By: Denis Droppa
Cape Town - It was Serendipitous that we were driving Porsche’s new Macan on the South African media launch last Thursday just as Porsche South Africa was clinching the deal to buy the Kyalami racetrack.
As we stopped at a driver change point, Porsche CEO Toby Venter, who personally hosted us at the Macan driving event in the Western Cape while one of his representatives was attending the Kyalami auction in Joburg, stepped out of his car and told us with a broad grin that he’d just become the proud owner of SA’s most iconic race circuit.
The news saw motoring enthusiasts across the country breathe a sigh of relief. Venter confirmed it will continue to be operated as a racetrack rather than turned into a townhouse development, as had been feared if a bean-counter rather than a petrolhead had bought the property. Toby’s definitely the latter; he doesn’t just sell Porsches but races them too.
The Kyalami news almost, but not quite, overshadowed the reason we were in the Western Cape: to drive Porsche’s new mid-sized SUV.
RIDES LIKE A PORSCHE
Just before Venter delivered the good news, we’d driven the Macan (pronounced ma-kahn) through some curvy mountain roads including the famous Franschhoek pass, where it had displayed some very un-SUV-like handling manners. Though it has the elevated ride height of an SUV, the mid-sized Macan – which competes against the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 although it’s considerably pricier – has been engineered to ride and handle like a true Porsche. When I threw it through some spaghetti-like mountain-pass twists the vehicle resolutely failed to feel soggy or clumsy. Nope, these were sharp and sportscar-like responses honed by engineers who, like Venter, are clearly of the petrolheaded persuasion.
The minimal body roll, I was pleased to see, was accompanied by a comfortable ride. Porsche has resisted the temptation to fit its sports SUV with ultra-low-profile tyres, and 18s” and 19s” are fitted standard across the three-model range (although up to 21” in size are optionally available if you wish to more intently feel the ripples over manhole covers). The Macan has the taut chassis, sharp steering, and tangibly solid feel of Porsche renown – driver satisfaction is clearly the top priority here – but packaged in a roomy vehicle with a 500-litre boot and the ability to make off-tar excursions.
REAR-BIASED ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Active all-wheel drive is standard on all three Macan versions sold in South Africa, employing an electronically controlled multi- plate clutch that automatically diverts torque between the front and rear axle to suit road conditions.
It’s a rear-biased system, and its understeer-minimising effect was brought to light in how early I could boot the throttle out of tight corners. Nice.
Stay-on-the-road ability is further enhanced by Porsche Traction Management (PTM), and the engine power is hustled to the wheels via a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission.
Should your travels take a dustier turn, an offroad mode, which can be activated at speeds up to 80km/h at the press of a button, adapts the all-wheel-drive system and transmission for maximum grip in slippery conditions.
Three different suspension options are offered on the Macan, starting with standard multi-link steel-springs and a 205mm ground clearance.
The range-topping Macan Turbo comes standard (optional on the other two models) with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) which automatically stiffens or softens the dampers to suit driving conditions.
The third version is height-adjustable air suspension (an extra-cost optional feature across the range) which lifts the vehicle to a maximum ground clearance of 230mm.
Dig further into the Macan’s options bin and you’ll find trick bits like ceramic brakes and a Sport Chrono package which allows the chassis, engine and transmission to adopt more sporting reactions at the press of a button.
The flagship Macan Turbo is moved along by a 3.6-litre biturbo petrol V6 with 294kW and 550Nm on call. Porsche claims a top speed of 266km/h and 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds (4.6 secs with the optional Sports Chrono which has a launch control function) and a consumption of 8.9 litres per 100km.
There was unfortunately no Macan Turbo available to drive on the media launch, but I did get to drive the lesser-powered Macan S with its 3-litre biturbo V6. It wields outputs of 250kW and 460Nm, for which Porsche quotes figures of a 254km/h top speed, 0-100km/h in 5.4 secs, and 8.7 litres per hundred. Though it had nearly two tons of SUV to schlep around, this turbo 3-litre still felt very lively and delivered a fairly soulful holler – its best feature being that it’s priced 366 grand under the range-topping 3.6-litre version.
The Macan’s also available with a 180kW/580Nm 3-litre turbodiesel engine, which delivers the range’s best mix of enthusiasm and economy with its claimed figures of 230km/h, 0-100 in 6.3 secs, and 6.9 litres per 100km.
Though it didn’t quite have the vocal charisma of the petrol V6, this velvety-voiced diesel impressed with its immense torque and fiery acceleration. They sure don’t make diesels like they used to.
The passenger quarters of the 4.7 metre long Macan aren’t as roomy as in big brother Cayenne, which is 117mm longer, but there’s still plenty of practicality on offer here. The cabin’s spacious enough for four adults, and the luggage compartment extends to a cavernous 1500 litres with the rear seats folded.
The cabin’s trimmed in the brand’s typically solid and businesslike execution with sporting flair kept subtle, but a big rev counter as per Porsche dictum takes the traditional centre spot in the instrument panel. Externally, the broad “shoulders” and distinctive roofline and headlamps give the Macan a family connection to its Porsche stablemates.
Macan S diesel - R862 000
Macan S - R873 000
Macan turbo - R1 239 000