There was a time when the only genuinely rapid SUVs were full-sizers such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes ML 63 AMG (later GLE 63) and BMW X5M and X6M. However, the go-faster genre has now flourished in the mid-size category too, as the candidates in this segment include the eyelid-peeling Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, BMW X3M/X4M and respectably brisk Audi S Q5.
I still haven’t mentioned Porsche’s Macan, as the subject of this story is the latest GTS variant, which slots in neatly between the existing ‘S’ and Turbo versions of Zuffenhausen’s biggest-selling model globally. The newcomer recently landed in local showrooms, with pricing kicking off at Dh332,800, which means it undercuts the Turbo by over Dh70k.
Porsche’s GTS models have traditionally nailed the sweet spot as they tend to serve up a nice balance between straight-line pace, agility and everyday usability. The new Macan GTS is no exception to this rule as its new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 thrashes out 376bhp and 520Nm – increases of 21bhp and 20Nm over its predecessor’s 3.0-litre unit. As before, drive is relayed to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission (tweaked for faster shifts), enabling the GTS to leap to 100kph in 4.9sec and hit 260kph flat out.
The GTS sits 15mm lower than its standard siblings, making it the lowest model in the Macan range. That said, ticking the box for the optional air suspension results in a chassis that’s only 10mm lower. The dropped stance is complemented by recalibrated adaptive dampers, tuned and tweaked for greater control when you’re in max-attack mode. There are also bespoke RS Spyder Design 20-inch rims, behind which lurk beefy brakes with bright red callipers. Our test car at the international launch drive in Portugal was also equipped with the PTV torque vectoring rear differential, which enables the GTS to slingshot out of tight hairpins with even greater alacrity.
Out in the real world, the Macan GTS feels every bit as quick as its on-paper stats suggest. Tweak the steering wheel-mounted drive mode dial to Sport or Sport+ and the car comes alive, with the exhaust crackling on the overrun, and steering and throttle response sharpened up nicely. There’s no denying the GTS’s off-the-mark acceleration, but just as impressive is the mid-range punch, courtesy of a table-flat torque curve from 1,700 to 5,000rpm.
There’s a respectable level of agility for an elevated five-seat chariot, as the Macan GTS made brisk progress across the tight, twisty sections that formed part of our drive route. There’s good mid-corner balance and the torque-vectoring differential enables you to stand on the gas as soon as you’ve nailed the apex. Do this and the rear end will squirm momentarily before the computers send more drive to the front wheels, launching the GTS down the next straight. It’s surprisingly effective in demolishing backroads, but you’re still always aware of the Macan’s hefty 1,910kg girth.
The options list includes Porsche Surface Coated brakes or carbon ceramics, but the standard cast-iron stoppers are more than adequate for hauling the GTS up, even if you’re dishing out a sustained pounding across winding roads. There’s little to fault in the Macan GTS as far as its dynamic credentials are concerned, but its ride quality gets a little patchy across lumpy tarmac – although this wouldn’t be so much an issue in the UAE, where roads are predominantly billiard-table-smooth.
There are no surprises inside the GTS, where you’ll find all the usual Macan elements, although there’s more liberal use of Alcantara to imbue the cabin with a sportier ambience. As with its siblings, the centre console is a button bonanza, and there are traditional gauges rather than virtual dials, but all this is likely to be addressed in the next-gen (all-electric) Macan that’s due to launch next year.
For now, the Macan GTS stacks up as an eminently family-friendly crossover with enough pace and panache to make it an appealing proposition for keen drivers. It’s not cheap, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck.