2019 Porsche Macan S First Drive: The Quiet Achiever
Think Porsche, and you think 911. Or Cayman/Boxster. Maybe Cayenne. Perhaps Panamera. What you almost certainly don’t think is Macan. But Porsche’s compact SUV is quite the quiet achiever. More than 385,000 have been sold worldwide since the Macan made its debut in 2014. (It took Porsche more than 30 years to sell that many 911s.) Two in five new Porsches sold in the U.S. are Macans, making it easily the company’s most popular model. In short, it’s a success. And the 2019 Porsche Macan proves the old adage, “Don’t mess with success.”
Porsche has given the Macan a midlife makeover, a mix of cosmetic tweaks and technology upgrades designed to carry the car through to the arrival of an all-new replacement in 2022 or 2023. Visual changes include a new front fascia with gaping vents on either side of the grille to give the car a broader stance on the road. There’s a new rear fascia, too, along with a version of the full-width taillight graphic that’s now a Porsche family design signature. Porsche has made 21-inch wheels available on the Macan for the first time, and there are four new exterior colors, including the high-impact Miami Blue and the subversively hip Chalk (a soft, warm gray) straight from the 911 palette.
The 2019 Macan and Macan S now come standard with LED headlights, but new technology makes the biggest splash inside, courtesy of the 10.9-inch high-definition touchscreen in the center of the dash. The new screen provides the user interface for the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system. The PCM system, which made its debut in the Panamera, features beautifully rendered graphics and fast reaction times, and the screen layout can be customized several ways. PCM also features voice control and can process swarm data from similarly equipped vehicles to warn of slippery roads, fog, or other hazards ahead when the navigation system is active.
The 2019 Macan arrives in the U.S. in late spring/early summer in two variants. The base Macan is powered by a 248-hp, 273-lb-ft longitudinally mounted version of VW Group’s versatile 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine fitted with a new direct-injection cylinder head with centrally located injectors. Price is $50,950, a $2,100 bump over the outgoing model. The Macan S, historically the best-selling Macan variant in the U.S., now has a 348-hp version of the Audi-designed 3.0-liter single-turbo V-6 under the hood. (This is the same engine as the 440-hp 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 that powers the Panamera 4S. The difference in displacement is due to a shorter stroke to reduce the static compression ratio so it can run higher boost pressures and make more power.) Price is $59,650, a $3,200 increase.
With 14 hp more on tap, the 2019 Macan S is about 0.1 second quicker to 60 mph, Porsche says, and has a top speed of 157 mph. The twin-scroll turbocharger, mounted in the V, helps deliver a torque plateau that peaks at 354 lb-ft and runs flatter than Kansas from 1,360 to 4,800 rpm. Just one transmission is available, a seven-speed PDK that distributes drive to all four wheels. The all-wheel-drive system’s torque split is biased to the rear wheels in the interest of sporty handling but can funnel 100 percent of the drive to the front wheels if needed.
The chassis concept is fundamentally unchanged, with multilink suspension front and rear and the choice of conventional steel springs or a height-adjustable two-chamber air suspension. But the 2019 Macan features a number of key tweaks aimed at improving ride quality and comfort while simultaneously improving the little SUV’s already formidable on-road dynamics.
The front suspension components are now made of aluminum, replacing the steel hardware used on the previous model. Porsche says the new front axle assembly reduces unsprung mass by 3.3 pounds and is considerably stiffer. The optional air suspension system has optimized rolling pistons and new damping hydraulics. The stabilizer bars have been recalibrated to deliver more neutral handling. And to tie it all together, the Macan now rolls on asymmetric tires, the fronts slightly narrower than the rears.
You notice the improvements in ride quality and steering precision within the first few miles. Where the previous Macan crashed and thumped over lumps and bumps in the road, the new model is quieter and more composed. The steering is as clear and deftly weighted a helm as you’ll find on any SUV, allowing you to place the little Porsche accurately in corners with little more than a roll of the wrists.
Porsche’s launch fleet was lavishly equipped—some of the cars we drove on the island of Mallorca, just off the coast of Spain, had almost $25,000 worth of options. But after driving steel-spring and air-suspended cars back to back, we’d say paying $2,750 for the optional air suspension is worth the money, and not just because it gives you an extra 1.6 inches of ground clearance in off-road mode. The air-suspended cars were all on the most aggressive 21-inch wheel/tire combination, compared with the 20-inch setup on the steel-spring cars, but even so the recalibrated air suspension system added a syrupy layer of compliance over sharper impacts and also reduced head toss.
The hot setup, in terms of the best compromise between comfort and handling, would be to pair the air suspension with the 20-inch wheels and tires. The extra half inch of sidewall would further reduce impact harshness and noise and offer additional protection against pothole damage. Oh, and unless you were planning to go with the base 21-inch wheels, the money you’d save by going with 20s over the fancier 21s would effectively knock $240 to $1,060 off the cost of ordering the air suspension in the first place.
Sandpapery at times, the 3.0-liter V-6 doesn’t feel as refined in the Macan as it does in the bigger Panamera or Cayenne. That may be a result of new dynamic engine mounts designed to stop the V-6 twisting in its moorings as you come on and off the throttle and upsetting the chassis balance. But the occasional tingle through the steering column is a worthwhile trade-off for the punchy midrange throttle response. Peak power arrives at 5,400 rpm, and although the output then remains consistent over the next 1,000 revs, there’s really not much point letting the tach needle swing much farther around the dial if you’re running in Sport+ and snicking the paddles. Short-shift and surf the torque, and the Macan S pinballs down a twisting two-lane like a hot hatch, alert and light on its feet.
As with all Porsches, the Macan S options list is long. It needs to be, as it’s a surprisingly spartan ride in base trim, lacking even heated front seats, automatically dimming mirrors, or lane keeping assist as standard equipment. In addition to those items and the aforementioned air suspension and 20-inch wheels, we’d recommend opting for the Sport Chrono package, as it delivers the steering wheel–mounted mode switch with its “push to pass” button. Other options worth considering include the $990 thermal and noise-insulated glass, which makes the Macan quieter on the freeway, and the $990 Bose surround-sound system, which is better quality than the base audio and better value than the $5,700 Burmester setup.
The 2019 Porsche Macan S builds on the previous model’s strengths (good performance, great dynamics), addresses its weaknesses (flinty ride, noisy tires and suspension), and adds a state-of-the-art communications and navigation system into the mix, along with simple but effective styling tweaks. It’s more engaging, more desirable, more of a Macan. You don’t mess with success.
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December 11, 2018 at 01:08AM