Road Raves: Porsche’s Macan

08/06/2014 12:00 AM

08/06/2014 1:45 PM

Just 11 years ago, outraged automotive writers and sports car aficionados took Porsche to task for introducing the Cayenne SUV. What’s next, they sneered, a hybrid?

How times have changed.

Last November, Porsche announced that it would build the small luxury crossover Macan. Response was immediate and positive from the media and the Porsche faithful. Now, finally, eager early buyers are wrapping their sweaty palms around the Macan’s leather-clad steering wheel — adapted, incidentally, from Porsche’s legendary 918 Spyder, a hybrid.

Now that’s karma.

“Macan” comes from the Malaysian word for tiger, and both the base Macan S and the more powerful Turbo display the same fierce, crouching stance as their feline namesake. They also boast V6 twin turbo engines: The Macan S comes with a 3.0 liter, 340-hp base model, while the Macan Turbo houses a 3.6 liter 400-hp monster.

The base model “S” packs a sublime amount of punch. Floor it and you suddenly understand the tiger reference because you spring forward effortlessly, with no trace of turbo lag. Punch it in a curve where other vehicles, especially SUVs, would already be sideways, and the Macan sits tight, flat and low, with zero body roll.

The “S” has everything that anybody needs. The “Turbo,” on the other hand, is just flat-out crazy quick and seems to exist just to show off. Then again, maybe that’s the point.

Porsche’s trademark, gravity-defying sure-footedness is all there in both models, and handling is phenomenally crisp and dynamic without sacrificing ride quality.

Looks are always important in a Porsche, and the Macan doesn’t disappoint. The face is pure aggression, and the sides are lowered thanks to a visual trick using horizontal “blades” at the door bottoms that appear to lower the height.

Swing open the racing-inspired clamshell hood and enjoy the admiring gasps, because it’s a really impressive design innovation — the whole front of the vehicle just seems to go right up into the air. Along with eliminating unsightly fender seams, the clamshell channels intake air from the giant grille to either side of the engine into the filters.

Fine woods and leathers, wonderfully supportive seats and the now-trademark sloping center console control panel, first seen in the Carrera GT, make the ultra-comfortable cabin a great place to be. From any angle, inside or out, the overall design effect is unmistakably Porsche.

Cabin space for passengers is generous and storage space for the kids’ soccer gear, grocery runs and a round of golf is ample. If you’re routinely hauling a medium-sized circus, check out the larger Cayenne instead. Otherwise, the Macan will handle most everyone’s hauling needs.

Porsche chairman Matthias Müller had his marketing hat firmly in place when he said, “The Macan is the super sportster of compact SUVs. We think of it more as a big brother to the 911 than a little brother to the Cayenne.”

It’s true. They could have just slapped their hallowed badge onto the Audi Q5, the Macan’s basic platform, sold a bajillion of them and called it a day. To Porsche’s credit, the company created a vehicle worthy of the legendary name. That’s good news for the buying public and even better news for Porsche enthusiasts.

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