excellent seven-speed PDK automatic transmission.
The Macan's chief rival is the hugely popular and super-stylish Range Rover Evoque. There's also the BMW X1 and the Audi Q5 but none are as sporting as the Macan. That's a privilege you have to pay for though.
What's it like to drive?
All that marketing hype about this being the first sports car compact SUV is true – it's a fine-handling thing. The steering is as crisp as it probably could be and thanks to 90 per cent of the car's power being pushed to fat tyres at the rear, it's well-balanced, too. It rides well and even when Sport and Sport + modes are prodded, the ride is firm but never unbearable. The Turbo is deeply impressive and will reach 60mph in just 4.6 seconds. But the Turbo is really for the downsizing Porsche enthusiast. There's no doubt the Macan will appeal to conquest customers and they'll be more than happy with the Macan S in either petrol or diesel. The former has a lovely dainty-ness to it and has more than enough power. But it's the diesel which is, obviously, the best all-rounder. It has more than enough power and performance and it won't break the bank... too much.
The AOL Cars verdict
Just over a decade ago, Porsche caused quite some controversy producing its first ever SUV. The Cayenne wasn't what you'd call pretty but is successfully married true Porsche handling in a more user-friendly and everyday package. The new Macan takes that to even greater levels. With ample seating for five and loading space of 1,500 litres when the seats are folded, it's a practical proposition. Its smaller dimensions make it far more agile on the road and it genuinely feels sporty to drive – think of an upscaled, four-wheel drive Boxster and you wouldn't be too far wrong. It's even rather good looking in our eyes. There's no reason why Porsche won't have a ball with this car. In our opinion, you're looking at Stuttgart's new UK best-seller
Model: Porsche Macan S Diesel
Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6 diesel
Power: 254bhp, 580Nm
Max speed: 143mph
0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
MPG: 46.3 mpg (combined)
Emissions: 159g/km CO2