- About Us
Words: Ouseph Chacko
Photography: Gaurav S Thombre
Over a decade ago, there was a bit of a seismic shift in the sportscar world. The makers of the legendary 911
unveiled their, sorry for murdering two idioms at once, elephant in the closet. Porschephiles wept, motoring journalists howled and the Cayenne went on to become one of Porsche’s global bestsellers. Introducing an SUV turned out to be one heck of a clever move and the Cayenne put the sport in Sport Utility Vehicle. It also helped keep Porsche’s bottomline healthy so Stuttgart’s surgical department could concentrate on doing what they do best – hone laser guided missiles out of rear- and mid-engined two-door cars. I think it also encouraged them to think of new avenues to help that bottomline along and that’s why we have this, the Macan. It comes at a time when people are less puritanical and better understand the need for broad brand portfolios and wider brand appeal. As boring as that sounds, the car we have on test is anything but.
It has under its snub nose (it looks better than the Cayenne doesn’t it?) a 3.6-litre, twin-turbo petrol and costs just Rs 10 lakh more than the Rs 98 lakh that Porsche wants for the 3-litre diesel Macan. Did someone say something about diesel being sensible?
So, now that we’ve decided the Turbo is the one to splurge on, I also have to tell you it sounds dull. Even with the sport exhaust. Prod the throttle for all it is worth and your ears are rewarded with a disappointing, turbine-like noise. This little detail shouldn’t distract you from the fact that while your ears are trying to pick out nice sounds, the rest of you is covering ground at an incredible pace thanks to 394bhp and a power-band as wide as the Sahara.
Porsche claims a 0-100kmph time of 4.6 seconds and that makes this baby SUV almost as fast as a 911! And that’s despite its two-tonne weight! Incredible and all the more so because most of the time, you are unaware that the Macan Turbo weighs so much. This should come as no surprise – after years of perfecting body control on a car with its engine slung behind it, Porsche engineers must have tamed this front-engined, all-wheel drive compact SUV in their sleep. To understand the Macan’s dynamics, you need to understand where it comes from.
It is based on the Audi Q5 and shares roughly a third of its underpinnings with the Audi along with its 2806mm wheelbase and multi-link suspension. Porsche then set about lowering the centre of gravity – the Macan’s roof is about 50mm closer to the ground than the Q5, it has an aluminium bonnet and air-suspension equipped Macans (ours is) ride 15mm lower than ones on steel springs (Porsche isn’t offering steel spring Macans in India). All of this is tied down with properly broad 295/35 R21 wheels (optional) and you thank god (or Stuttgart) for that because when you’re caning it, the Macan is crazy fun to drive. You use its 550Nm of torque, available from 1350rpm, to blow you down the straight, use the superbly feelsome, fade free brakes to shed some speed, throw the car in to a corner, marvel at how little the body rolls, revel in the staggering grip available and almost convince yourself the money is worth it.
The engine is a lunatic and pulls really hard till the 6800rpm redline; the gearbox is quick and willing to downshift when you ask for one; and on the limit the Macan will hint at understeer before PSM (Porsche Stability Management) kicks in to steer you back in line. Interestingly, the Macan is primarily rear-wheel drive – power is routed through the seven-speed, dual clutch transmission all the way to the rear axle and only then does it meet an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch that diverts some of the torque to the front axle. That explains why it is so easy to go sideways in this all-wheel drive car (with the traction control turned off, of course). Enter a corner, give it a boot full of throttle and the rear swings out gracefully before the front axle recieves the power to pull you smoothly back in to your intended direction of travel.
Yes, I know it is childish, but an intricate part of the Macan driving experience is the thrill you get when you discover how easy it is to play hooligan in it. It is the intricate and precise weighting engineered in to the controls, the millimetre perfect response for whatever input you feed in, and the chassis ability to communicate all that’s happening with eerie accuracy that makes the Macan such a joy to drive except, to a certain extent, the steering. The electrically assisted steering isn’t as nice as say, the Boxster. It is wellweighted and quick but filters out some of what is happening under the front wheels; but then again only purists will complain about this.
The average Macan buyer in India (and I suspect there will be way, way too few of them) will love that it rides incredibly well and that this is true even with the suspension is set in its sportiest Sport+ setting. We didn’t really come across anything that made it crash or send shudders through the cabin and believe me, I tried. It means you can sit comfortably in the Macan’s reasonably spacious rear seats when you feel like being chauffeur-driven and have a whale of a time playing with all the car’s settings via the wonderfully tactile buttons on the exceptionally high quality, if now familiar, dashboard.
It also comes with a lot of standard kit – there’s air-suspension, a Bose audio system, sports seats, three-zone climate control, electric operation for the tail-gate and sat-nav and this possibly explains why the Macan Turbo is so expensive. You can get the bigger Cayenne diesel (with less standard equipment) for Rs 3 lakh more than the Macan Turbo and the base Cayenne petrol for about the same price as the Macan Diesel but maybe Porsche is being clever after all. People who want Porsche SUVs aren’t likely to be swayed by the bargains that the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 pose, and a decently equipped, equally quick Cayenne costs a fair bit more than the Macan, so, in this light, the smaller SUV looks, dare I say it, quite reasonable (forgotten to take our pills today have we? – Ed). Smooth move Porsche. A ‘makkhan’ smooth move.