When the words 'test drive' and 'Porsche' appear in our inbox, we typically open them without hesitation. Yet in this particular instance, it was followed by 'around Singapore' — two words that (I'm sorry my Singaporean friends) do not get the heart racing at all. Indeed the island city is known for thrilling motorsports events like the world's first night F1 race but, beyond that, there's not much motorsport excitement to be found.
It was rather odd; invitations to drive new models typically involve driving around scenic locations like winding mountain roads with light traffic and scenic stops. These conditions are planned well in advance to highlight a vehicle’s performance, handling, and luxury. By stark contrast, the invitation to drive around Singapore felt like the automotive equivalent of blue balls: we had a fast car to drive on great roads, all of which came with hefty toll fees and pricey speeding fines waiting if we ever wanted to have any fun. Even the local car enthusiasts prefer to drive out of Singapore and get their speeding tickets in Malaysia.
Nonetheless, it would be impolite to complain. After all, the vehicle on offer was the new Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package. The improvement adds an impressive 40 PS to the already intimidating 400 PS Macan Turbo and another 50 Nm of torque to its current stump-pulling 550-Nm. I suppose we could always turn it into something positive and say something like this:
"Improvements like these typically compromise a vehicle’s comfort and luxury — factors that are key to enjoying a luxury SUV in the city. After all, the typical buyer will likely seldom ever experience such delightful days to drive. In fact, most of the time, these vehicles will likely spend a lot of time in the bustling and crowded city, driving through traffic, and often hardly ever put through their paces."
Well aware of this plight, Porsche Asia Pacific, who invited us through PGA Cars, Inc., had sought to make up for it in many ways. For one, we were booked in one of the newest hotels in the Clark Quay area: the Warehouse Hotel. Though its literal warehouse structure may not seem inviting, its cheeky industrial interiors and curious minibar options hinted at a darker side, one that's Fifty Shades from the norm.
Rather than the typical pre-planned route timed for the ideal weather and traffic conditions, we were simply given suggestions on where to go. Finally, each car was equipped with a mobile phone, tablet and 360 camera (for the passenger) to fool around with if ever we were caught in traffic.
Alas, the irony continued to come in spades, as parked outside was our steed, wrapped in the iconic Porsche motorsport colors. She teased just like the pastor's devout daughter revealing a bit too much skin on prom night, with a 10:00 pm curfew. Ah well, off to the test drive.
Power up pack
For the uninitiated, the Macan Turbo with the Performance Package (PP) is the new top-of-the-line model in the Macan line. Besides the improved power figures we mentioned, the upgrade also grants the vehicle a broad rev range, returning palpable power between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. It reduces its 0-100 acceleration time from 4.8 to just 4.4 seconds, and bumps its top speed up to 272 km/h — all this in five-seater, four-door SUV. The Performance Package is an option made exclusively available for the Macan Turbo, providing a big bump in power and performance without the strict weightloss program and stripping down that typically accompanies a GTS model.
To reign in the increase in power is the newly developed brake system, lowered body, controlled sports chassis, Sport Chrono Package and sports exhaust system, are all fitted as standard. The front axle features larger, grooved brake discs (now 390 mm) with red calipers. The ride height has been lowered by 15 mm. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is also fitted as standard with modes to deliver a comfortable or sporty height and damping on the road.
Naturally, there are also optional extras like the Sport Chrono Package, easily identified by the iconic clock on the dashboard, which includes an even more emotional sound from the sports exhaust system, and quicker and more aggressive response times from the seven-speed PDK double-clutch transmission. The Turbo Exterior Package bestows the SUV with 21-inch high-gloss black wheels, blacked out LED headlights and other black elements. The Turbo Interior Package adds on a black leather interior with Alcantara elements, color appliqué in numerous areas and carbon elements.
With such a dizzying array of additions and options, Porsche provided us with an entire day to experience and enjoy the vehicle, unsupervised, around Singapore, save perhaps for the ever watchful eye of speed cameras and electronic toll collection. Inside the foiled vehicle was a black interior with red leather seats. They suggested a number of locations to visit, to further enhance our exploration of Singapore.
Among those stops were the Kent Ridge Park, situated on the ridge overlooking Singapore’s expansive docks. The green space features paths for hiking, mountain biking, or just a place to sit back and enjoy the view, or silently cry inside.
Lunch was waiting at La Ventana, a Spanish restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chefs in Dempsey Hill, which was a former British military barracks converted into a new lifestyle and dining destination. I've never had a more romantic lunch with AutoIndustriya.com founding editor, Brent Co.
Our last stop was Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Neo Tiew, in the north of the island. The park hopes to educated younger generations about the fragile ecosystems in mangroves, allowing visitors to tour through the unique landscape through special paths and in some cases, see the wildlife up close and personal. It was empty, just like the promise of enjoying the Macan in Singapore.
Being automotive enthusiasts, and somewhat bored with the 'suggestions', we couldn’t help but drive by parts of the famous Singapore Grand Prix street circuit on the way back to our hotel, because we're masochists, and the little opportunity to drive the car fast wasn't agony enough. The route can be difficult to discern with daily traffic, yet its landmarks, like the Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands hotel, made it easy to find our way through some of the more iconic parts, and pretend we were Alonso, driving in slow motion, at the back of the field, in traffic.
At the press of a button
The short tour around Singapore provided an interest glimpse into what a potential Macan Turbo PP owner would experience on a daily basis — "All this horsepower and no room to roam," as the great Jim Carrey once said. Despite the impressive performance upgrades, the vehicle still remains comfortable, luxurious, and remarkably easy to drive in city streets and traffic. Best of all, the power is always on stand-by, quickly accelerating the car when overtaking is needed without even having to shift to sport mode.
When we did call upon the power and performance, all it took was a quick press of the button, shifting the car from comfort to Sport, and on those few times we dared, Sport Plus. The change was palpable, like calling forth a Mr. Hyde out from a soft-spoken Dr. Jekyll. The suspension instantly stiffened, the steering wheel hardened up, the revs climbed, the engine brake kicked in, and the exhaust began to burble, seemingly preparing for a sudden mash of the throttle to send it downshifting and accelerating like a bat out of hell. The ride was harsher, but also far more confidence-inspiring on Singapore’s narrow backroads. After a minute of fun, We had to cut it short as we spotted a large speed camera sign. All it took was another press of a button to return it to the civilized and comfortable SUV we first hopped in to. I'll be damned if I have to spend my Golden Duck Salted Egg Chips money on speeding tickets.
It’s this kind of flexibility that truly sets it apart from other SUVs, able to transform from genteel city cruiser to midnight bruiser at just the press of a button. For those that have always wanted a bruiser of an SUV but couldn’t quite bear to part with all the luxurious trims that the GTS is so eager to dispose of, the Performance Package is the more viable option. It gives you both the luxuries expected of the marquee, and the performance it is known for, without sacrificing either.
Quite unexpectedly, this test drive surprisingly simulated how we'd drive back home in Manila. It's quite perfect for cheeky Filipino drivers. It has the comfort to mute the worst of our roads' bumps and noise. It has the flash to warrant that preferred parking spot right in front of the bar (Because with this traffic, that's the best we can hope for). And to make up for all the pain and suffering of the daily grind, will gladly reward the repressed driver with the sheer ferocity and power on those very rare occassions that the roads are clear (e.g. Paquiao fights). This is the unfortunate reality of owning a performance car in the Philippines. Thankfully, the Macan Turbo PP can quite easily adapt to it.