Are there still any sceptics out there who continue to doubt the staying power of utility models in 2018? If you’re among them, I suggest you take a look out the window and see what’s parked on your street or in your office parking lot. If you happen to live in an urban centre, it’s true that the percentage of small cars will be higher than if you live in the suburbs or out in the country. But even if you’re a city dweller, I’d bet the shirt on my back that more than half the vehicles you see are utility models of some kind.
This state of affairs is here to stay. Some manufacturers, most notably Ford, have decided to virtually abandon cars in North America (the American automotive giant is holding on only to the Mustang and the upcoming Focus Active, which won’t, in turns out, even make it to Canada). The phenomenon has extended to other automakers as well, including the luxury end of the scale, although it should be said that the automobile continues to show more vitality among the prestige brands.
At Porsche, the utility cavalcade began with the Cayenne in the early 2000s; since 2015, that model has been joined by the Macan, an SUV similar in size to the Audi Q5, BMW X3 et Mercedes-Benz GLC but much sportier in character.
For 2018, the carmaker decided to spoil fans of performance driving with the addition of the Macan GTS, the latest to carry the badge that is synonymous with above-average sportiness.
So what is the Macan GTS?
At first glance, this utility model doesn’t appear much sportier than the other versions already available at dealerships. The Porsche Macan GTS does distinguish itself via a few details specific to the models getting the GTS designation, like the lettering included on the black band running along the doors on each side. As with other GTS models, a number of exterior elements are painted black, for instance the inside of the headlights and rear lights. Also of note are the rear spoiler hovering over the rear window, badging on the trunk, unique exhaust tubes and, of course, the superb 20-inch wheels that do little to hide the red brake calipers, borrowed from the Turbo model.
That’s not all. The Macan GTS also gets help in other places, for example with a suspension lowered by 15 mm; once wedded to the PASM (Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management) system, it’s designed to give the driver more tools for cornering at speed.
Each of Porsche’s GTS models is derived from its S base model, and the Macan is no exception. The Macan S’ 3.0L twin-turbo V6 has been upgraded for this special new edition. Horsepower increases from 340 to 360, while maximum torque grows by 30 to sit at 369 lb-ft. Having proven its worth and then some over the years, the PDK transmission remains in place, as does the all-wheel drive system, already offered standard across the Porsche utility range.
Inside it’s much the same story. The Macan GTS is decked in standard sport seats providing improved support. The leather-red Alcantara suede combo is gorgeous to look at, especially when it’s mixed with the black and brushed-aluminum elements found on the dashboard. The seats themselves are, as is often the case, a little hard on the rear end, but are generally pretty comfortable on longer drives – something I was able to confirm taking the SUV on the highway between Montreal and Quebec.
Rear-row space is like what you get in other SUVs in its category, which is to say acceptable; the same applies to cargo volume in back. It’s certainly smaller than the Cayenne inside, but the Macan won’t penalize those assigned to sit in the back row. The utility tag is not misleading in its case, thus.
At the wheel
Over and beyond the many details cited, the Macan GTS really brings its best qualities forward when you get behind the wheel and put in gear. As soon as the engine roars to life, you recognize that distinct Porsche sound. To be clear, this is no flat-6, but effort has been made to render the music brought forth by this engine more inspiring than the average SUV. I recommend visiting the Sport button located close to the gear knob. Push it and several parameters of the vehicle change, starting with the exhaust system, which comes out of hibernation to remind those around you that you’re coming through in a sports car, never mind the SUV outer shell. The suspension firms up, as does the steering, which is as precise and weighty as you’ll find in other Porsche cars – and that’s all to the good!
While the GTS features turbo-charged mechanics, you don’t feel the unending wind blowing that you get in the Macan Turbo, for example. Accelerations are more progressive, even if it still only takes a few seconds to reach the limits of speed legality. The PDK gearbox works wonders, whether you stay in automatic or take the seven gears of the transmission into your own hands. Unsurprisingly, the ideal driving position is easily attained thanks to the multiple adjustments you can make to the seat and the steering column.
The braking also has more bite than in lower versions of the Macan, thanks to larger-diameter discs. The element that most impresses, even surprises every time I take a Macan out on the road is its great agility on curves. The larger tires help improve this aspect of the driving dynamics, but at the risk of repeating myself, the Macan GTS drives like a compact sports car with all-wheel drive, no less.
The last word
I admit, I prefer good ol’ cars, for the same reasons that all driving purists give. The lower centre of gravity, the reduced weight, the superior road handling: all of these elements make for a more pleasurable driving experience at the wheel of a coupe, sedan or even wagon. But if I had to choose an SUV, for its overall driving experience, I’d probably choose the Porsche Macan GTS. It really is that impressive!