The new 2017 Porsche Macan, the luxury brand’s most affordable model, sinks to new lows ― in pricing at least. A new $52,700 base trim level drops the cost of entry by $4,500 while adding a fuel-efficient 2.0L turbo capable of delivering 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. When combined with a near 100kg lighter curb weight of 1,770 kg, it results in a sporty 0-100km/h sprint of 6.7 seconds (6.5 with the Sport Chrono package), yet fuel economy ratings are 11.6L/100km city and 9.3L/100km highway. It’s like a detuned Volkswagen Golf R, only larger and heavier with a lot more luxury and prestige for only slightly more coin.
Meanwhile, the Porsche Macan S gets a $2,000 price bump to $59,200, and the window sticker for the top-line Macan Turbo grows by $2,400 to $85,800, but not without a completely redesigned infotainment system plus new standard features across the line that include a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and lane departure warning, as well as improved handling and better road contact via a reengineered steering controller. As usual, the options list is long and thorough, with full LED headlamps now available on all trims.
While this news is likely exciting for first-time Porsche buyers, those looking for a more traditional Zuffenhausen experience yet still needing 5-door utility will want to turn their eyes toward the new 2017 Macan GTS, the 10th Porsche model to benefit from the Gran Turismo Sport treatment. The GTS slots between the 340-horsepower S and 400-horsepower Turbo in performance and price: It uses a 360-horsepower version of the former’s 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 and retails for $73,100.
The increased output is noticeable in intensity even if the mere 0.2-second improvement in 0-100km/h acceleration times isn’t. The GTS’ quick-shifting, paddle-actuated, 7-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission gets pulled up from the S (the base model uses a regular 7-speed automatic) and features Comfort and Sport modes, plus the addition of Sport Plus mode if equipped with the previously noted Sport Chrono package. Either way, it’s an especially intelligent system that lets you individually soften the shock setting while maintaining top-level engine performance, making this the SUV to beat over rougher surfaces where the extra wheel travel of a more compliant setup actually improves performance, not to mention ride quality, of course.
Notably, the “full-sounding” standard sport exhaust is exhilarating, particularly the raspy gurgle of back pressure when letting off the throttle. It’s not quite the auditory delight of the hopped-up Audi SQ5 or the even more fantastic-sounding Jaguar F-PACE, but some will appreciate that you can press an exhaust button on the Porsche Macan GTS’ lower console to kill all the raucous and make the vehicle easy to live with day to day.
Practicality in mind, the engine’s auto start-stop system is one of the most effective I’ve tested, shutting off every time you stop, even repeatedly in near standstill, bumper-to-bumper traffic, unless the air conditioning is blasting or the Macan is in Sport mode, while restarting is almost seamless.
Crouching tiger, hidden sprinter
Back to performance, while a powerhouse off the line with only 5.2 seconds needed to achieve 100 km/h (or 5.0 with the Sport Chrono package), the GTS’ upgrades are more about improved balance and at-the-limit handling prowess. Porsche dropped this model’s standard adaptive air suspension 15 millimetres below the base Macan’s steel sprung setup. Body roll is pretty much nonexistent and grip is otherworldly when flung hard into fast-paced curves. That being said, drift fans will love the fact that you can make the tail go sideways in wonderfully controlled bliss if you set all the engine, gearbox, and traction settings just right.
Helping in this respect are 30mm wider front and 40mm wider rear treads than those on the Macan S, while the front discs are 10mm larger resulting in braking power that’s gone from breathtaking to astonishing. All the while it’s an SUV that rides comfortably and capably over most any surface. The aforementioned air suspension rises 10 mm when set to “Off Road” mode, but you’ll likely want to swap out the beautiful 20” matte black alloys on 265/45 front and 295/40 rear Pirelli Scorpions for a set of 18” wheels on all-terrain tires if you plan on getting into any rough stuff.
Those big black wheels are just four easily noticeable upgrades made to the 2017 Porsche Macan GTS’ exterior; other trim bits were blackened as well, albeit finished in an inky gloss above the waistline. Porsche even trimmed out the headlight bezels in black, darkened the LED taillights, and capped the exhaust pipes in black chrome, while the rear diffuser they poke through is real and effective, just like all the vents and ducts up front.
Inside, the Macan GTS follows the same black theme with an anthracite roofliner and pillars, along with the usual Alcantara upgrades adorning all the armrests and seat inserts, but not the steering wheel in base trim (you can pay extra to get a suede steering wheel or just about any other treatment). In my opinion, most customers will be just fine with the base model, especially when taking in the stitched leather dash top just ahead, a perfect match for the steering wheel and shifter boot, the former a delectable bit of design work featuring airy, thin metallic spokes filled with some of the best switchgear in the business. The aluminum shift paddles just behind are perfectly placed for performance driving, although when in a more relaxed state a button for its optional heated rim can be found hidden on the split bottom spoke. The primary gauges follow Porsche tradition in layout, yet include a bright, clear, full-colour, multi-information display within the right dial.
Wins and fails
The new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) interface is such a whole step ahead it’s worthy of a review on its own. It starts off with a full-colour, high-resolution 7” touchscreen with smartphone-style swipe, pinch, and multi-touch gestures plus proximity-sensing buttons that appear when your finger gets near. It’s pretty slick stuff that no doubt is mostly Volkswagen-sourced being that the parent company and its various sub-brands are some of the only makes to feature such high-level capability, although the fact that it only offers Apple CarPlay makes me wonder how much influence VW really had.
This will be a contentious point for Android smartphone users who will no doubt feel disenfranchised at being left behind in Porsche’s internal tech revolution, but in reality it’s Porsche that will fall behind other carmakers, like VW, that offer both Apple and Android system integration. As it is Porsche’s internal studies show that 70% of its owners use iPhones, but 30% is still a very large number of customers that should be taken care of now that in-car electronics have become a deal-making or breaking decision for many. So, while the new PCM is a win compared to the previous version, now upgradable with a 360-degree parking monitor, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and optional navigation featuring 3D mapping that’s actually capable of getting you where you want to go more often than not (although it doesn’t estimate your time of arrival), it’s a fail for me and other Android users.
Another win/fail item is the new keyless access and ignition system. We’ve been waiting for Porsche to offer this most convenient way to enter and start up its vehicles for what seems like a decade, and now that optional “Entry & Drive” is finally here it’s one oddball setup. Cabin unlock and lock is normal via touch-sensitive door handles, but unlike most other companies that offer a simple and comparatively elegant start/stop button somewhere on the dash or lower console, Porsche replaced the regular rotating ignition switch with a large twistable protrusion that pulled memories of a stopgap method used by some domestic producers when retrofitting fully loaded models many years ago. It comes across as a half-hearted, aftermarket-style attempt to modernize, although I suppose it’s better than fumbling through your pockets or purse for the keys.
Rather than leave things on a downer, I need to compliment Porsche on what is otherwise one of the most upscale interiors in the class. I mentioned all the suede, leather, and high-quality switchgear a moment ago, but I didn’t touch on all the soft synthetic surfaces not only found in the expected places like the dash top, instrument panel, and door uppers, but also across the bottom sections of the dash and glove box lid where only knees and legs reside, not to mention the top ridge of the lower centre console as well as all four door panels in their entirety. This sets the 2017 Porsche Macan apart from its compact luxury SUV peers, especially that F-PACE noted earlier. The brushed aluminum inlays across the instrument panel and doors are also a cut above, literally, their thick edges being almost sharp enough to slice thanks to their genuine metal fabrication.
An optional panoramic sunroof overhead sheds light on all the Macan’s goodness, while the seats provide impressive comfort and support at the lower back and from side to side. My tester included the standard 8-way power adjustments (14- and even 18-way adjustments are available) and offered 2-position memory. The wide body results in a roomy interior front and back, while the rear seats make memories of trying to squeeze into the back of a 911 (hey, you’ve got to at least try) forgivably distant. Yes, the Macan is positively satisfying from all seating positions and mine even more so thanks to optional rear seat heaters.
The Macan’s low, slanted roofline means its cargo compartment is smaller than most in the class, measuring just 501 litres behind the rear seatbacks. However, it’s wide and flat with 1,501 litres available when those 40/20/40-split seatbacks are folded, and nicely finished in high-grade carpeting with chromed tie-down hooks and a stainless protector plate.
While Android users will attest that room for improvement remains, the new 2017 Porsche Macan GTS is a superbly capable performance SUV that delivers big on comfort, refinement, luxury, convenience, and utility, not to mention style. Sure, it’s expensive, with my well-equipped albeit nowhere close to fully loaded tester reaching well into the mid-$80k range, but it’s a Porsche, and one that totally lives up to the premium brand’s highly respected performance credentials. Such pedigree doesn’t come cheap, even as a compact family hauler.