Do you still remember the horror Porsche enthusiasts endured when the giant from Stuttgart announced that they've started production on an SUV a good fourteen years ago? I remember having it as a topic over our traditional Sunday dinner where my uncles were loathing the idea. They talked about it like The Great Plague that signified the demise of Porsche. You see, my uncles were 'Porschephiles'. They've had their fair shares of classics like a 928, a 944, a 930, and what would become one of my favorite cars of all time, a Riviera Blue 911 Turbo (993).
As for me, it didn't bother me so much. Back then, I was only interested in the scarlet cars from Maranello. Porsche never really made my spine tingle as a youngster. Naturally, the launch of the Cayenne was a success and it sold like hotcakes. It has been the most successful Porsche of all-time in terms of sales and people never seemed to care that the very first model wasn't easy on the eyes. Obviously that didn't matter, because for as long as the Cayenne was selling, Porsche would have the budget to create better sports cars for the world.
Since then, Porsche has released the Panamera, which has again divided opinion much like our country's local government. There are purists who believe that the Cayenne and the Panamera should have never existed in the first place, and there are some who think that there is a place in the world for an SUV and a four door sedan from Stuttgart. Wherever you fall in those two categories is absolutely irrelevant to this piece of engineering sorcery called, the Macan.
Macan, which is Indonesian for the word Tiger, is a thing of beauty. Its lines and design cues are a profound expression of Porsche's sporting DNA. It possesses an athletic stance even in its most basic trim, like the one we have here. This crossover from a design-perspective is most probably what Porsche would have wanted the Cayenne to look like upon its inception. Whereas the Cayenne has always been quite polarizing as far as its design language goes, the Macan is beautiful right off the bat.
Porsche currently makes the best cars in the world.
Porsche says that it is, "The first sports car in the SUV segment". In as much as I would love to call their bluff and say that it's no different from a marketing slogan like "America's Favorite Cookie", I must say that they aren't lying one bit. You see immediate traces of its brilliance the moment you open the door. When you do, the first thing that your eyes gravitate towards is the steering wheel, which I think is the very best in the business. It's been lifted from the 918 Spyder and it is a lovely thing to hold - a true privilege.
And then you realize that the seats are snug and supportive, just as you'd expect from a Porsche. In front of you, is an unmistakable gauge cluster design only bested by a 911. And around you, a cabin bathed in swathes of leather and Alcantara suede. The buttons are scattered all throughout the cabin, and every push feels expensive and tactile. It is an insult to call this a base model. The optional 625-watt 14 speaker Bose Surround Sound System is just plain lush. The build quality is at par or more than most cars from its rivals that may cost twice or even thrice the price. As far as fit and finish is concerned, Porsche sits at the very top of the chain.
"The shifts are so immediate, I worry that the tachometer needle might just snap off completely."
Driving the Macan is still somewhat of a surprise. You somewhat lower your expectations when you're driving a base model of anything. However, this one really is the exception to the rule. It is propelled by a 2-liter four banger that pumps out a healthy 252 horsepower. And because it is turbocharged, the torque figure is at 370 Newton Meters which is more than enough to pull the Macan out of sticky situations. In this country, it really is more performance than you'll ever need. The exhaust note is quite delicious as well, you hear the occasional "brrapp!" when you shift at full throttle.
The engine is great, but overshadowed by Porsche's brilliant PDK system. The dual-clutch gearbox is the quickest and smoothest gearbox on the planet. It is so good in fact, that when I was in a Ferrari 458 Italia, I wondered why the Macan's shifts we're quicker and crisper - and it's not even a supercar. The shifts are so immediate, I worry that the tachometer needle might just snap off completely. And don't get me started on the steering, because after driving this one, the next car feels like garbage.
"I've honestly driven less sportier handling sports cars than this, yet I can seat four more people with me to enjoy the ride."
Mated to all the engine and transmission's brilliance is a wonderful chassis. Yes, it does share its platform with the Audi Q5 but about 75% of it has been revamped by Porsche and they say that in hindsight, it may have been easier to have built the car completely from scratch. The chassis is lovely and balanced. The Macan can clip apex after apex of corners tighter than your junior prom date. Yes, I said it. I've honestly driven less sportier handling sports cars than this, yet I can seat four more people with me to enjoy the ride. The only thing that tells you that you aren't in a coupé is the ride commanding ride height. Otherwise, it's completely planted with very little hints of body roll.
It's also a smooth operator in the city and on highways. As I mentioned earlier, I was never really impressed with Porsche as a young boy even when I was surrounded by people that drove them. I never understood the brilliance and charm of the cars from Stuttgart, until I drove one. Today, there isn't a single Porsche that I do not desperately desire, from a peppy Macan to a track hooligan 911 GT3 RS. I want it all. You see, it is one thing to like a car, but a completely different thing to desire ownership. The Macan brings the European sports car magic with real world practicality. It is hands down the most engaging and best handling compact SUV on the planet. That, I can promise you.
And best of all, it's a Porsche.