2015 Porsche Macan Driving Impressions

Regardless of model, the Porsche Macan will feel sporty and capable on the road. It's only when you push it hard that you notice the difference between models and pricey options.

The base Macan S is best as a commuter and perfectly fine for everyday driving. Acceleration is more than ample thanks to the new 340-hp turbocharged V6. Porsche says the base Macan S can go from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds from, or 5.0 seconds with Porsche's optional Chrono package.

During a test on Horse Thief Mile, a tight racing circuit with wildly changing elevation at the Willow Springs facility, we found the standard suspension to be little sloppy, with noticeable nose-dive and body roll. When equipped with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), the ride gets noticeably firmer and in control. Even better is the optional Air Suspension, which includes PASM and provides continuous dampening and three ride height settings, which essentially turns the Macan from family vehicle to track-day car. But to make Macan truly race-worthy, one can add the optional Torque Vectoring Plus system, which automatically distributes torque between the wheels during hard cornering for maximum grip and performance.

To and from the racetrack, we drove the twisty roads of Angeles Crest Highway, and found that even on the streets, our Macan S test car was simply too willowy in Comfort mode, even with the pricey air suspension. Sport suspension tightened things up, but by far the best way to drive was in Sport Plus, which reduced body roll to a minimum and made the challenging roads a joy to drive. Compared to Porsche's sports cars (like the 911 and even the Cayman/Boxters), Sport Plus didn't seem as aggressive, though this is not surprising considering the Macan's role as a multipurpose vehicle.

With the Macan Turbo, the power difference in the 400-hp engine is instantly recognizable. On a test run at the Streets of Willow racetrack, even the slowpokes in our group put down a significantly faster lap time than in the Macan S. Plus, the Turbo's glorious exhaust note made everyone feel like a hero, even if not everyone drove like one. The estimated 0-60 mph time for the Macan Turbo is a mere 4.6 seconds, or 4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono package (the same estimated time as the Cayenne Turbo). The same suspension options for the S are also available on the Turbo.

Though the Macan is technically all-wheel drive, Porsche's active all-wheel-drive system varies how much power goes to either axle, depending on road conditions and terrain. This makes the Macan suitable for driving in all conditions, including snow and rain. In normal driving, 100 percent of the torque is sent to the rear, creating that true Porsche rear-wheel-drive feel.

The 7-speed Porsche's PDK transmission is the only gearbox available on the Macan, and can be used in automatic mode, or in manual mode with paddle shifters. In automatic mode, it will predict and shift into the proper gear just like a regular automatic. With the normal setting, we found it erred more on the side of fuel economy, and didn't give us as much oomph as we'd expect from a Porsche. In sport and sport plus modes, it's much more fun, holding gears longer and shifting at higher RPMs to get the most out of either V6 powerplant. On the downside, shifts aren't always very smooth, especially when accelerating hard in Sport and Sport Plus.

Steering in the Macan isn't quite Porsche 911 pure, but it's impressive for a four-door, even with the all-wheel-drive. It gives the car a nimble, responsive feel, and always gives the driver plenty of feedback. Brakes, too, are firm and confident, and while they might not stand repeated hard braking after a full day on the racetrack, they are more than capable for racing about town and spirited weekend drives.

A moderately challenging offroad course proved the Macan wasn't merely a city slicker. While larger SUVs like the Cayenne are normally tuned on the more compliant side, the Macan's lower ride height necessitates a firmer suspension to maintain ground clearance. With the push of the Offroad button, the Macan stiffens up its suspension and changes the default torque split to 50/50 front/rear (100 percent of torque is sent to the rear wheels in normal driving). On cars equipped with the optional air suspension, the Macan also raised up 1.5 inches.

We felt the Porsche traction management system kick in as we tackled deep ruts in the sandy soil of the Southern California desert, transferring power between wheels as needed to keep us from getting stuck. On the way down, hill descent control, which works at vehicle speeds between 2 and 18 mph, kept us at a steady pace without our having to use the gas or the brakes. Though the Macan isn't suited for serious offroading, it's nice to know it can stray off the beaten path from time to time, even if most of its owners will never attempt more than backing over a curb in the mall parking lot.

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