Porsche has always had us in a bit of a conundrum.
We love their sports cars like the Boxster, Cayman, and 911. They're fantastic on the open road and especially when the roads take a few turns for the fun. But there are drawbacks: these cars are too hard, too cramped, and too flashy to truly be enjoyed everyday. That's just the trade off when it comes to sports cars and other high performance machines.
On the other hand, they do have more comfortable models like the Cayenne and the Panamera, but they're too big, too heavy, and really best enjoyed with a driver if you have to do things like go to office meetings, on grocery runs, or to the bank. Despite the DNA, the handling simply isn't anywhere near comparable to their sports cars just by sheer mass alone.
A gap has existed, and so Porsche build a bridge to serve as the middle ground. They call it the Macan, and in this Sport version, boy, does it deliver on the promise of a truly enjoyable Porsche that can be driven every single day and twice on Sunday.
The Macan first came out in 2014, effectively a junior model to the Cayenne. In fact, there were reports that Porsche even considered naming it the Cajun which stood for CAyenne JUNior (and incidentally another type of spice).
The first Porsche I drove was a loaner first generation Cayenne S back in 2007, and that still had the fried egg headlights that were inspired by the 996. That really set the tone for the Cayenne: it was an SUV with Porsche sportscar design elements. The Macan appears to be the opposite: it looks more like a bona-fide Porsche sports car, but with the height of a crossover SUV.
I like the overall look, especially the curvaceousness of it. I like the details, particularly that front end with the intakes, those quad LED headlamps (reminiscent of Porsche's Le Mans race cars), and the slim LED lined taillights. More importantly, I just love the proportions of this Macan Sport, particularly the way the rear tapers off more like a fastback or shooting brake, finished off with a bulging waist. If anything, the stance of the Macan Sport is somewhat reminiscent of the great 959 rally car they raced from Paris to Dakar in the 80's.
Pop the driver's door and chances are you'll like the ease of ingress. In a Porsche sports car, you'll have to drop down a bit to get into the seat; that's just the way it is with low slung coupes and convertibles. Quite frankly, that's part of the experience. In the Cayenne, it's the reverse: you'll have to climb up a bit as you would in an SUV. With the Macan, it's almost as if you just slide over a bit, and you're settled in right away.
The most striking thing about the Macan Sport is the impression the interior gives: it's genuine Porsche all around. The steering wheel feels fantastic in your hands, and the skeletonized spokes give you that racing feeling. The cockpit embraces you neatly, making sure all the pertinent controls are absolutely perfectly placed for your seating position. The switchgear is perfect in terms of feel and quality; the layout of the buttons around the shifter reminds of the now-classic Vertu phone. It's just a nice place to be in.
The back is also neat too. Headroom is good, and the seat can accommodate “standard” sized individuals. Legroom is good, especially with the front seats scalloped to provide about an extra half inch of kneeroom. If you're not carrying any passengers in the back, the seats can be folded (almost) flat to take on big cargo like bikes, boxes and the like. You just have to be careful when closing the liftgate; the sloping glass means you can't have large boxes so far in the back.
Having a modern Porsche key in your hand is a nice experience in itself as it's shaped like a Porsche (presumably a 911), but surprisingly it's not a transponder that you can keep in your pocket as you drive. You do have to stick it into a slot behind the wheel and twist, like a regular key. When you do so, the engine comes to life, emanating a nice, smooth and deep rumble from the exhaust.
Opening the hood is likewise interesting; the massive one-piece clamshell bonnet also serves as the fenders and has cutouts for the headlights too. That's probably one of the reasons why the Macan has such clean curves. But it's what's underneath the body that has us excited: this Macan Sport comes powered by Porsche's 2.0-liter turbocharged four banger. And that makes for 252 horsepower and 370 Newton-meters worth of fun.
As a driver, you will get tempted to mash the throttle because you do have a lot of horsepower at your right foot's beck and call, but resist the urge: the Macan is actually a great drive in the city. There's a neat but smooth degree of immediacy as the Macan Sport makes its way around town. Much of that is owed to the smoothness of the 7-speed dual clutch gearbox that makes it drive so well when getting groceries or running errands.
That's the odd bit: dual clutch gearboxes are known for exceptional shifting manners at high speed or when driven hard in the mountains, but they were never really known for being great at slow city speeds. Porsche (and the Volkswagen Group) have found the happy medium.
I can get technical about the Macan Sport like its four-wheel drive platform which is shared with many other Audi models. I can talk about how the adjustable suspension behaves neatly even on our rough concrete, or the fact that the driver can adjust the ride electronically from 182 mm to 230 mm, doing away with any problems with parking lot ramps or obscenely tall village speed bumps. I can also talk about the fuel economy like the fairly decent (for a turbocharged four) fuel economy in the city at 7.2 km/l (20 km/h average with traffic) and on the highway at 12.2 km/l (88 km/h average). But I think the most notable part about this Porsche crossover is how un-intimidating it is to drive.
Speaking from experience, Porsches can be daunting to drive in our metropolis, especially if it's not yours. As a driver, you're focused on keeping good gaps to other vehicles around you in traffic and keeping an keen eye on the curbs and potholes around you; even the simplest repairs for this brand of automobile can be (and are) very expensive. I can call it Porsche paranoia, but in the case of the Macan Sport, there wasn't much of that; it just felt natural. Visibility is excellent, despite the appearance of a high beltline for the car. The size of the vehicle is just right to be easily maneuver in traffic and into questionable parking spots. Moreover, the alerts from sensor system (those little buttons on the front and rear bumpers) aren't intrusive or exceedingly alarming like on other German cars; yes, some German cars have proximity alert systems have a tendency to overreact to anything coming close to them.
Yeah, this Macan Sport has a nice, casual drive in the city. On an open mountain road, however, this thing makes you feel alive. I've been going to the mountain roads east of our metropolis for a while now, having driven a variety of vehicles from little econo hatchbacks like a Honda Jazz, sports coupes like the Toyota 86, fast luxury coupes like the Audi S5, and even supercars like the Ferrari 488, but I can easily say the Macan Sport is one of the most enjoyable of them all. Acceleration, braking, cornering are all perfect for a road with long straights, tight banked corners, and tricky blind exits, but the taller Porsche takes it all in stride and asks for more.
The real hallmark of the Macan Sport is the reassuring stability it offers, especially when you push it hard. A typical mountain road here is bumpy and treacherous, but the Macan Sport manages it so very well. The surefooted feeling that the four wheel drive and the suspension (in the stiffer sport mode) gives the driver is, quite frankly, superb. And we're talking about a vehicle that isn't exactly light or compact for our roads.
Many will, of course, pick the 911, the Cayman, or the Boxster for a blast on a road such as this. That's logical. They're sports cars, and were built for this kind of thing. In the city, some would prefer a Panamera or a Cayenne. They're luxurious automobiles, and they make you feel that you're getting the very best for comfort. But the 2018 Porsche Macan Sport is the bridge that straddles the strengths of all of them, yet has a feel that's uniquely and enjoyably its own.
Porsche actually has a newer Macan on the way; they just gave it a refresh last year with some mechanical upgrades (they deleted one turbo from the Macan Sport V6), some design updates (new look, especially the LED taillight “bar”), and many more for sure, but they're improving on an already excellent vehicle from the start.
Call me crazy, but if I had a choice for just one Porsche that I'd drive every single day and twice on Sunday, I'll probably pick this.