It’s the driving, stupid…

The new Porsche Macan is just like the old Porsche Macan. Looks good, drives even better and remains top of the charts at Porsche’s ever-growing success.

Porsche makes outstanding sports cars. That much we know. But there is something else the company is very, very good at: reading the market and predicting the future.

In 2002, when the Cayenne was launched, many envisaged Porsche would never be the same, that it had lost its identity and that a sports car brand could never produce a big, heavy, high-riding vehicle. Yeah, right.

Then came the Panamera, a four-door saloon, the Macan, a junior Cayenne and even a shooting brake in the form of the Panamera Sport Turismo. And how are they doing? Well, selling like never before.

In the first semester, Porsche sold 133.484 cars to customers. No typo there. That’s one hundred and thirty-three thousand, four hundred and eighty four cars.

22.247 every month. 741 per day. Almost 31 with each passing hour. Quite unbelievable, isn’t it?

But that’s not all. In the beginning of the year, when I attended the presentation of the new Macan, I was caught by surprise by the fact they had decided to ditch the diesel version. In Portugal, at least, it was the clear best-seller. Obviously, that was the first question anybody asked come Q&A time.

“Well – the guys from Porsche said – diesel only accounted for 13% of our global sales, so after abandoning the technology in the Cayenne and the Panamera, it seemed logical to do the same in the Macan”. Diesel and Porsche, not two words to be read on the same sentence ever again.

But would Macan sales suffer without a diesel version? Or was Porsche foreseeing the future as so many times before? Well, turns out, they were. Those sales numbers I mentioned before? Well, they are 2% up on 2018. It seems like diesel is not being missed.

This means the Macan is now offered in two versions: the entry-level model, with a 2 litre, 245 horse power four-cylinder engine; and the S version with a six-cylinder, 3 litre, turbocharged V6, producing 354 horse power. Both engines are coupled with the 7-speed PDK transmission. Later on, Turbo and GTS monikers will likely make a return and offer even more performance and driver focus.

The new Macan has fully independent axles and an updated suspension that improves steering feedback as well as ride comfort. New brake discs and redesigned brake pedal assemblies provide better stopping power. Very important: the options list includes height-adjustable air suspension, a must if you want your Macan to be just compliant off as on road.

Like the day it was first launched, the Macan still reigns as the SUV for those who prioritise driving pleasure. It all starts in a driving position that is more sports car than SUV: really low and with a perfect reach of the steering wheel, a clear view to all sides and beautiful leather seats.

It takes two corners to understand the engineers at Porsche know something others don’t. At almost two tonnes, the Macan shouldn’t be able to drive this well. To corner like it does. To feel as good through every direction change. This is not a car for poseurs who want to be seen in a Porsche (although it works for them just as well, of course), this is a car for people who wanted a 911 but need four real seats and a big luggage compartment.

Obviously, let’s not kid ourselves by saying the Macan is just as good to drive as a 911, because it just isn’t, but it sure gets closer than any other SUV out there. Even the smaller 2 litre engine is a feisty thing, with enough performance to put a smile on your face. It’s only when you drive the bigger unit that you may feel kind of short-changed by the entry-level car. The S version is on another level, as it should be.

Which brings us to the same old problems we face here in Portugal: the 2 liter starts at just under €81.000, whereas the 3 liter starts at, wait for it, €98.000. That’s right, the difference is a whopping €17.000. Take England, for example: not even £47.000 for the 2 liter and £49.000 for the S. Not only do these seem like prices for another planet, the gap between them is much more reasonable.

It really is a pity we are not ‘allowed’ to buy the cars we really want. At least in the Macan, as I mentioned, there is plenty of pleasure to be had from the smaller engined car – and if that matters to you, the difference at the pump will be around 3 liters for every 100km. No small thing.

Stepping inside, little has changed. There is a new Porsche Communication Management infotainment system, redesigned air vents and somehow a feeling of even more quality in the details, but the basics remain the same. The interior architecture doesn’t look as avantgarde as in other Porsche models, but I don’t mind all the buttons – once you learn where they are and what they do, they are easier to use than any touchscreen, no matter what industry techies tell you.

A friend of mine called three months ago and said: I am buying a Jaguar i-Pace, the new electric SUV that won the 2019 European Car of the Year. I said: would you mind trying a Macan first? He didn’t. His Porsche arrives next week.

By Guilherme Marques