Porsche sprinkles its GTS magic over the Macan, but can it make this SUV good enough to justify the badge?
What do we have here?
The Macan is Porsche’s second ever SUV, following the launch of the original Cayenne large-SUV in 2002, which is now in its second-generation. The Macan sits under the Cayenne in size and cost and completes a six-car lineup for Porsche, itself being offered in five specifications.
These consist of the entry-level Macan petrol, a more powerful Macan S version, a diesel S and the range-topping Turbo. The GTS fills the gap between the Macan S and the Turbo and is aimed squarely at those who aren’t willing to trade dynamic driving abilities for family-friendly practicality.
Under the GTS’s clamshell bonnet is a tuned version of the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that’s in the Macan S. In the GTS though it has an additional 20bhp, taking overall output to 355bhp and 369lb ft of torque, although that’s still 40bhp down on the Macan Turbo.
Despite being 30kg heavier than the Macan S, the GTS is 0.2 seconds quicker from 0-60mph, taking just 5.2 seconds. The range-topping Turbo manages this in just 4.8 seconds. There’s a seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox and power is sent to all four corners of the car, with power being sent to the wheels that need it most to avoid slip or to gain the best traction with variable power distribution.
To make the GTS noticeably more agile than the S, the chassis has been re-engineered and the brakes uprated. It also gets Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, which allows the ride height to be lowered by 15mm. There’s also a sports exhaust system and the rear tyres are wider on the GTS.
On the outside, the GTS is set apart by 20-in RS Spyder design alloy wheels, a sports design package with body coloured sideskirts, side blades with GTS insignia and black gloss window trim. Bi-xenon main headlights in black, tinted LED taillights and black exhaust tailpipes complete the look.
On the inside, the GTS gets part-Alcantara sports seats with GTS logos, Alcantara finish on the centre console, central and door armrests. The instrument dials are coloured red while the door sills get Macan GTS logos.
As standard the GTS gets Porsche Hill Control, off-road button, three-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers and cruise control.
How does it drive?
The Macan GTS is like a luxury executive car in many ways. Simply jump in, buckle up, adjust the mirrors and set off, all in a very understated way, considering there’s 355bhp on tap.
There’s a growl from the exhausts when the engine come to life, just to remind you of the GTS’s potency, it’s the same impression you get when a waking lion yawns, something inheritably tells you that it’s capable of ripping your head off.
On the motorway, the Macan GTS is reserved and comfortable. The suspension, in normal mode, wafts you along while the engine is quiet and the gear changes are hardly perceptible. Ignore the S (of GTS) and this is first and foremost is an accomplished GT car if only slightly let down by the presence of some wind and tyre noise. Even around town it’s a comfortable place to be with speed humps and potholes easily suppressed. It’s as compliant and as easy to drive around as a hot-hatch.
So it’s perfect for getting you across Northern France en route to the Alps, but once there, GTS or not, can an SUV really cut it on the hairpins, the switchbacks and the slaloms which gloriously decorate the lush mountains sides?
Dial the GTS up to 'let’s ‘ave it' mode in either Sport or Sport Plus setting and it comes alive. The suspension becomes tauter, the steering firmer, the auto kicks down as a baritone roar erupts from the quad-pipes nestling under the rear bumper, urging you onwards.
It’s unlikely from where you are sitting, that you’ll see the Macan as anything other than a powerful, high-riding, overweight, rolling SUV. Now, wipe away those thoughts like a teacher clearing a whiteboard and reimagine the Macan GTS as a Cayman with four seats, a big boot and a better view.
As you roar along the first straight, the Macan picks up speed with little fuss. There’s no discernable body pitch during aggressive acceleration and the four-wheel traction means it’s amazingly surefooted. Acceleration is relentless as the engine pulls consistently from the moment you sink the accelerator to the point you run out of road, or bravery.
Leave it in auto and everything sorts itself out splendidly as the PDK is quick to shift between gears and does it with delightful smoothness, even at full tilt. However, want a bit more control, then extend your index fingers beyond the wheel and hook their tips around the edge of the large steering wheel-mounted paddles, which feel like they’ve been expertly milled from a solid block of aluminium. A pull on the left paddle will instigate a downshift in just a fraction of a second.
The engine and gearbox are so responsive, that overtaking needs so little planning, the smallest of gaps become viable passing opportunities.
Braking hard into the first corner, the GTS barely pitches forward, remaining remarkably flat and stable. Porsche commits to stopping all of its cars from 60mph in the same time or less than it took to get there, so that’s 5.2 seconds in this case.
Turn in and place the Macan exactly where you want as the steering is pinpoint accurate and communicates every lump, bump and curvature of the road through the palm of your hands. You’ll find more than enough grip through the corners but most impressive is the lack of discernable weight shift (for a car tipping the scales at 1940kg), meaning the GTS feels light and nimble. Even in normal mode it hardly handles like hippo on a skid pan.
What's it like inside?
Inside the Macan, it’s similar in design to most other current Porsches and is therefore dominated by the T-shaped dashboard, with the centre console sloping down from high up on the fascia, terminating between the front seats like a beginner’s slope at Val d'Isère.
The top of the dash is set low, giving you the sensation of sitting in a low-slung sports car, as do the supportive GTS sports seats, which are firm but comfortable. The GTS gets a brushed aluminium trim with leather and Alcantara finish to most surfaces
While, the 7.0in infotainment screen is well positioned at the top of the dash, allowing your eye to quickly swap from the road to the screen and back, the graphics feel a little out-dated. Underneath this is a fold down flap that reveals a memory card and CD slot, all of which now feels old school.
That ski slope dash is littered with buttons. It’s neatly arranged but the quantum of buttons overwhelms you when glancing down to change a setting, want to open the exhausts or even just change the ambient temperature. The controls on the steering wheel, while useful, are rather petite and require some dexterity.
Perfectly positioned is the gear-lever, which is tall and when shifting manually, leaves you feeling like you're changing the gears of a rally car.
The seats have eight-way electrical adjustment and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and tilt, so most drivers should easily find a comfortable driving position. The high roofline means there’s acres of headroom, too.
It’s not the most practical cabin with only a small storage box between the seats and only two cupholders. The door bins are large enough to take a large bottle of water, though.
Visibility out of the back is limited by the small rear window and a poor rear view mirror combination.
Build quality and the use of materials feels top notch, although the indicator 'tick' sounds like it’s straight out of a VW Lupo.
Getting into the back is easy enough, although the door openings could do with being a little larger but once in, there’s plenty of head, leg and knee room.
The rear bench is comfortable and the central armrest folds down to offer two cupholders while the door bins will each take a large bottle of water. In-between the front seats are twin air vents with a temperature controller and a 12v socket. Overall though the rear compartment is a little on the dark side.
Under the rear window wiper, there’s a discreet button that opens the boot, revealing a large flat load bay.
Lift the adjustable floor to find a large storage area, while the rear seats fold 40/20/40 to provide a flat extended boot.
With a starting price of £55,188, the Macan GTS isn’t going to financially appeal to mainstream car buyers. It’s a large outlay and the running costs are going to be equally substantial.
The 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 engine is claimed to return up to 32.1mpg on a combined cycle. We achieved 25.2mpg over 300 miles across many different road types.
Company car drivers face the highest tax band of 37% as the GTS emits 207 g/km of CO2, with a first year’s road tax being £650.
Unsurprisingly, the GTS is in one of the higher insurance bands at 45E.
Porsche offers fixed price servicing with the Macan, with minor services costing £425 and major services £495. A set of new tyres on 20in alloys will cost around £820.
All new Porsches get a three-year unlimited mileage warranty as well as a three-year Porsche Assistance service which offers year round 24hrs a day emergency breakdown assistance.
The Macan GTS is a revelation. It’s the car that’ll change the hearts and minds of those still doubting the relevance of SUVs.
It’s a phenomenal machine, which gives you everything you’ll ever need but at a high price.
Unless you are set on the Porsche badge and SUV body style then a VW Golf R Estate is worth considering. It’s just as capable, as quick, is four-wheel drive, more practical and costs over £20,000 less.