A Feistier Tiger

Behind the wheel of the new 440-hp Macan Turbo Performance Package.

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 1
May 18, 2017

In the three years since its debut, the 95B-generation Porsche Macan (derived from the Indonesian word for tiger) has become somewhat of a legend in the compact SUV segment. Not content with merely building a sporting SUV with decent off-road capability, Porsche set out to create one that rivals many sports sedans on the race track with little compromise in other areas. And it succeeded. So how can an already impressive, class-leading machine be improved?

The Rundown

Based on the Audi-designed MLB/ MLP modular-longitudinal platform, the Macan launched in 2014 with a range of V6 engines that started with the punchy and efficient 258-hp 3.0-liter in the Diesel (in non-U.S. markets), extending through the 340-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter in the Macan S, up to the 400-hp twin-turbo 3.6-liter in the Turbo.

The year after, to help mitigate high local taxes in China and some other Far East countries, Porsche added an entry-level 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo inline-four model. Initially unique to those territories, this engine option was later rolled out in other global markets, where its price and smaller displacement is also considered tax friendly.

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 2

Building on this already comprehensive range, Porsche introduced the 360-hp Macan GTS in late 2015. Based on the Macan S, its uprated chassis and brakes delivered sharper handling without corrupting comfort or drivability. Keeping with Porsche’s standard product strategy, the long game is to fill all the gaps in the range. With the GTS established as the sportiest (but not the fastest) Macan, it is now time to take the flagship Turbo to the next level.

On the face of it, the standard Macan Turbo’s 400 hp at 6,000 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque from 1,350 to 4,500 rpm is plenty of power and grunt for a small SUV—even one with a 4,244-pound curb weight. Its stopwatch numbers bear this out. In a Macan Turbo with the Sport Chrono Package, 60 mph arrives in 4.4 seconds, it takes just 10.9 seconds to reach 100 mph, and the top speed is 165 mph. Those are figures many a high-performance sedan would like to own. However, as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes continue to raise the bar in this ultra-competitive segment, it was time for Porsche to add a range-topping 440-hp Macan Turbo Performance Package model. While you may expect this boost in output to come from different hardware like bigger turbos, it comes from software upgrades done by Porsche.

The more powerful 3.6-liter V6’s 440 horses arrive at the same 6,000 rpm as the standard Turbo. And its peak torque of 443 lb-ft (up 37 lb-ft over the regular Turbo) is served up on a generous plateau that begins an imperceptible 150 rpm higher at 1,500 rpm and ends at the same 4,500 rpm. These bigger output figures translate into superior straight-line performance. The 0-60 mph sprint takes just 4.2 seconds, 100 mph comes in just 10.4 seconds, and max speed is 169 mph.

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 3

The uprated engine connects to the Turbo’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, with attendant software changes made to adapt it to handle the additional power. While some enthusiasts may still hanker for a manual transmission in a Macan at times, such an offering likely won’t be made due to weak demand from buyers of shift-it-yourself first-generation Cayennes and Panameras.

By default then we declare the PDK a perfect match for the punchier engine. We find the new engine and transmission software integration to be virtually faultless in shift speed and smoothness. In Sport and Sport Plus modes, the transmission applies torque overload during upshifts to give more aggressive feeling gear changes. This new model produces 10 percent more power, which may not sound like a lot. From behind the wheel, though, the difference is readily apparent.

Test Drive

Out on the open roads around Lapland, Finland, the Turbo Performance Package’s extra oomph made a noticeable improvement from the word go. Even if you do not have the opportunity to drive the Turbo and the Performance Package models back-to-back, know that the 440-hp model moves with much more gusto. Its engine and exhaust note strike the perfect balance between sophistication and aggressiveness, leaning more towards the latter when the flaps of the standard Sport exhaust system are open. Come off the throttle briskly, and the electronic ‘backfire’ emits a lovely crackle on overrun. Sporty? Absolutely!

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 4

Engage Eco mode with the push of a button, if you are on a flat road or pointing downhill, and the clutch opens to decouple the transmission from the engine whose revs drops to idle. This coasting (or ‘sailing’) mode saves fuel, but be aware that the economy advantage comes at the expense of the normally near instant throttle response since it takes a discernible moment to re-engage the drivetrain when you throttle up again.

The chassis of the Turbo performance model is suitably uprated to handle the extra power. With the default steel suspension, the ride height of the Performance Package drops by 15 mm (0.6 inches). With the height adjustable air suspension option, the ride height reduction is 10 mm (0.4 inches). Both settings mirror those of the Macan GTS.

The standard Turbo footwear is unchanged, which means that the big wheel arches house 8.0J and 9.0J x 19-inch alloys front and rear respectively, shod with 235/55R19 and 255/50R19 rubber. The 14.3:1 ratio of the unaltered electro-mechanical power steering delivers a nicely weighted feel without the artificial heaviness of some competitors. For the brakes, the front discs were upgraded to 390 × 38 mm (15.35 × 1.5 inch) steel grooved vented units from the stock Turbo’s 360 × 36 mm (14.2 × 1.4 inch) vented rotors. The rears discs remain 356 × 28 mm (14.0 × 1.1 inch).

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 5

Testers use the word ‘compromise’ when describing the balance between ride and handling. Suffice to say that the Macan Performance Package excels in both disciplines. Despite its hunkered down external appearance and the overtly sporting look of its deeply bolstered seats, this is one of the most comfortable SUVs on the market. Even passengers travel in relative comfort when this machine is hurling down the road at high speeds.

Our winter test drive was on snow-covered roads leading to a dedicated snow and ice course where we could let our hair down. So long as the laws of physics were not abused, we found it very hard to upset this chassis. With a forgiving balance supported by the state-of-the-art electronic systems, the Macan has a playful side to its nature.

For example, in Sport mode, the stability control system allows the car to adopt significant power-on drift angles with a high level of driver confidence. You can also turn the system off completely, and on the snow circuit, the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system made it easy to coax the Macan into long drifts easily controlled with your right foot.

Photo: A Feistier Tiger 6

In line with the Performance Package’s role as the Macan line flagship, Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, which adjusts damping forces to counter body squat to an absolute minimum, comes standard. The dynamic advantages of PASM can be further augmented with the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system. Its role is to brake opposing wheels in critical cornering situations and virtually force the car from a potentially deviant path onto the desired line. Considering the Macan’s two-ton curb weight, the go-kart-like agility that results from the torque vectoring feels quite surreal!

At the other end of the scale, the off-road setting caters to those who venture off of the beaten path, and it is here that the extra ground clearance bestowed by the optional air suspension comes in handy. Ultimately, the Macan’s off-road capabilities are limited by its road tires whose remit is high-speed tarmac work rather than forays into the wilderness.

While the Macan’s well-appointed cabin offers comfort for four, the person holding the 918 Spyder-inspired Sport steering wheel undoubtedly has the best seat in the house. The Macan’s dashboard is contemporary Porsche. And its center console is covered in an array of buttons that appear confusing to the uninitiated, but are ultimately preferable to rival designs where essential functions are accessed through a sometimes confusing menu on a display screen.

Another standard Performance Package fitment is the Sport Chrono Package, which includes a clock/ stopwatch on the dashboard top roll, Sport Plus mode, a performance display on the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system, and Launch Control. On the downside, the overly sensitive rear wiper actuator that we used a lot in snowy northern Finland needs some tweaking.

Visually, the Turbo Performance Package does not differ much from the regular Turbo (besides a small Powerkit label on the engine cover) but can be enhanced with some options, like the $7,920 Turbo Exterior Package that includes 21-inch 911 Turbo-design alloy wheels. And the $7,780 Turbo Interior Package features the obligatory carbon-fiber dash and panel inserts, and Alcantara trim that make the cabin an even nicer place to be.

The relative lack of visual changes to the Performance Package model partially explains why Porsche has not wheeled out the “Macan Turbo S” badge this time around. The word is that a Turbo S model would have to differ even more from its siblings, as well as have closer to 500 hp.

The Verdict

Compared to the $76,000 base Macan Turbo, the Turbo Performance Package models costs $10,445 more. Considering the level of desirable extra equipment for this relatively modest price hike, we can see many Macan buyers ticking the Performance Package box by default. We practically guarantee they will not suffer from buyers remorse.

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