BY JONATHAN CROUCH
Porsche's Macan is an SUV with the soul - and the engineering - or a sportscar. You might expect it to be fast and family-friendly. More of a surprise is that it's rewarding and, with the right spec, very nearly race-ready in its responses. Yet it'll comfortably take you off road, deal with the school run and cruise down to Chamonix. It's very special. Let's check out the pre-facelift MK1 version as a used buy.
Lots of unlikely models have been described as 'sports cars' over the years: estates, People Carriers, Crossovers - even off roading 4x4s. In truth of course, the real thing is very different. Is this it? Welcome to the Porsche Macan.
At launch in 2014, the Zuffenhausen maker described this model as 'the first sports car in the compact SUV segment'- the ultimate multi-tasker. A car as ready for a circuit as it would be for a skiing trip, classy enough for the streets of Monte Carlo, soundly sensible on the school run, quietly capable on the rough stuff and potentially manic around Monza. The company's certainly well-placed to create such a thing, claiming the whole 'sporting all-wheel drive car' concept as its own invention. Back in 1900, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Lohner-Porsche racing model with its four electric wheelhub motors. By 1947, the brand was going further, developing a supercharged 12 cylinder 'Type 360' Cisitalia Grand Prix racer that introduced the concept of full four-wheel drive.
For all that though, the Stuttgart maker had never made a car quite like this before the Macan. Perhaps that's why it initially turned to Volkswagen Group partner Audi with the early idea of basing this car on that company's similarly-sized Q5. It wasn't long into the development process though, that Porsche decided it knew better. It alone could create the kind of compact sporting SUV that models like the Q5, Range Rover's Evoque and the BMW X4 could never be. So almost everything was re-invented. Almost everything was re-imagined. Almost everything was different. As this car is from just about everything else in its segment. It was substantially updated in late 2018, at which time diesel power was dropped. Here though, we're focusing on the pre-facelift models.
What You Get
So what exactly should a practical but potent family sportscar really look like? It's difficult to think of any brand better qualified to build such a thing than Porsche, though this car's larger Cayenne SUV stablemate has rather struggled with the concept. This Macan though, delivers on it far more successfully. Familiar brand styling cues are plentiful but they seem far less contrived in this case, with references not only to the Cayenne and the 911 but also to the Stuttgart maker's supercars, past and present.
It's certainly different at the wheel, less like any kind of sporting SUV and more like a thoroughbred sports estate - maybe something like a Jaguar XFR Sportbrake or a Mercedes-AMG C63. Cocooning you 911-style into your brilliantly supportive multi-adjustable leather or alcantara-trimmed sports seat is a button-heavy lower console section with its bank of chrome-trimmed switches running down the transmission tunnel and creating a wrap-around cockpit-like feel.
In the rear, three adults can certainly fit OK and there's a decent amount of head and knee room. Here's one area in which this car is exactly the same as its development cousin, the Audi Q5, which isn't surprising given that its wheelbase is identical. Out back, the total 500-litre capacity is 40-litres less than that Q5 and it'll certainly be a lot less than you're used to if you're down-sizing from a larger sporting SUV. If you need more room, the rear backrest folds in a useful 40:20:40-split that means you can poke through longer items like skis without disturbing rear seat passengers. Push the rear bench completely forward and a 1,500-litre capacity is freed up - which is very class-competitive.
What to Look For
Not much goes wrong. Some owners have had problems with non-engine electrics and there was a recall in the US to fix faulty fuel pumps, although this is not known to affect European models. Others have reported engine warning lights coming on and some servicing work has been needed for some owners with the engine control units. Check the bodywork for scuffs from the urban jungle and make sure the expensive alloy wheels haven't picked up too much kerb damage. Check the interior for child damage in the rear and scuffs in the boot. And of course insist on a fully stamped-up service history. We came across some particular specialists in Macan information, sales and maintenance; try www.jzmachtech.com (sales and service), www.saxton4x4.co.uk (sales), or www.porscheownersclub.org.uk (club).
(Estimated prices, based on a 2015 year S Diesel) Macan spares are predictably quite pricey, although they never cross the border into exorbitant. An oil filter is around £20. A fuel filter is around £37. A front brake pad set is around £105, though you could pay up to around £175 for a pricier brand. Rear pads are in the £50 bracket. You're looking at around £125 for a front brake disc. Rear discs are in the £72 bracket. A headlight bulb is around £5. A wiper blade is around £25. A radiator is around £260.
On the Road
So, what might the self-proclaimed 'sportscar of SUVs' be like to drive? In answer, we'd say that Porsche are certainly right about one thing: this Macan is certainly very different from any other model of this kind we've seen to date. Don't think Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 or even BMW X4. Think instead of a premium, powerful all-wheel drive uber-hot hatch like a Volkswagen Golf R or a Mercedes A45 AMG. The change is that significant.
Or at least it is in the potent Turbo model, powered as it is by the bigger of the two V6 bi-turbo petrol engines offered to Macan buyers, this one a 3.6-litre unit putting out plenty, with 400 braked horses straining at the leash to power you from rest to 62mph in just 4.8s on the way to 165mph flat out. An even more focused 440hp Turbo 'Performance Package' version offered even more punch. Most original Macan buyers opted for something a bit humbler than that. Most popular in this pre-facelift model was the 3.0 V6 Macan S diesel, which put out 258hp. There's also a Macan S petrol model, which also uses a 3.0-litre V6, this time a 340hp petrol unit (also available in 360hp form in an uprated 'GTS' model). A 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo petrol engine was also provided in 237hp form. A bespoke 4WD system, a 'Sport' button and 7-speed PDK auto transmission are standard fit on every Macan. And original buyers got a choice of passive dampers, adaptive damping or air suspension.
This is, in summary, the car all its rivals would like to be. The car most buyers in this segment would like to have. There are, it's true, more efficient or more spacious choices in this sector. Some premium compact SUVs are better equipped or will take you further off road. And almost all will cost slightly less.
For all that though, this is an addictive package, a segment-defining car and a very desirable thing indeed.