In the age of SUVs, the dominant species were armored, large, and lumbering. When a cataclysm hit, driving behemoths like the Hummer extinct, gas guzzlers were forced to evolve – and quickly. Many SUVs have downsized and transformed into crossovers, more tall-riding AWD cars than burly trucks.
The Porsche Cayenne, which appalled purists by becoming the company’s best-selling model worldwide in 2006, advanced the trend. But the new Macan is a genus unto itself. Bristling with twin-turbocharged power and gifted with styling and technology from the company’s raciest models – including the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder – the Macan’s good genes result in a car that works like an SUV but drives like a genuine Porsche.
Porsche’s latest ode to capitalism is emerging from Leipzig, a former communist stronghold in eastern Germany. The Macan shares its flexible assembly line with the Cayenne and Panamera sedan and a peek at its naked aluminum-and-steel frame reveals its basis in the popular Audi Q5. The Audi resemblance largely ends there. A pair of direct-injected, twin-turbo V6 engines – 340 horsepower 3.0-liters in the S model and 400 horsepower 3.6-liters in the Turbo – give this SUV some serious muscle. The Turbo gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and tops out at 165 mph.
A squat, action-packed body features bawdily oversized air intakes, a complex aluminum clamshell hood and “sideblades” – available in carbon fiber — that stroke along the fuselage. Inside, the aircraft-style banked center console and a canny mix of old-school analog switches share space with an intuitive digital touch screen. The effect is intimate yet airy, with room for four adults and five in a pinch.
On Leipzig’s rollicking test track, the Macan rockets through corners with uncanny force and precision for a two-ton-plus family hauler. There’s 10 percent faster steering than the Audi and a hatful of Porsche chassis magic: Active suspension, a trick AWD system, and Porsche Torque Vectoring that helps pivot this two-ton hauler through turns. You can even get ceramic composite brakes, and 21-inch wheels styled after Porsche-vintage Fuchs alloys.
Veering onto an off-road course once used for East German tank training, the Macan’s AWD, hill-descent control and height-adjustable air suspension let it traipse over obstacles and 40-degree pitches with ease. Sure, most Macan buyers will hesitate before muddying a ride that goes for $90,000 with all the options. But taking on a bit of dirt might be the best reminder that this is still an SUV – albeit in an evolved, sophisticated form. [porsche.com]