Likes going off-road. Loves the track.
The Porsche Cayenne has, since its inception, lived up to the crest on its hood. It’s quick, agile, and when lined up against its foes, just better to drive. And its reign may have just come to an end. The new Porsche Macan is smaller, lighter and—thanks to a heavily massaged Audi Q5 chassis—way more fun on a racetrack. We drove both the 340-hp Macan S and 400-hp Macan Turbo in Leipzig and quizzed Porsche’s engineers for new intel. Here’s what we learned.
It’s the First Complete Porsche Built at Leipzig
Porsche invested half a million Euros expanding its Leipzig assembly plant to accommodate production of 50,000 Macans a year. That facility also produces the
Panamera and Cayenne, but unlike those larger Porsches, the Macan is built almost entirely on location at this plant, with the exception of its aluminum
hood and tailgate. Each Macan is born at Station No. 1810, where the floor of its bodyshell is assembled.
Coincidentally, it takes 387 robots to fit together the 387 stamped body parts of the Macan on the factory floor. The new SUV’s body weighs 1045 lbs (110
more than a Panamera) and requires 6000 spot welds, 5200 of which are done at Leipzig.
It’s More Porsche than Audi
The Porsche Macan and the Audi Q5 share the same wheelbase, but the Macan is slightly longer, lower and wider. And every body panel on the Macan’s exterior is unique. In fact, the Macan only
borrows about 30 percent of its components from the Q5.
Most of what’s shared is in the platform’s lower frame sections. The powertrain is pure Porsche, with a choice of two twin-turbo V6 engines,
both paired to the PDK gearbox and routed to Porsche’s own all-wheel-drive system. The front and rear differentials are shared with Audi, as are the
suspension arms. But the springs, dampers, stabilizer bars, and bushings are uniquely tweaked by Porsche. In a hat tip to Audi, Porsche’s engineers told us
that the suspension geometry was so good that they weren’t tempted to change it, save for slightly more toe angle.
The brake package is bigger and more capable than every Q5 except the SQ5, with 13.8-inch front rotors and six-piston calipers (13.0-inch at the rear) on
the S and even heftier 14.2-inch discs on the Turbo (14-inch in back). Come October, Macan buyers will also be able choose the PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes.
While the Macan and Q5 share the same power steering system, the Porsche uses a quicker ratio. Thanks to how it’s tuned, it generally feels heftier and more precise. Porsche also runs wider wheels and tires at the rear, which not only adds visual gravitas to the Macan’s stance,
but also provides more rear end grip and helps sharpen the steering.
It Doesn’t Drive like a Q5
On Porsche’s 2.3-mile test track just outside the Leipzig factory, the Macan further separates itself from its Audi cousin. The circuit itself is a blast to drive—it even incorporates a corkscrew that’s a dead ringer for Laguna Seca’s. There, the Macan, which weighs 300 lbs less than the Audi, feels agile, purposeful, and, most importantly, fun. It’s more agile than a Q5, sure. That’s partially due to a 300-lb weight reduction, but it’s that suspension and steering tuning that makes it feel so good. Hit the Sport Plus button, and the PDK works the technical miracles we’ve become accustomed to, knowing which gear you want before even you do.
Buyers would do well to drop the $1490 on the available Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV)
rear differential. Combined with Porsche’s rear-biased all-wheel-drive tuning, it all but eliminated understeer. Pile into a corner in a Macan with PTV, feed in throttle, and you can feel the slight initial
understeer become oversteer as the rear end starts to wiggle under full throttle. On the street, the dramatic effects of PTV are less
noticeable, but we can imagine huge benefits in snowy climes.
Quattro wasn’t good enough for the Macan
If there were one part of Audi’s drivetrain you’d expect Porsche to keep, it would be Quattro. But it doesn’t. Porsche needed a system that could bias more torque from front to rear more
freely. In fact, Porsche Traction Management (PTM), which uses an electronically-controlled clutch, can actively send 100 percent of the available torque to
either the front or rear tires. Quattro is mechanical, and under normal circumstances sends 60 percent of the torque aft and 40 percent
forward. But even when slip is sensed, Quattro can’t redistribute as much torque to the front or rear axles as the Porsche AWD system. According to
Porsche engineers, it is the PTM system and its propensity to bias torque to the rear axle that makes the Macan so much fun to drive.
The Macan Turbo isn’t Scary
Since the very first Porsche 930 rolled onto the street almost forty years ago, turbocharged Porsches have been some of the most exhilarating and
frightening beasts in the world to drive. The current 911 Turbo is a monster. We clocked it to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds.
Two. Point. Six.
That’s insane. Both the Panamera Turbo and the Cayenne Turbo feel scary quick,
too. But the Macan Turbo just isn’t as extreme. And it’s important to note that all Macans are turbos. The $50,990 Macan S uses a 340-hp 3.0-liter
twin-turbocharged V6. The $73,295 Macan Turbo simply runs a larger 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing an even 400 hp. Porsche says the 0-60 mph times drop from 5.2 seconds in the Macan S to 4.6 seconds in the Turbo. But after spending time
with both, this Macan Turbo just doesn’t feel like a huge leap in terms of thrust. You’re not left awestruck. And since each additional horsepower costs $372, we’d be inclined to forgo the Turbo’s extra ponies and stick with the less powerful
The Clamshell Hood Is More Important Than You Think
Porsche Chief Designer Michael Mauer says he wanted to develop a unique identity for the Macan. He says that normally, the brand identity of a
Porsche in the front end is the V-shaped shut line to the hood. But they wanted something more special for the Macan. “One of the young designers showed
me a picture of a race car with a clamshell hood open. He asked me why we couldn’t do this for the Macan. So now we have something that is completely
unique in the segment,” says Mauer. The Macan’s rear-hinged clamshell hood is aluminum and weighs just 29.6 lbs. It’s stamped at VW’s Bratislava plant
and is beautifully roller-hemmed along its front edge by robots using what look like mini English wheels.
The Cargo Penalty
Slip behind the steering wheel of a Macan (a wheel it shares with Porsche’s $845,000 hypercar, the 918), and the layout rings familiar. The wide, button-heavy center console could be from any other modern Porsche. Compared to the Q5, Macan drivers sit lower and
deeper in the cabin. It feels more like a sporty hatchback than a compact crossover. Cabin space is in line with the Q5, but the sloping rear window cuts into available cargo room. The Macan’s 17.7
cubic-feet of luggage space with the rear seats in place is a far cry from the Audi Q5’s 29.1 cubic feet. So when you plan a weekend getaway in the Macan, pack creatively.
The upside is, you’ll enjoy the ride.