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2019 6 March

Magic Formula

By George Woodward 06/03/2019

A midlife facelift for the all-conquering Macan promises more of the excellent same.
 
Words: Matt Master
Photos: Richard Pearce
 
The staggering commercial success of the Gen 1 Macan threatens to make moot a detailed critique of this midlife refresh. At its peak in 2018, Porsche shifted just over 97,000 Macans globally, a figure that only dropped to a little over 86,000 last year despite the deletion of diesel from the line-up and the knowledge that a replacement was imminent.
 
For context, around 15,000 fewer Cayennes found homes in the same period, while the sporting stable of 911 and 718 managed to move a shade over 35,000 and 24,000 respectively. For Porsche itself then, the Macan is exceptionally good business, and it seems its international customer base needs no reassurance.
 
So Porsche has approached the obligatory five-year facelift with inevitable restraint.
Gen 1 Macans still look very fresh and a casual observer would be hard pushed to differentiate old from new unless they were side by side. We are reassured that the subtle alterations to the Macan’s front end give it the appearance of a wider, more aggressive stance.
 

 
The rear, meanwhile, gets the now mandatory full width light beam which looks superb, day and night, and is perhaps the only thing that makes the Gen 2 car unmistakeable. The other elements are subtly revised front and rear bumpers and new headlights beneath that extraordinary one-piece clamshell bonnet.
 
In an automotive landscape increasingly overwhelmed by the proliferation of SUVs of every size and variety, the Macan neither looks nor feels excessively large by any means. Its 4.6 metre length and 2.0 metre width are at the upper margins of what is manageable on a regulation British road, but it fits where, increasingly, the full-size SUV does not. Such dimensions inspire a confidence that plays to the Macan’s strengths too; this is a car you can very definitely push in the spirit its maker intends. More of that in a minute.
 
Inside, Porsche has moved the Macan on with a similarly softly-softly approach. The new 10.9-inch infotainment screen, touch-sensitive and supported by a series of shortcut physical switches, brings it in line with the rest of the revised range. There is also a small digital display to the right of the analogue tachometer that offers you a scrollable menu of your car’s vital signs.
 

 
The real talking point for Gen 2 is Porsche’s entirely understandable decision to distance itself from the dreaded diesel. In the aftermath of the VW Group’s global emissions scandal, Porsche’s top table drew a line in the sand and there will no longer be a diesel variant offered in any of its cars.
 
It’s a legitimate exercise in damage limitation and self-preservation, but it does put the engineers up against it when tasked with offering the ideal powertrain for an inherently heavy, torque-dependent product. The entry-level Macan we tested is equipped with what Porsche must push as the default for efficiency, equipped as it is with the largely overlooked 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Gen 1 cars.
 
This compact turbocharged unit generates 241bhp from 5000rpm and 370Nm of
torque from a modest 1600rpm. Typical contemporary values for a small, blown inline four, but atypical fare for a 1795kg SUV. Strangely, however, the absence of diesel-derived torque or the in-gear grunt of a V6 doesn’t hobble the 2.0-litre Macan.
 

 
In many respects, in fact, it adds to its strengths. For the sheer lightness of the front end, combined with the rear bias of the all-wheel-drive system, makes this an improbably agile car despite its weight and height. Although you might notice a trace of labouring when the PDK gets momentarily caught in a high gear, there are few day-to-day driving environments where the Macan feels under-engined.
 
In truth, there is something quite compelling about the way you can drive this car with total civility in full auto and without that sense of unsolicited urgency underfoot that often comes with more power. But then you can select Sport, slap the shifter into manual and everything comes alive, with a more eager throttle response, higher shift limits and stiffer suspension settings.
 
It’s at this point that the Macan really does belie its size, not least because of the modest displacement up front. There is a preternaturally car-like quality to the chassis, to its ability to remain poised and neutral in fast corners, and in the eagerness of the engine to pick up through the gears that encourages you to explore the upper end of the rev range, to brake later than seems right in an SUV, to turn in more sharply and to use all of the available grip.
 

 
There are compromises of course, as there need to be in a car performing Jekyll and Hyde duties. The steering lacks the immediacy of Porsche’s out-and-out sports cars, and the brake pedal lacks a bit of the bite you might want from a heavy car that you are, occasionally, really leaning on.
 
But the Macan’s qualities as an all-rounder remain unprecedented. Some 500 litres of boot space, comfortable and convincingly luxurious seating for four and an ability to traverse the sort of shoddy British B-road we’re increasingly resigned to with incredible ease – grace even. But all this combined with the best handling of any SUV on sale.
 
The only threat to the 2.0-litre Macan’s success story comes from within. The forthcoming S, with its new 3.0-litre V6, will significantly up the performance stakes to create – higher tax and higher fuel consumption notwithstanding – what might seem for many the more convincing package.
 
In the meantime, the absence of a diesel option may have created a challenge for Porsche, but its ability to rise to that challenge with a car as complete as this is remarkable.
 

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