For the truest do-anything Porsche, look no further than the Macan S diesel. Jonathan Crouch explains why.
Ten Second Review
Porsche here ploughs all the SUV know-how it has amassed from a dozen years building the Cayenne into a smaller package. As a result, the Macan S diesel is a born winner. It packs 255bhp, gets to 62mph in 6.3 seconds, is good off road, brilliant on tarmac and returns 46mpg. That is an amazing portfolio of talent.
It's an uncomfortable truth for many, but the fact is that right at the moment, Porsche is an SUV company that does a profitable sideline in sports cars. The numbers don't lie. In the first half of 2013, the company sold more Cayennes than it did 911s, Boxsters, Caymans and Panameras added together. Now that the smaller Macan 4x4 has arrived in dealers, those SUV figures will only be bolstered. While some will bemoan the fact that Porsche has sold out, others will recognise that in the Cayenne and Macan, Porsche has developed excellent cars that will be justly popular. Lucrative too, if the growth in operating profit is to be believed. What's more, the Macan is a proper Porsche amongst SUVs, even when it's fitted with a diesel engine. Here we take a look at the Macan S diesel and explain why this could be the one of the most versatile cars available at any price.
The Macan S diesel uses a modified version of the Cayenne's 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel unit. In this guise it delivers 255bhp and 580Nm of torque, which means that the sprint to 62mph is polished off in just 6.3 seconds before running on to a top speed of 143mph. As you probably know quite well, diesels rarely show their best when asked to sprint from zero, instead performing better when the gearbox can plug you right into the fat part of the torque curve. The seven-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission that's fitted to the Macan S diesel is a peach and the way that Porsche has fine-tuned the steering, the brakes and pedal feel is a work of genius. Refinement is excellent and the engine always feels as if it's got your back. Demolishing a couple of dawdling caravans requires just a flex of the ankle, the revs flaring just above 2,000rpm as the two turbochargers set to work. It's this almost balletic interaction between engine and gearbox that sets the Macan apart from its more clodhopping rivals. You can tell that this car is built by people who appreciate the subtleties of driver interaction. There's a Sport button to sharpen shift times, throttle response and steering. Four-wheel drive is standard on all cars, although in normal road conditions, 100 per cent of torque is directed to the rear axle. Should momentary slip be detected, a clutch pack locks, which can then send up to 100 per cent of torque to the front axle. There's also a torque vectoring system, while a torque vectoring rear differential is an option. There is a dedicated off-road mode, which optimises the torque split and gearbox shift points to better optimise grip and torque when it gets really slippery. There's also a trusty hill descent control system. Standard steel springs with passive dampers are standard, with adaptive dampers an option.
Design and Build
The styling of the Macan probably won't come as any great surprise. It took Porsche eight years to get the styling of the Cayenne right, so the fact that the Macan resembles a Cayenne subjected to a very hot wash is a safe and rather predictable move. Nevertheless, there's a genuinely sharp front to back cohesion about the chunkier profile and some of the details are neatly resolved. There's the foursquare LED daylight running lights and 18-inch alloy wheels, although many buyers will be unable to resist upgrading to the 19, 20 and 21-inch options. Even though this is Porsche's baby SUV, there's plenty of space inside. The Macan is built on a heavily modified version of the Audi Q5's MLB chassis but two-thirds of the moving parts are Porsche-specific and even the seating position feels radically different to the Q5. In the Macan, you feel snug in the car whereas the Q5's seat is mounted a good deal higher. It's 4,681mm long and 1,923mm wide, which means it occupies a bigger footprint than its Audi cousin, but the wheelbase is a little smaller, meaning the Audi has a slight edge when it comes to rear seat space. There's a decent 500-litres of space in the boot which extends to 1,500-litres when the rear seats are folded.
Market and Model
You'll need to budget just over £43,000 for the 255bhp Macan S diesel, which seems fairly optimistic given that Audi will sell you a 313bhp SQ5 diesel for just £700 more. Drive both of the cars and you'll quickly come to the realisation that while the Audi has the edge in terms of straight line speed, the Macan is the better driver's car in virtually every other dynamic regard. Perhaps the Macan's biggest rival is not the Audi but another model from the Porsche stable. The Cayenne diesel is only around £4,000 more, and convincing yourself that you need less speed and more space in the confines of a dealership is a fairly easy thing to do. The only standard colours are flat black or white, with every other paint finish a £600 optional extra. Inside you get an 11-speaker, 235-watt stereo with DAB radio, a powered tailgate, parking sensors front and rear, leather and Alcantara powered seats and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. There are twin front, side and full length curtain airbags, as well as an excellent stability control system.
Cost of Ownership
Porsche has worked hard to improve efficiency and part of that price premium over an Audi Q5 can be ascribed to the use of aluminium body panels which pares 40kg from the car's kerb weight. The PDK gearbox has also been optimised for economy at cruising speeds too, with a coasting function that decouples the engine and gearbox when you lift the throttle on the motorway. There's also a start/stop mode to help cut fuel consumption in city traffic. As a result, the fuel economy for the Macan S diesel is an excellent 46.3mpg on the combined cycle. Emissions are super-competitive too, with the S diesel recording a mere 159g/km. Residual values look set to hold up strongly as a result. Buyers get a three year warranty which might seem a little mean in this day and age but it does include an unlimited mileage clause.
If you want one car that does almost everything well, the Porsche Macan S diesel might well be in pole position. It has virtually no significant weak points. It's a five-seat practical SUV with all-weather and rough terrain ability, yet has the performance and on-road handling to keep some fairly serious sporting cars honest. Couple that with the ability to return 46mpg, access to one of the best transmissions money can buy and residual values that look set to be firmer than any of its key rivals and you have an almost unassailable proposition. The interior looks and feels great, the price is hefty but not unreasonable and the basic reliability of the cast-iron common-rail turbodiesel is not up for debate. Rarely do we see cars that have such a strong all-round blend of skills as the Porsche Macan S diesel. Whether or not you agree with Porsche's increasing SUV bias, it would be churlish in the extreme not to recognise that this is a very special vehicle.