No poseur. It's always concerning when a luxury manufacturer moves downmarket. Will brand equity be spoiled? Is the prestige tarnished? Such concerns ultimately sunk Packard in the 1950s and delivered a near-fatal blow to Cadillac in the '80s.
The automaker, however, trod carefully with the 2019 Porsche Macan, the cheapest model currently wearing their hallowed crest. The new second-generation model is no poseur, but rather a multi-talented crossover that combines the practicality of a Volvo with a driving experience that's wholly Porsche.
Cornering maestro. Tipsy-topsy aptly describes the cornering tendencies of most crossovers. After all, what's a crossover if not a hatchback on stilts? But the Macan turns this stereotype on its head. It is, simply put, the best-handling vehicle of its type for sale at any price.
Bring the Macan to any set of ess curves and this becomes readily apparent. The all-wheel drive and staggered-size wheels let it change direction with ease and gives it the grippy tenacity of a clingy girlfriend. There's little body roll and commanding braking power. It's no exaggeration to say that the Macan establishes the performance template of the future as sedans continue to wane in popularity.
And this is just the base model. The S trim, with its further suspension enhancements and 348-horsepower turbocharged V6 engine, underscores all these impressions with a sharpie. If this still isn't enough, Porsche isn't shy with offering mechanical options designed to bring the handling even closer to that of their sports cars. Pay enough money and they'll provide goodies like a torque-vectoring differential, air suspension, adaptive dampers, and carbon-ceramic brakes.
Sporty but comfortable. Even in the cabin, the Macan doesn't forget its heritage. The cockpit – because that's truly what it is – feels pulled out of a 911, with the brand's familiar upward-sloped console straddling the front seats and three round gauges facing the driver. Of course, in proper Porsche fashion, an analog tachometer sits front and center of these. You peer at the 6,750 redline through a three-spoke steering wheel that also feels pillaged from the 911.
With all the shared DNA, it's easy to forget that there's room in back for people and cargo. The 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats does leave us somewhat disappointed, however. Most competitors have at least an extra cubic foot of space to play with, and there's some models offering over 20 cubes of storage space in the far back.
The rear passenger compartment is better, though not good enough to heap praises on. Long-legged riders will be wanting for a little more stretch-out room, but those of ordinary stature should have no concerns. Folks of any size won't want to ride three abreast unless under extreme duress.
Drivers up front won't be worrying about any of this. Like a good sports car, the cockpit is tight but not cramped. The bucket seats are comfortable, supportive, and reminiscent of the 718 and 911. The quality of materials and switchgear is likewise of a similar standard to what's found in the brand's sporting coupes. From the door cards to the dashboard, the Macan shows no signs of cost-cutting, despite its place as the lowest rung on the Porsche ladder.
Option overload. Porsche is no dummy – it's well aware that their brand has evolved into more than mere transportation. It's now even beyond mere sports cars. For better or for worse, Porsche has climbed to that rare strata of a lifestyle brand.
They've taken advantage of this lucrative position by filling the options sheet with more absurdities than you can shake a stick at. Leather key fob holders for $540, anyone? But they've also quietly mixed in some comfort and convenience features which many buyers will expect as standard.
For reference, consider that the Macan's standard equipment includes niceties such as navigation, tri-zone climate control, eight-way power seats, wireless internet, four USB ports, and LED headlights. Note that both the base model as well as the S share the same list of standard features; despite the roughly $9,000 price hike, the S doesn't benefit from any additional standard equipment that isn't mechanical.
It seems like a luxurious enough list, but spending a few minutes with the online configurator tells the truth of it. If you want keyless entry, heated seats, or leather upholstery, you have to pay extra. If you want Apple CarPlay or auto-dimming mirrors, you have to pay extra. If you want any active-safety or driver-assistance features, you have to pay extra.
It takes a certain kind of hubris to make buyers pay extra for something as simple and popular as Apple CarPlay on a car costing over 50 grand. Does this detract from the overall excellence of the Porsche? That depends on your point of view.
But it's worth noting that, in terms of features, the Macan is beaten handily by the likes of the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Impala. Indeed, the only way to get something both this pricey and this barren of popular features is to buy a diesel-powered work truck. Consider yourself forewarned before you splurge on a bare-bones Macan.
Final thoughts. There was a lot that could have gone wrong here: weak performance, flabby handling, poor craftsmanship, etc.. Yet the 2019 Porsche Macan managed to avoid all these pitfalls. Since it first debuted, it's worn the crest of Stuggart as proudly and authentically as any other member of the family. The new model is, thankfully, no different.
But this is only half the story. Considering this crossover-clogged world we now live in, the Macan's dynamic excellence lends some much-needed credence to the idea of a performance 'ute. It proves to enthusiasts – a notoriously finicky lot – that the paradigm shift from cars to crossovers doesn't spell the end of practical performance as we know it. If the Macan is an early taste of what gearheads can look forward to once the last three-box sport sedan heads down that final highway, then perhaps the future won't be so bleak after all.
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