If you’re a glass half-full sort of person, you’d see this as a case of a company adapting to the times. If you’re more focused on the half-empty part, you’d whine ad nauseam about diluting heritage and selling out. The reference here is to Porsche, a marque that forged its legacy on the iconic 356 and evergreen 911 sportsters yet which is now predominantly a purveyor of SUVs.
These numbers will give you some perspective: Porsche sold about 246,000 cars last year, and around 97,000 of these were Macans — compared to about 32,000 911s and 25,000 units of the 718 Boxster/Cayman. So, while the 911 and 718 models might still be Zuffenhausen’s poster cars, it’s the Macan and its Cayenne big brother that make by far the biggest contribution to the company’s coffers.
The Macan (this is the Javanese word for Tiger, by the way) debuted in 2014, and Porsche derived some economies of scale in developing the car by using the Audi Q5 platform as a starting point. However, the Porsche boffins then carried out a wholesale reengineering job on the chassis, with the suspension architecture being substantially redesigned to hit the dynamic benchmarks the company had set for the vehicle. And although the Macan’s tapering roofline and curvaceous bodyshell makes it look smaller than the Audi, it’s in fact longer and wider than the Q5.
The Macan may well have recorded its best-ever sales tally in 2017, but the vehicle is now almost five years old and showing its age in a couple of respects. So, right on cue, here’s the mid-cycle update, which scores a handful of visual tweaks and minor upgrades to its cabin and mechanicals. It’s not revolutionary stuff, but “ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, right?
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The new base model Macan (priced from Dh214,800) packs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor — essentially the same unit that features in several VW Group products — and this unit kicks out 241bhp at 5,600rpm and 370Nm from 1,600-4,500rpm. Porsche quotes a 0-100kph split in 6.7sec (6.5sec with the Sport Chrono Package) and top speed of 225kph, which are respectable numbers but, out in the real world, the car feels adequately brisk, rather than scintillating.
The four-pot turbo gets the job done but, if you have a bigger budget at your disposal, we’d point you towards the Macan S, which feels an altogether more refined and rewarding drive, courtesy of a 3.0-litre V6 turbo that thrashes out 348bhp and a hearty 480Nm of twist. This makes for a 0-100kph dash in 5.1sec with the Sport Chrono Package and 254kph v-max, which are decidedly more Porsche-worthy stats.
Although the chassis setup is largely as before, Porsche’s labcoats have carried out some calibration tweaks to broaden the Macan’s dynamic envelope. If you have especially deep pockets, you can splash out additional cashola for air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which is Porsche-speak for adaptive dampers. These are worthy features but, that said, ticking Porsche option boxes results in the damage to your bank balance escalating rapidly, so you may well decide to stick with the standard passive dampers and steel springs.
Our maiden drive was across narrow, bumpy, rain-soaked roads on the island of Mallorca and the Macan (we were in the V6-powered ‘S’ for the most part) proved a rapid, sure-footed companion even in these treacherous conditions. Some credit here must go to the newly developed tyres, which in the case of our tester were wrapped around a tasty set of five-spoke, 21-inch rims. Our car was also equipped with adaptive dampers and air suspension, so selecting the softest setup ensured ride quality wasn’t jarring over the worst sections of Spanish tarmac.
As per the outgoing model, the 2019 Macan channels drive to the wheels via Porsche’s seven-speed dual-clutch PDK ’box, which is a brilliantly responsive and seamless transmission. The gearbox has the intuitive knack of being in the right gear at the right time, but there’s also the possibility of taking charge manually via the tactile wheel-mounted paddles, which adds to enjoyment levels across winding roads.
New for the Macan is an optional GT sports steering wheel that echoes the style of the 911. If you’ve opted for the Sport Chrono Package, you’ll find there’s a rotary mode switch integrated into the steering wheel — including ‘sport response’ button — for selecting the different drive modes. Other new features include the new ‘traffic assist’ system that enables the vehicle to accelerate and brake semi-automatically, as well as stay in lane, at speeds of up to 60kph. Would have been handy for when you’re mired in the Dubai-Sharjah gridlock, but the roads and transport authorities in the UAE haven’t yet given the green light for any autonomous driving features, so we’ll have to wait for this locally.
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Also new is a 10.9-inch inch infotainment touchscreen in lieu of the former 7.2-inch system. However, given that this is a mid-cycle update rather than a new-gen vehicle, the Macan still features the existing model’s button bonanza on the centre console, as opposed to the much cleaner layout that you’ll find in the latest Cayenne and Panamera. That’ll have to wait until the all-new Macan replacement arrives in a couple of years.
The exterior tweaks are of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them variety, but the most obvious change is the full-width three-dimensional LED light bar that runs right across the curvaceous rump of the Macan. It’s not an earth-shattering revision, but it does give the Porsche a more contemporary and dynamic look at the rear. Up front, there’s now standard LED headlights but, other than this, you’ll be hard-pressed to distinguish new from old. Probably the simplest way to prove to your neighbours that you have the latest Macan in your driveway — rather than the oh-so-2018 model — is to choose one of the new hues that have been added to the colour palette. The ones that shout loudest are Mamba Green Metallic and Miami Blue, but there’s also an offbeat flat grey that Porsche refers to simply as ‘Crayon’.
It’s clear Porsche did just enough with the Macan’s mid-life update to ensure the compact SUV continues to rack up healthy sales until the second-gen model debuts in a couple of years. It’s a thoroughly capable and well-rounded package that can show a clean pair of heels on winding roads (at least in ‘S’ guise) to anything else in its segment. It’s not the cheapest contender out there, but it — along with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio — remains the most dynamic.