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Porsche Macan resets boundaries

BY RORY DALEY
Observer writer

Friday, June 23, 2017

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IN 2003 when legendary German sports car manufacturer Porsche decided to move into the Sports Utility Vehicle game with the Cayenne, brand purists lost their minds. Despite the success and praise for that model, all hell broke loose upon the release of the smaller Macan in 2014. However, like its bigger brother, the Macan is lightning in a bottle the second time around, especially in its current 2017 guise.

While most companies would have taken their larger model, run it through the proverbial photocopy machine, press reduce by 25 per cent and be done with it, the Macan is its own thing. There are external family cues that mark it as a Porsche, mostly the front headlights, but beyond that its swoopy rounded lines, especially at the rear, gives it a coupe look over the uprightness of the Cayenne. The sportier look is carried out on the inside. As one enters, there are subtle hints of the luxury within, beginning with the fully powered leather seats all with the Porsche crest embossed in their headrests.

The more compact dimensions gives the Macan a more intimate feel. There is no shortage of space as passengers have their own climate controls, but drivers will notice things are a bit more focused towards them. All the major buttons are easily within reach — many intuitive and operating with that reassuring German mix of softness and directness. Like all Porsches, it's the RPM meter that is front and centre, with the speedometer to the left and small sub-screen to right, that can be scrolled through via controls on the small leather-wrapped steering wheel. In back, passengers partake in the quality. Trunk space and access is along the class best with a powered tailgate.

Fire up the Macan and it's whisper quiet. Through Corporate Area traffic it cruises effortlessl, again only hinting at the level of athleticism under the hood. The Macan range starts with a turbocharged four-cylinder outputting 249 bhp and 273lb/ft of torque available from as low as 1,500 rpm to a peak of 4,500 rpm. Here Porsche's experience with turbocharging comes forefront as the engine dispels whatever previous negative perceptions one would have about the adoption of the technology. In normal mode, the driving feel would be more than enough for most, as the engine and the seven-speed PDK transmission work in unison to make acceleration as invisible as possible. Turbo lag is all but imperceptible, only occasionally stumbling to get back in the powerband from low rpms, and the two-litre screams to its 6,800 rpm power peak with an ease and freeness close to the best naturally aspirated motors.

Then one presses the sport button. This brings out the beast in the Macan. The steering wheel weights up for more direct feel, while both the throttle and transmission becomes even sharper. At this point, acceleration becomes eerily telepathic, banishing any sense of those random moments of hesitation. In this mode it seems never to be caught in the wrong gear for forward motion. The only thing better than driving the Macan in sport mode is putting the PDK transmission in manual mode, putting any shifting errors firmly at the driver's feet.

The rest of the Macan is up to task. The suspension has three modes that can be altered separately than the two driving modes. This allows it to soak up the bumps in comfort mode and still have the razor-sharp acceleration. On the extreme end, there is Sport+ giving the SUV sports car-like cornering ability. Helping things are the massive brakes and the intelligent four-wheel drive system. In case you do need to go off-road, that mode is just a button press away.

The best way to describe the Macan is to compare it to coffee. The larger Cayenne is a great cup, but the Macan is espresso, taking the primary elements of its bigger brother and concentrating them into its own experience.

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