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09 Mar 2023

First drive - the Porsche Macan T

Can the Touring treatment bring new focus to the Macan?

Launched in 2017, the first Carrera T hit a hitherto untapped sweet spot. Revelling in a new back-to­basics formula, it made the best of a brilliant chassis with a focus on dynamic and driving feel over luxury or outright performance.

A run-out model to extend the usefulness of the 991, it was nevertheless such a success that Porsche applied the same process to the ageing 718 and then, rather more optimistically, to the outgoing Macan.


This was always going to be a hard sell. Although the Macan remains the best handling car in its class, that class is mid-sized SUVs and there is only so much driver focus you can dial into anything that weighs a whisker shy of two tonnes and rides 1.6 metres high. Of course, if anyone can do the impossible it is always Porsche, but is the concept of a pared back and more agile luxury SUV a bridge too far, even for the engineering and marketing geniuses of Zuffenhausen?
Porsche has stayed as true as possible to the Carrera T concept, using an entry-level engine - in this case, the standard Macao's turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder unit - and coupling that with some subtle chassis and styling enhancements. What it can't do is offer a manual transmission of any description, while the Carrera T's rear seat delete would have furrowed a few brows among the dealer network.

The upshot falls somewhere between a true T in the modern sense and a branding exercise. The Macan comes equipped with the Sport Chrono Package as standard, stiffer steel springs with bespoke PASM adaptive damping and a 15mm lower ride height. Visually, it benefits from the same dark accents that distinguish the other Ts, including gloss black window surrounds and its side strakes, grille, mirrors, roof spoiler and badging in Anthracite Grey Metallic. There are also four circular quad exhaust pipes and 20-inch wheels finished in Dark Titanium. It looks good, as ever, but lacks the impact and distinctiveness of the Carrera T, which may just be down to the latter's sill decals.

Inside, you find supportive half-leather sports seats with Sport-Tex textile centres featuring a potentially divisive pinstripe. The GT steering wheel is standard too, but beyond that it's familiar Macan territory and none the worse for that. The latest cabin arrangement means fewer physical switches and a larger touchscreen for the PCM too. The overwhelming sense is one of typical quality and no discernable shortage of luxury.


That 2.0-litre engine still makes a fairly modest (in two-tonne terms) 265PS and 400Nm, the same output as the entry-level Macan proving good for a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 144mph. Still a quick car, then, but not Porsche­quick in 2023. What the T does have in its favour is a not-inconsequential 60kg weight reduction over the front axle when compared to the six-cylinder Macan S, meaning that, were one forced to make the difficult case for a 'drivers' SUV', the 2.0-litre car should at least be a fraction lighter on its feet. On the move, and especially in Sport or Sport Plus, it feels sprightly and agile, although it's a struggle for me to recall the handling nuances of the V6, last driven many moons ago. However, I doubt I'd have traded the extra power of the S or GTS for two fewer cylinders and a slightly more eager turn-in.


I really want to like the Macan T because I loved its Carrera forebear and think Porsche's smaller SUV is a superb product in a class full of far less interesting alternatives, but the T is a tricky thing to make sense of. It costs from £55,800, exactly £5,000 more than the standard car and only £1,000 less than the S model. Yes, the T comes with a host of options and upgrades that would quickly surpass that 10 per cent price lift, but they are largely designed to fine-tune the dynamic appeal of a car bought, in the main, for other reasons entirely.
The 2.9-litre Macan S, for that extra £1,000, comes with a whopping 115PS more power, 120Nm more torque and will hit the arbitrary 62mph marker fully two seconds quicker than the T. It's a little thirstier, granted, but only to the tune of around 3mpg and the trade-off is not only greater straight-line performance and cruising capability but a fantastic engine and exhaust note as well.


Given the expanse and freedom of a circuit, there's no doubt that the T's handling refinements would become more apparent, its unique dynamic assets more convincing in the face of the greater grunt and drama of its V6 siblings. But the Macan's environment is seldom, if ever, trackside. Nor is it, if we're honest, even amid the spirited road driving you would associate with a 911 or 718. Which makes all the hard work seem a little wasted, and the end result more of a styling exercise than its makers actually intended.
The Macan T is a good car, but it's also a slightly odd one. And with its electric replacement only a year away, it's hard to see it being remembered quite as fondly, nor coveted as much, as the Carrera that gave rise to it.

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