published Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Test Drive: Porsche Macan S is chip off the old (engine) block from midsize Cayenne

The new 2015 Macan gives Porshe an entry in the popular compact luxury SUV segment.
The new 2015 Macan gives Porshe an entry in the popular compact luxury SUV segment.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2015 Porsche Macan S

Exterior color: White

Interior color: Luxor Beige

Engine: 3.0-liter, twin turbo

Horsepower: 340

Transmission: seven-speed automatic (with manual mode)

Fuel economy: 23 mpg highway, 19 mpg city

Dealer: Porsche of Chattanooga

Price (as tested): $68,250

Porsche dealers have longed for a baby sibling to the midsize Cayenne, which virtually created the market for high-performance luxury crossover SUVs.

Well, the baby has arrived, and it's quite a chip off the old (engine) block.

Copies of the new compact luxury Porsche Macan (pronounced Ma-cahn) have begun arriving at Porsche of Chattanooga on Lee Highway, and genial General Manager James Vandermerwe invited us out earlier this week for a test drive.

Pound for pound, the compact Macan is every bit as sporty as the mid-size Cayenne, and perhaps even more fun to drive due to its lighter curb weight and tighter turning radius. Our tester was outfitted in S trim and equipped with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 making 340 horsepower. A higher performance Turbo trim promises 400 horsepower when it arrives later this year. (To clear up any confusion, the S and Turbo trims both have turbocharged engines. It's a Porsche thing.)

The base price of the Macan is $49,900, but luxury and performance options increase the sticker price on our tester to $68,250. European nameplates are good about itemizing extras. You learn from the window sticker, for example, that those Porsche logos embossed on the headrests are a $570 upgrade.

FEATURES AND STYLING

Jon Lancaster, sales professional at Porsche of Chattanooga, gave us a demonstration of the Macan's excellent telematics and its high-tech engine compartment, which is capped with an all-aluminum hood that serves as an air diffuser to keep the motor running at an optimum temperature.

The exterior of our Macan tester shines in gleaming white. Not Polar White, not Snowflake White, just plain white -- a nice departure from the contrived names often associated with auto paint colors. (Alpine Metallic Tri-coat Pearl, anyone?) If you insist on an compound name, our Macan's interior was done in Luxor Beige.

The Macan, like the Cayenne, has an unmistakable Porsche fascia -- the hood has cutouts that frame the swept headlamps. The A-pillar and C-pillar are steeply raked, and the Macan has prominent haunches that add muscle to its planted profile. Twenty-inch RS Spyder design wheels add personality at a cost of $1,650. The Macan's rounded rump is a design echo from the iconic Porsche 911 sports car.

Sales Professional Jerry Hickey showed off the Macan's ample storage area -- 17.7 cubic feet with the rear seats upright and 53 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Hickey and Lancaster noted that the Macan is capable of towing just over 5,000 pounds.

Inside, the Macan's cockpit is a work of art. The steering wheel, a finely sculpted blend of dark walnut, metal and leather, could be under glass in a museum of modern design. The seats are deep and comfortable, and the headrests adjust forward to help occupants find a comfortable riding position. It leaves you thinking: Why don't all cars have this feature?

The lone sunroof option is a panoramic arc of glass that bridges front and back seating areas. The back seat is fine for two, but tight for three occupants due to a prominent floor hump. This is a vehicle for couples and/or families with one or two children.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Crank the Macan and it rumbles to life with a throaty exhaust note. There's a reason you're at a Porsche store and not shopping for a Honda CR-V, right?

On a mid-day test drive in Highway 153 traffic, the Macan was a blast to press hard on the looping on-ramps. It also has lots of mid-range torque to help you merge and thread through traffic. The seven-speed PDK transmission is silky, almost silent, in automatic mode, but can be switched to clutchless-manual mode for a sportier driving experience. Paddle shifters behind that fancy steering wheel are a thoughtful touch.

I found myself mesmerized by a dash gauge that gives you real-time feedback on the torque split between the front and rear wheels. At cruising speed, about 80 percent of the power goes to the back wheels, but when driving hard or in inclement weather, power shifts incrementally to the front wheels.

A sport driving mode, accessed by a button on the Macan's gorgeous center stack, sharpens throttle response and firms up steering for a more spirited ride. The 340-horsepower S version seems plenty strong, even for performance enthusiasts. Stepping up to the 400-horsepower Turbo is mostly about bragging rights, I'd say.

BOTTOM LINE

The Macan is a sport-tuned rocket that can also provide a calm, sedate ride to the mall. This versatility is what makes Porsche SUVs so desirable to certain buyers. You get two vehicles in one garage space, which, even at this price point, adds up to a compelling value.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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