Porsche purists, avert your eyes, for this is the antithesis of everything you know and love.
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 252 hp, 273 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 25 hwy
Can Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.6 city, 9.3 hwy
US Price: Starts at $47,500 (before freight)
CAN Price: Starts at $52,700 (before freight)
It’s the 2017 Porsche Macan, and it’s bringing your beloved brand to the masses with a new base model that is, at least by Porsche standards, alarmingly affordable. It also just so happens to be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, part of a growing trend towards forced induction and small displacement. But before you write it off as some sort of wannabe — or worse still, a rebadged Audi Q5 — know that this new Macan doesn’t signal the beginning of the end of Porsche as you know it. Quite the contrary, actually.
The Same, Only Different
Look past the tiny turbocharged engine — or the fact that it sits fore of the driver, not aft — and cute ute dimensions, and the Macan, even in base trim, is still a Porsche. That means a sport utility with an emphasis on the sport, happy to dive headlong into a corner or dart off the line in ways much of the competition simply can’t. It’s also predicated upon the same principles that have made the Macan, previously only available in V6-powered S, GTS and Turbo guise, the best-selling model from Porsche in its two short years on the market.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Porsche Macan GTS Review
So what, you’re no doubt wondering, is the new Macan all about? It’s quite simple, really. Take a Macan S, keep all the good suspension and drivetrain bits, replace its turbocharged six-cylinder with a turbo four, and call it a day. Which brings me to my next point: Had I bought a Macan S within the last year or so, I’d be pretty miffed right about now. The base Macan sacrifices little that’s noticeable compared to the previous entry-level model, but starts at about $7,000 less.
But get up close and the cost savings will quickly start to show. Rectangular tailpipes stick out from under the rear bumper versus the Porsche signature quad round tips; the window surround is matte black instead of aluminum; the brakes are slightly smaller and feature black calipers; and a new five-spoke 18-inch wheel design looks a bit like an afterthought (the same array of optional wheels available on other Macan models can be added, however).
Step inside, and the differences are less noticeable. Aluminum scuff plates are essentially the lone absentee, while the interior is decked out in black trim and gets black gauges. That’s about it.
Being the same as the rest of the Macan lineup also means rear seat legroom that isn’t great for regularly transporting, say, a family of four, and a trunk that is likewise a touch cramped when hauling more than a week’s groceries or a couple of medium-sized suitcases.
No Bark, Lots of Bite
Like the newly named 718 Series, which includes the mid-engined Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe, the base Macan gets its power from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Borrowed from the Audi Q5, the 2.0-liter powerplant has been reworked to make 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque — 32 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft of torque than its platform mate. Unlike the boxer four-cylinders developed for the 718 Series, though, the engine doesn’t make that signature sound of the horizontally opposed pistons working away. In fact, it doesn’t make any noise worth listening to, particularly without the optional sport exhaust added to the order sheet.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S Review
Output is down significantly compared to the Macan S, with its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 putting out 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, but what the base Macan gives up in power it more than compensates for at the pumps, with a combined fuel economy rating of 22 mpg (10.6 L/100 km) compared to the S model’s 19 mpg (12.2 L/100 km). It’s also no slouch, and is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in a scant 6.1 seconds with the sport chrono package (it runs from rest to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds with the $1,500 option added) — about a second slower than the V6-powered S.
Coupled with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, power delivery is smooth if a little sluggish, with all 273 lb-ft of torque coming online at a reasonable 1,600 rpm, leaving little room for turbo lag. A country drive provided the ideal setting in which to enjoy the 2.0-liter’s quiet confidence, the engine happily humming along at speeds upwards of 60 mph, with plenty of power underfoot for passing slower traffic.
Fortuitous Track Toy
Taking a compact sport utility to the racetrack may not be top of mind for most owners, but that is exactly where the Macan shows its Porsche DNA most. Take it to the track, and the Macan won’t leave you craving a Cayman as much as you’d think. Find the “sport plus” button among the countless others on the console, and the Macan is surprisingly dynamic, providing plenty of thrills as you toss it into turns. Even with the standard steel spring suspension setup, the Macan proves eager and more than adequate, keeping its composure even when the turns tighten. With light and nimble steering, the Macan easily responds to input by traveling in the direction you want when you want, working off its own momentum by rotating with little fuss, arming itself for the next turn.
It’s also in the corners where its no-frills approach pays dividends, allowing the Macan to easily keep pace with the much more powerful — and expensive — Macan GTS despite a serious power disadvantage. The Macan has paddle shifters, but the gearbox is so on-point — particularly in sport or sport plus modes — that it’s best to simply leave them be and let the magic of the Porsche Doppelkupplung go to work.
Not Cheap, ‘Inexpensive’
…OK, at least by Porsche standards. Starting at $47,500 ($52,700 in Canada), the base Macan falls smack between the Audi Q5 and SQ5, and in line with a BMW X3 xDrive35i. What you get for that price, however, is pretty basic for a premium vehicle. The centre stack, including the infotainment unit, looks dated, while features like navigation and adaptive cruise control aren’t standard equipment.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Review
It does, however, feature plenty of creature comforts out of the box, including leather and alcantara seats (which are heated along with the steering wheel in Canada), tri-zone climate control, the latest version of Porsche’s infotainment interface, lane departure warning, cruise control, a backup camera, and park assist sensors front and rear. And, in case you’re wondering, it is still a Porsche, meaning the Macan can be optioned well into Macan Turbo territory. Adaptive damping, air suspension, panoramic sunroof, sport chrono pack — those are but a few from the long list of options that can easily add thousands to the order sheet.
The Verdict: 2017 Porsche Macan Review
The most passionate of Porsche fans haven’t exactly rejoiced over the Macan, regarding the cute ute as yet another way for a broader audience to infiltrate their typically tight ranks. And they aren’t wrong. But it’s also part of the brand’s future, one that strikes a balance between performance and practicality. Porsche fans shouldn’t complain too much, however, because this Macan will sell in huge numbers and fund the development of the next Porsche sports cars.