2017 Porsche Macan GTS Review

Driving with Your Head in the Clouds

The road was ours, all of it. Two twisting, undulating lanes of asphalt providing the room needed to follow a proper racing line on our trip to the clouds.

Strapped in, engine idling, I was ready for action… well, as prepared as any ham-fisted scribe can be in an unfamiliar vehicle on a stretch of pavement he’d never traversed before, much less at speed.

Waiting pensively, the walkie-talkie finally crackled to life, signaling the commencement of our ascent. No time for worry, my right foot reflexively buried the Macan GTS’s accelerator deep into its thick-pile carpeting as our Porsche convoy set off on a punishing twelve-and-a-half-mile trudge up one of the most famous mountains in the Colorado Rockies: Pikes Peak.

Professional Help

Simultaneously easing and enhancing my anxiety, the pace of this once-in-a-lifetime trip was as being set by veteran racer Jeff Zwart, a renaissance man with more talents than seems fair. He’s an eight-time international class champion racing up this hill as well as a gifted photographer and filmmaker.

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But the man’s true gift is driving. Mozart worked with musical notes and Einstein numbers, but Zwart’s medium is speed, which became obvious by about turn 3 of the 156 that comprise the Pikes Peak circuit. He coolly negotiated one hairpin after another while chatting over the radio about road conditions or what’s around the next bend. Meanwhile, I’m missing apexes and sweating buckets despite the chilly morning conditions as I struggle to keep up with the specially modified 911 GT2 he’s piloting.

Porsche-911-GT2

His guiding hand proved invaluable while traversing this unfamiliar and potentially deadly mountain motorway; the pace at which he led our multi-Macan procession was cause for concern on several occasions. Guardrails are few, run-off space even scarcer; botch a corner and you’re on a roll… down the mountain’s side.

Reach for the Sky

Cleaving the gap between Porsche’s Macan S and Turbo models, the GTS features a muscular 3.0-liter engine under its curving hood. This 90-degree V6 sports twin turbochargers, a variable-valve lift system and plenty of other technology, all of which conspire to deliver suitably muscular performance.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS Review

GTS variants are graced with 360 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of peak torque, which is routed to all four wheels through a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, that’s Porsche Doppelkupplung in Zuffenhausen parlance. When equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package, this compact luxury crossover can hit 60 miles an hour in just 4.8 seconds and has a terminal velocity of 159 miles an hour.

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But as we stormed from corner to corner, the engine’s imposing low-altitude vigor began to taper off, partly because the incline seems to steepen the higher you climb, but also because of the overt lack of oxygen. The zenith of Pikes Peak exceeds 14,000 feet, a dizzying elevation in more ways than one. At that height above sea level the air is so thin just walking about results in mild disorientation, strenuous activity makes it feel like the world’s suddenly gone slow motion. But even in the limited atmosphere, my test Macan’s sporty exhaust note keeps me alert, ready for the next corner. This is one sexy-sounding crossover, with a banshee-like wail as the tachometer needle sweeps to the top of its range.

Rare Air

Helping manage all of its performance potential is an air suspension system, which is standard on every Macan GTS. Riding height can be adjusted, as can stiffness, allowing a driver to tailor the experience to his or her preference. For our run up the mountain we just left it in Sport Plus, for the most eager performance available.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Porsche Macan S Review

As one would expect in a Porsche, this compact crossover’s steering is tight, with a sense of heft belying its trim dimensions. Crank the wheel a few degrees off center and the GTS responds with enthusiasm, diving into corners with sports-car verve. How can a utility vehicle drive like this? Simple, it’s built by the same people responsible for the 911 and Cayman.

Not surprisingly, massive brakes bring this entire package to a rapid halt, though the pedal feels a bit soft; some more heft to the binders might be appreciated. Still, on our eventual descent they remained fade-free even after repeated heavy usage, just as they should. The Macan GTS’s front rotors measure more than 14 inches in diameter (360 mm) and are clamped by fixed calipers with six pistons.

2017 Porsche Macan GTS

It would take me a lifetime or two to save enough to park one of these in my garage, but our trip up the mountain took considerably less time, roughly 14 minutes, which is not bad for half a dozen automotive journalists. Unfortunately, compared to Zwart it was an eternity. He did the same deed in less than 10 back in 2015, with speeds approaching 150 miles an hour. The Macan GTS is plenty fast, but it’s no match for one of his built-up racecars.

Of course if you want to climb Pikes Peak, you can as well. In fact, it’s a huge tourist draw, but not everyone gets to do it in a high-performance automobile with the road all to themselves. Posted speed limits are slow, as are the trundling Corollas, Sonatas and Tahoes you’re bound to be trapped behind.

A Refuge in the Mountains

Unfortunately, during our drive up Pikes Peak, we had little time to appraise this vehicle’s interior; keeping it on the intended line and away from precipices were my top priorities. But in typical Porsche fashion, the cabin is impeccably built. Everything is as solid as the granite that comprises much of Colorado and constructed of top-rung materials. Various switches and controls work with watch-like fluidity; even the seats are comfortable for hours, though more bolstering would have been welcomed on our hill climb. My core isn’t strong enough for threading switchbacks at speed.

About the only downside to this Macan’s cockpit is the navigation/infotainment system, which is needlessly complicated. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay is available for an extra charge because Porsche wants all of your money and isn’t shy about asking for it.

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Bring your Checkbook

When it comes to cash, the Macan GTS starts at $68,250 including $1,050 in delivery fees.

But would you like SportDesign side-view mirrors? That’ll be an extra $565. How about the leather interior package with Alcantara trim? You’ll need to shell out $4,790. Do you need a heated steering wheel? If so, prepare to spend an additional $250. Nothing is free here, except the smoking package. No, I’m not kidding; it’s actually a zero-cost option, apparently because more people need a nicotine addiction.

With features like these, the model in which I tackled Pikes Peak left the factory wearing a price tag of $86,250 out the door, a price that makes it as rare as oxygen at 14,000 feet.

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The Verdict: 2017 Porsche Macan GTS Review

Damp with perspiration, my knuckles bleached from attempting to crush the steering wheel for the preceding 12 miles, we finally round the last bend and blast across the finish line. Coasting to a saner speed as we pull into the parking lot, which is scattered with potholes that serve as a muddy reminder of the dirt course that lead to the summit just a few years ago. The thought of negotiating this ascent on gravel just makes the whole thing seem even crazier.

Happily, I survived my first drive up Pikes Peak, though I was dehydrated by the desert-like air and from perspiring the whole way. Upon reaching the summit, I attempted to catch my breath while standing at eye level with a smattering of clouds but it was a lost cause so I took a hit of canned oxygen provided by Porsche’s PR staff, though this turned out to be more of a humorous novelty than functional aid. Aside from my lips turning blue, at this point all that was left to worry about was the descent, which was sure to put the GTS’s brakes through their paces.

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But the Macan is up for just about anything after surmounting Pikes Peak. It’s a tremendously engaging and capable luxury crossover, especially if high-speed mountain climbing is one of your hobbies, though it’s just as much at home on long interstate stretches and race circuits. If you need utility but can’t bear to live without sports-car dynamics, the GTS has your name on it.

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