Porsche chose the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah to launch the Macan, its all new baby SUV that is destined to leave its mark in the industry just like every other Porsche has done. But before going into the drive program, a few words have to be said about the little tiger. Macan, the Indonesian word for tiger, is Porsche' first ever midsize SUV. The company claims it has no close or serious competitors at all as it is the most powerful, fastest and most expensive vehicle in the segment - yes, it is exactly that.
To cut development cost and time, the Macan was built on Audi's Q5 platform. But to ensure the unique Porsche feel, the chaps at Stuttgart stripped the Q5 all the way down to its bare bones monocoque and changed almost everything: engines, transmissions, gearboxes, axles, brakes, exterior and interior. The Macan is also longer, wider and much lower than Audi's SUV.
Technically, the Macan is offered with two twin-turbocharged direct-injected V6 engines, a 3.0 liter developing 340 hp for the 'S' model and a 3.6 liter unit developing 400 hp for the 'turbo' model. Both units provide the car with sports car figures: 0-100 km in 4.8 seconds and top speed of 266 km for the turbo. The 'S' achieves these with 5.4 seconds and 254 km, still very impressive. And for the green club members, the Macan consumes between 8.9 and 9 liters of premium gas for every hundred kilometers.
Drive is to all four wheels, but the system (shared with the Cayenne) powers the rear wheels all the time and routes torque to the front differential only when necessary to save power and gas. And the only gearbox offered here is Porsche' seminal seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
There are three suspension systems: first coil springs with conventional shocks, second type is coils with electronically adjustable shocks and a third height-adjustable air-spring setup that includes adjustable shocks. The air system provides a 0.6 inch lower, high speed cruising height with 1.6-inch higher than normal ride.
The two-day program started with a drive in an 'S' model from our hotel in the Emirate to a nearby beach where Porsche set up an off-road course to test the car's capabilities.
First, we had to dig in a few sand dunes to check the V6' low end torque of 460 Nm which is available at a very low 1450 rpm. Next we had to drive on a huge man-made bank of sand to see how the car is stable at it leans at a 45 degrees. After, we drove over a series of potholes to trigger Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) to stabilize the car and stop any wayward movements.
These tests were orchestrated to mimic real-world challenges that a Macan might encounter and I can vouch that Porsche's new tiger dug its claw tightly in every one of them.
The second day included a round trip to the mountains surrounding Ras Al Khaimah, where the Macan's sporty credentials were made very clear. The engine is strong, responsive and very flexible, where the driver can dig deep into it and put those 400 ponies into real-life use, while the 4.8 seconds sprint to 100 km seemed very logical to me as I shot up the mountain with real authority. And that powerful V6 is not for show; the car really needs it as it is just 75 kg shy of two tons. The PDK box is sweet as ever, and strong kick-downs will make it down-shift three to four gears in a flash and with total softness.
The Macan rides extremely well. Its body remains flat and poised from corner to corner with minimal body lean as the air suspension corrects and counter-leans the body as I was attacking every apex. But I did hope for more feel from the electric steering that felt numb at times.
Our drive in the Macan was a short one, but it confirmed once again Porsche's mastery in the field of sport cars where it has been laying down the rules for more than 70 years. The wonderful Macan is just another page in the book.
S: 3.0L twin-turbo, V6, 340 hp, 460 Nm
Turbo: 3.6L twin-turbo, V6, 400 hp, 550 Nm
Drive: All-wheel-drive, 7-speed double clutch transmission (PDK)
Weight: 1865 - 1925 kg
0 - 100 km: 5.4 seconds
Top Speed: 254 km
Combined fuel consumption: 8.9 liters/ 100 km
0 - 100 km: 4.8 seconds
Top Speed: 266 km
Combined fuel consumption: 9 liters/ 100 km
One word: Tiger
Pros: Performance, handling, luxury
Cons: Tight rear legroom
Rivals: BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Range Rover Evoque