Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 27, 2020
Porsche may get a bad rap for nickel and diming every option in the book, but you do have to give it to them for offering such a wide range of customizability. Want your wheels to match your paint colour? No problem. What about decals running along the side so people know what model you’re driving? You got it. What if you have a specific paint colour in mind that’s not on the current Porsche palette? They’ve got you covered too with their Paint to Sample program.
These made-to-measure options cost a pretty penny but not many other automakers, especially in this price bracket, let owners liberally express their personalities and tastes in such a way, and that goes for their most affordable model in the lineup too, the compact SUV turned cash cow, the Macan. You can have a four-cylinder Macan for just under $60,000, a Macan with a suede interior and a wild exhaust note with the GTS, or a V6 one pushing out 434 horses with the Turbo. There’s a Macan for everyone and for (almost) any budget, keeping it just in range for the average middle-class buyer looking for something premium on their driveway.
But the Macan we are driving isn’t cheap. Spared no expense. We’re testing the 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo that starts at $96,500, and is loaded up with more than $20,000 in options for a final resting price of $117,760. Sound like an absurd price for what is essentially a small five-seat family hauler? Absolutely, but so is a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, none of which are lacking in price, power, or prestige either. Turns out there is a market for these niche performance SUVs, and this Macan Turbo is no stranger to speed.
The Macan Turbo makes use of a new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, the same unit in the Cayenne S and a similar one to the familial Audi RS5. It produces a healthy 434 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system. Those keeping track will note that those power figures are lower than the 3.6-litre V6 from outgoing Macan Turbo with the Performance Package, 6 horses and 36 lb-ft down in fact. The result is an acceleration time of 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds when equipped with launch control, enough to keep up with an F-Pace SVR, but far off the pace of the competing GLC 63 S (3.8 s), X3 M Competition (4.1 s), and Stelvio Quadrifoglio (3.8 s), all of which boast at least 500 horses and outshine the Macan’s comparatively lethargic output.
But numbers aren’t everything. This engine, oh my this engine. How Porsche has made the V6 this responsive, broadened the powerband to make every one of those 400 horses this accessible, and somehow made it sound better than the Audi RS5, is beyond me. This 2.9-litre loves to rev, and while the needle doesn’t swing as quickly as a BMW straight-six, and maximum torque only comes at 1,800 rpm where it previously began the show at 1,500 rpm, the clever DCT makes use of the torque and distributes it evenly, making delivery linear, predictable, and rapid. The DCT picks gears assertively yet executes the shifts with a gentle smoothness, while the resulting engine response is near instant with turbo lag minimized thanks to the turbo’s clever location within the ‘vee’ of the V6.
Those looking for a faster Macan won’t find anything in the stable but what it does delightfully harbour is an agile chassis and beautiful steering feedback. Our Macan did not have the air suspension equipped, so there is a noticeable and sizable gap to the 21-inch wheels but ride quality wise, I don’t think the Macan needs it. The way it absorbs pockmarked roads is more than impressive, offering enough suspension travel to keep occupants isolated from even the harshest of impacts. Even with the three suspension settings, the ride quality hardly diminishes though each of them while at the same time increasing stability around corners and keeping body roll to a minimum. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call it the 911 of small SUVs.
Furthermore, there’s a sharpness to its electric power steering, and a natural sense of weight and rotation off-center that gives you the confidence you need to explore the SUV’s grip limits. It’s not as artificial as a BMW X3 M, and not as light and deliberate as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but there’s actual road feedback flowing through your fingertips and wide open channels of communication to the front wheels. Even driving at slow speeds feels particularly special, and if that’s not the definition of driver engagement, I don’t know what is. It’s one of, if not, the best electric-powered steering rack in any compact SUV.
And that point of driver interaction and sensory stimulation goes for the exhaust too. Turbo models come standard with a sports exhaust but I don’t remember prior iterations of the Macan Turbo sounding this angry, like a Golf R with supersized vocal cords. The turbochargers do choke up some of the noise, and there are some pops on overrun, but unlike the Audi RS5 that uses the same V6 engine, and despite some of the noise being artificially piped through the cabin speakers, the Macan’s exhaust is wonderfully loud and rich in tone. The sound is not as operatic as the Stelvio’s Ferrari-derived V6, or as aggressive as an AMG GLC 63 with its additional two cylinders, yet the Stuttgart soundtrack still manages to greatly elevate the driving experience and wins only praises from us.
After spending a week with Porsche’s first all-electric vehicle, the Taycan Turbo, that replaced nearly every hard dial and button with digital real estate, hopping back into a button-centric cabin was nearly as refreshing as it was head-scratching. The Macan’s instrument cluster keeps with analog gauges, and the center console is littered with actual buttons that offer that satisfying ‘click’ feedback that not only serves a nostalgic purpose, but as an auditory confirmation that the car has fully received your input, something that goes amiss with touchscreens and creates frustration for many, us included. Dedicated hard buttons are the way of the past but here we are admiring its ease of use. Call us old school, but touchscreens just aren’t our cup of tea, especially when trying to navigate through the menus while keeping both eyes on the road ahead. Yes there are remedies around that, like voice control, but we don’t always feel like working our vocal muscles, do we?
The rest of the interior is largely carried over from previous model years, save for the beautifully integrated 10.9-inch widescreen display perched into the center stack, elevating the cabin aesthetics to what consumers have come to expect from 2020 vehicles. The unit is responsive, lag-free, and the menus are easy to follow. There are sensors that detect when your hand is approaching the screen as well and will automatically summon the shortcut bar. On a side note, 2020 Macans only incorporate USB-C outlets, so those with USB-A plugs will have to invest in an adapter or a new plug.
The small, thin-rimmed steering wheel remains one of our favourite examples in the compact SUV segment. Unlike BMW’s overly thick leather-padded wheel which is like gripping onto an anaconda, or the flimsy, somewhat plastic and cheap-feeling wheel in the Alfa, the Macan’s is wonderfully stitched together with exposed screws and an optional dial budding out the lower right side to control the driving mode. It also toggles one of our favourite features, Sport Response, that when clicked, offers 20 seconds of maximum performance for quick, unplanned overtaking maneuvers or when you just want to let off a quick burst of built-up steam. The seating position is low and snug despite its SUV stature, and while the steering wheel isn’t mounted at a 90-degree angle like it is in the Taycan or 911, the column offers enough range of adjustability to tailor to any body size.
It’s easy to dismiss the Macan with its swollen as-tested prices and temptatious options list. Our Macan Turbo alone is a tough pill to swallow at just under $120,000, especially when the Macan GTS is equally as impressive, more affordable, and our preferred cat in the litter. It also doesn’t help that the Turbo’s equally-priced competitors outshine the Macan in both horsepower and straight line performance. That said, Porsche does back up its claims and justifies the Turbo’s existence with a rev-happy engine, a world-class chassis, and top-notch build quality. The Macan’s significant entrance fee is a large commitment and will test your resolve, but if you’re careful with your options and tick only the most necessary boxes, which are in our opinion the 21-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, and Sport Chrono package, you may just leave the dealership with a win and one of the best handling SUVs on the market.
Model: 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo
Paint Type: Carmine Red ($3,560)
Base Price: $94,200
Price as Tested: $117,760
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4684 / 1926 (without mirrors) / 1624
Curb weight (kg): 1,945
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 434 hp @ 5,700 - 6,600 rpm
Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,600 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.9