Porsche has built SUVs for nearly 20 years, yet people still complain about them. They complain that they aren't real Porsches and that they tarnish the brand. Yet, without SUVs, these people likely wouldn't be talking about Porsche in the present tense.
In the same way that the Boxster literally saved the company in the 1990s, the Cayenne brought a new era of prosperity to the brand that allows it to continue building excellent sports cars and participate in motorsports. The Cayenne's little brother, the Macan, has been around for four years and has quickly become the brand's best selling model.
The Macan is available in five different trims, with the GTS sitting firmly in the middle of all of them. It has a 3.0 liter turbo V6 with 360 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and Porsche's brilliant PDK gearbox. Is it the best Macan you can buy? Here's what we learned after spending some time with the GTS.
It's not an Audi Q5 with a Porsche badge slapped on. As you might imagine, the Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan are more than a little related since both start on the VW Group's modular MLB platform. But what Porsche uses under the Macan is MLB in name only. That's because
The all-wheel drive system is different. The gearbox is a PDK, not a torque-converter automatic. The engines are Porsche specific. No body panels are shared. Is it really platform sharing if you radically change the platform?
PDK still rocks. Every time we drive a car with a great automatic gearbox, typically ZF's eight-speed, we wonder how it can get better. PDK is better. The seven-speed version in the Macan isn't the newest of the new, but that doesn't matter. The reaction to paddle inputs is lightning quick, and it's smart about learning how you drive and what gear you need to be in at what time. It's kind of perfect.
It's better in manual mode than every automatic, and just as good at self-shifting as any gearbox out there. The best of both worlds.
Don't be tall and sit in the back. The Macan's internal codename at Porsche was Cajun, which stood for Cayenne Junior. Get it? Adorable, right? Anyhow, that means that the Macan is smaller, considerably smaller.
I'm six feet tall. While legroom in back was acceptable, the headroom was a bit of an issue. The Macan has a sloping roofline like so many other crossovers. It looks good, but it cuts down on tall people's ability to sit up in the back. You're welcome.
This is Porsche's hot hatch. Porsche doesn't make a small hatchback. The Panamera is large. The Cayenne is a truck. The 911, Cayman, and Boxster all have engines back there. But the Macan is small. If you lower it, the dimensions are nearly perfect to create Porsche's own Golf R competitor.
The GTS is the best one. Well, at least I think it's the best one, for a number of reasons. The base Macan is a 250-horsepower four-cylinder, which seems underpowered. The Macan S is nice but a bit mundane. The Macan Turbo and Turbo Performance Pack are excellent and fast, but they are hugely expensive.
The GTS falls right in the middle. Please draw a mental comparison to Goldilocks right now. I'll wait. Got it? Cool.
The engine isn't the big part here–with 360 horsepower, it's right between the Macan S and Turbo–it's the chassis. With standard PASM and air suspension, it's about a half inch lower and a bit firmer than the regular car. Throw in the torque vectoring, and the GTS become the sportiest pick of the Macan range with neutral handling, actual steering feel (for an SUV), and the ability to more than keep up with anything on a back road.
The regular Macan seems like you bought a Porsche because you just wanted the badge. The Macan Turbo seems like you're showing off. But the Macan GTS seems like the version for someone who can only have one car and needs it to do everything.
No matter how much Porsche fans complain, the company won't stop making SUVs. The good news is that these SUVs are easily the most fun to drive of any competitors out there. So, instead of complaining, be happy that the person buying the Macan is helping Porsche continue in motorsports, allowing them to build the 911, Boxster, and Cayman for years to come.