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FRANSCHHOEK – Recently confirmed as the next point-of-focus in terms of Porsche’s all-electric future, the refreshed Macan package is set for a radical overhaul as it evolves to become the second all-electric offering – alongside the Taycan – in the Stuttgart-based company’s portfolio. Adopting the same PPE platform and electric drivetrain technology as the Taycan, the first all-electric Macan is set to arrive as soon as 2021. The good news for fans of the Macan, however, is that the brand looks set to hedge its bets with its current best-selling product when it comes to just how enthusiastic its customer base is at the prospect of a world without combustion engines. Despite its vastly different packaging and execution, the all-electric Macan will initially be sold alongside the current internal combustion engine offerings.

Aiming to make that inevitable final farewell to Porsche combustion propulsion that much more bitter-sweet is the arrival of the new Macan Turbo.

Some 12 mm shorter than the standard Macan thanks to a reworked nose treatment, the new top-of-the-range derivative gains extra presence on the road via bespoke bumpers (front and rear), a double-wing spoiler attached to the tailgate and the inclusion of 20-inch alloy wheels. My favourite design detail on the new fastest Macan is, however, the purposeful-looking set of quad tailpipes protruding from the rear.

Bucking the worrisome current trend towards faux pipes included purely for design purposes, in the new Macan Turbo these genuine-article tailpieces originate from the brand’s familiar (Panamera and Cayenne) 2,9-litre twin-turbocharged engine mated with a seven-speed PDK transmission. Replacing the outgoing model’s 3,6-litre turbopetrol, this new drivetrain offers 30 kW more power (at 324 kW), while the same 550 N.m of torque is available between 1 800 and 5 500 r/min. Fitted with the optional Sports Chrono package, the new Turbo will launch from 0-100 km/h in a claimed 4,3-seconds (4,5 sans the Chrono pack), while the top speed is listed as 270 km/h.

If there’s a caveat to these claimed performance figures as they relate to those aforementioned tailpipes, it’s that current EU emissions regulations dictate the inclusion of sound-stifling particulate filters within the exhaust system. The good news for South African owners is that these filters are unlikely to be included in units destined for our shores. As it stands, the left-hand-drive models made available for our (Cape Town-based international launch) test drive offered the somewhat muted undertones of a potentially thrilling soundtrack, overrun pops and crackles included.

Mimicking the range-topping exterior styling enhancements on the new Turbo, the already high-quality Macan’s interior (including its impressive 12,3-inch infotainment screen) is dressed for the occasion via 18-way adjustable sports seats and the standard inclusion (for our market) of the same sports steering wheel as featured in the current 992-generation 911. Add Sports Chrono to the package and this includes a rotary switch for scrolling between comfort, sport, sport plus and individual driving modes. Also present is the brand-familiar button that calls upon 20 seconds of all-hands-on-deck boost.  

Featuring new dynamic engine mounts for improved stability all-round, the Macan Turbo defies its near-two-tonne mass by not only delivering wonderfully linear progress towards the horizon but, also, via one of the best (in terms of both weight and feel) electrically assisted steering setups in the business, remaining one of the most surefooted raised-ride-height family transports in any segment. Of course, our test units were fitted to the hilt with optional extras, including air suspension and a PTV active rear differential, but across changeable surfaces and, indeed, precipitation levels encountered throughout our test route (including the treacherous-at-the-best-of-times Bainskloof Pass outside of Wellington), the top-spec Macan showed no sign of putting a potentially costly foot wrong.

Bespoke styling aside, the advance of the GTS badge within a modern Porsche application has come to represent a compelling middle-ground between entry-level models and the eyeball-straining performance offered by Turbo and Turbo S models further up the food chain. Such is the all-roundedness of the new Turbo package, including the progressive rather than bomb-drop delivery of torque from its modern turbocharged engine and perfectly acceptable (adjustable through three settings) ride quality over most road conditions, that Porsche may have done its forthcoming Macan GTS derivative a disservice.

Where the new Macan Turbo could potentially come unstuck in our market is with a local asking price that brings the likes of impressive (and roomier) alternatives such as the BMW X5 M50i, Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition in to play. And that’s not to mention the Audi RS4 Avant that uses the same engine (but with more power) as the Macan, as well as the larger Cayenne S with the identical powertrain.

CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – Compared with the levels of incredulity that followed Porsche’s initial decision to dip its toes into the luxury SUV market, the Cayenne’s premium midsize Macan sibling in 2014 enjoyed a decidedly warmer reception. This came along with a greater understanding of why this expansive strategy was ultimately adopted and, considering the successes of similar-sized VAG products like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Audi Q5 (not forgetting Seat and Skoda), much excitement around what a Porsche-badged stablemate might offer.

Currently the brand’s best-selling model, in 2018 Porsche shipped 250 000 Macan units to new owners around the world. With a view to consolidating this success, a recent facelift and product refresh more closely aligns the Macan’s exterior styling with that of big brother Cayenne, while in terms of drivetrains, signals a shift away from unfashionable diesel combustion.

While an updated front-end includes redesigned intakes and LED-infused headlamp clusters, the rear of the Macan is reshaped to incorporate the brand’s latest design DNA, including a taillamp-linking light bar. With four new exterior colours available, further customisation is offered via a choice of five side-blade finishes and various wheel designs, ranging in size from 18 to 21 inches in diameter.

Of the highlights of an updated interior, the inclusion of Porsche’s 10,9-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment system lends the cabin a welcome modernity both in terms of look and feel. From an impressively supportive driver’s seat offering a wide variety of adjustment (including the ability to drop handily low), I was also pleased to be reacquainted with the brilliant actions of the brand’s seemingly out-of-favour (and since deleted from the 911 package) PDK gearshift lever. Sited tall and offering a wonderfully weighted manual shift action, the presence of this lever goes a long way towards making the Macan’s driving experience one of the most focused in this segment.

In consolidating the locally available Macan range, and ahead of the arrival of future GTS and Turbo derivatives, Porsche has introduced a new entry-level contender powered by a 2,0-litre turbopetrol engine sourced from VAG's broader portfolio. Indeed, tuned to deliver similar outputs to those of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack, the EA888 inline four-cylinder unit fitted to the most affordable Macan delivers 180 kW and 370 N.m of torque, the latter available between 1 600 and 4 500 r/min. Mated with a 7-speed PDK transmission, torque delivery favours the rear wheels until such time as slip is detected up front, or once the vehicle’s drivetrain is locked into a prescribed (50:50 split) off-road setting.

While updates to the Macan’s standard suspension include the replacement of steel front springs with lighter aluminium items, as well as revised anti-roll ratings all round, all the models made available during our local test drive were instead fitted with optional (R47 590) air suspension, configurable through three ratings. With a simple-to-dial-in launch control system activated, the 1 800 kg Macan 2,0T is capable of a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6,5 seconds, while top speed is listed as 227 km/h.

Usually whilst driving a Porsche of any description, you patiently await any opportunity to floor the throttle ahead of both a meaty shove in the base of your spine and corresponding tingling in your ears. This non-diesel entry-level Macan, however, introduces an altogether new character that makes both light work of traffic and offers just enough punch to deliver thrills when required. If there are potential downsides to this setup, especially when it comes to how a modern Porsche performs, it’s that there is an inevitable slight delay between full throttle and full steam ahead and, depending on how pure your Zuffenhausen-tinted blood is, you may not savour the fact that your Porsche sounds distinctly like a GTI on full-throttle upshifts – as purposeful as these shifts may be.

Obvious gains in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions (8,1 L/100 km and 185 g/km) aside, another advantage of having a four-cylinder mounted longitudinally within the Macan’s engine bay is weight saving, particularly where it pertains to the distribution of overall mass, front to rear. Here, on a decidedly wet and treacherous Franschhoek mountain pass, I was impressed with how nicely balanced and confidence-inspiring the car felt while pushing on.

Driving the new entry-level Macan I was reminded of when Ford introduced its current Mustang coupé. Like the Porsche (including the models to come), the pinnacle of the modern Mustang range offers both more power and more corresponding theatre within its package compared with most affordable models. And yet, despite having to field questions around engine size, straight-line performance and, indeed, exhaust notes, the average 2,3 EcoBoost-powered Mustang owner (as validated by monthly sales figures) still craves the experience of owning a “muscle car”. While the idea of a GTI-powered Macan may not immediately sit well with purists, as an entry point into the otherwise special world of Porsche, the still very capable cheapest Macan makes a compelling argument.

PALMA, Mallorca – Flagship models may be the most expensive (and, least cost effective) examples of their respective ranges, but many South Africans cannot resist buying them. Here’s an example: in the local range of the award-winning Volkswagen Golf, the GTI version is the bestseller. Granted, the GTI is an iconic nameplate, but the new vehicle sales figures of the Volkswagen Amarok double-cab bakkie follow a similar trend: as many as 70% of buyers opt for the 3,0-litre TDI V6 versions.

And, sometimes, buyers favour products that are fundamentally surplus to their needs. If you compare Porsche’s local new vehicle sales statistics for the Cayenne and its smaller Macan sibling, the larger, more expensive luxury SUV easily trounces the executive SUV. I just can’t help but wonder: how many buyers really utilise the full occupant and luggage carrying capacities of the Cayenne? Surely a well-specified Macan would suit most of those purchasers’ needs perfectly?

With the introduction of a more affordable Macan model (powered by a 2,0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol motor), the range will start from a lower base than before, separating the entry-point of the Macan line-up further from the Cayenne.

Behind the wheel

However, while attending the international launch event of the updated Macan, the S version really caught my attention. Equipped with a 3,0-litre turbopetrol V6 (as used in the Panamera and Cayenne), it develops 260 kW and 480 N.m; improvements of 10 kW and 20 N.m respectively over the outgoing S model.

In terms of the exterior design, notable upgrades include a more distinctive front grille replete with side air intakes, while the side blades are now offered in no fewer than five trims and colours. At the rear, the horizontal LED light bar (incorporating the Porsche name) bridges the tail-lights clusters. The wheels range from 18-inch alloys up to flashy, bigger-is-always-better 21-inch items.

By virtue of its cosmetic upgrades, the Macan looks more modern and sharply styled than is predecessor (especially in S guise) and, as expected, its stance is as bold and purposeful as what we’ve come to expect from a Porsche SUV.

Mallorca offers a good variety of roads, including some sensationally tight, hairpin-littered mountain passes. The 200 km evaluation route offered ample opportunities to explore what the updated Macan has to offer, driving-wise. Offering permanent all-wheel-drive (most torque is sent to the rear wheels most of the time) in conjunction with PTV (Porsche torque vectoring) Plus and the optional GT sports steering wheel (marginally smaller than the standard steering wheel), the Macan S is a rather playful executive SUV. The seven-speed PDK (dual-clutch automatic transmission) swaps cogs briskly, and the S enables you to lean on the throttle early when exiting corners. As the roads where wet during certain parts of the drive and the PSM (Porsche stability management) was set to the Sport mode, the rear end could be provoked to step out on tighter corners.

Our test unit was fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package, which enables a driver to select the driving mode (normal, sport, sport plus or individual) on the fly by toggling a rotary switch on the bottom half of the steering wheel.

Further upgrades

Make no mistake, even though this is “but a facelift” of the Macan, virtually every aspect of the SUV has been honed. On the front axle, the steel spring forks of the previous version have been replaced by aluminium units, which has led to a reduction in unsprung mass. The brakes have also been upgraded; the front discs on the S have increased in size (diameter and thickness), while the model can also now be ordered with PCCB (Porsche ceramic composite brakes).

Although the engine will readily rev to its redline (6 800 r/min), its mid-range is the veritable pleasure centre. Peak torque is available from 1 360 r/min to 4 800), so you can either short shift through the ‘box and can ride the wave of torque, or delay upshifts to access the power at the higher end of the rev range.

As before, the perceived quality of the Macan’s cabin is of a lofty standard. A combination of real aluminium trim and perfectly stitched leather gives the interior a contemporary, luxurious feel. The 10,9-inch touchscreen also offers the latest technology offered from the Porsche Communication Management system together with Apple CarPlay (FYI, over 80% of Porsche customers use iPhones). You can now even record your off-road trip and share it on social media.

Summary

The Cayenne remains in a different category to the Macan, but after a while behind the wheel of the S, I don’t believe you’d be short-changed if you opted for the latter. I appreciated its compactness; it’s easier to place on the road (or in a parking lot) than its bigger sibling, yet it offers enough space for most families.

For commuting, the entry-level Macan will tick most boxes and leave you with change to spend on options. However, should you prefer the added performance and equipment of the Macan S, its bigger performance envelope is hard to resist.

As the now discontinued turbodiesel was the bestselling pre-facelift Macan in South Africa, it will be interesting to see which of the updated versions buyers will favour. Given “our” predilection for top-spec models, I anticipate it will be the S…

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