Balancing Act

On the road in the facelifted Macan GTS.

Photo: Balancing Act 1
May 21, 2020

A 360-hp 3.0-liter V6 with a turbo on either side powered the 95B.1-gen Macan GTS of 2017-2018. Positioned between the 340-hp Macan S and the 400-hp 3.6-liter Macan Turbo, that GTS had a fine balance of performance, ride, and handling. Today, the facelifted 95B.2-gen Macan GTS trumpets a 15 hp and 14 lb-ft boost from a 375-hp version of the current 434-hp Macan Turbo’s 2.9-liter V6.

This updated engine features a pair of turbos located between the cylinder-heads in a ‘hot-side-inside’ arrangement that dramatically shortens the intake tracts for better throttle response. This arrangement also keeps the hottest components high up in the airflow stream while reducing the overall width of the engine package.

The versatility of this new V6 engine is shown by its use across the Cayenne and Panamera ranges, where it is offered in outputs from 330 hp to 440 hp, all achieved by way of unique electronic control unit (ECU) software programming. The most cost-efficient way to maximize comparatively expensive engine hardware, this tuning-by-software philosophy is also applied to the twin-turbo V8 in the Panamera GTS, which shares its engine with the Panamera Turbo.

Photo: Balancing Act 2

Of course, the differing packaging of the Cayenne, Macan, and Panamera all necessitate intake and exhaust designs unique to each bodyshell. The Panamera has the lowest and longest hood of the trio, requiring a lower profile intake, while the Cayenne has a throttle arrangement unique to its engine bay package.

While fuelling and ignition are unique to each engine variant, the most significant alteration between the Macan GTS and Turbo 2.9 specifications (and the one directly responsible for the differences in power and torque) is turbocharger boost pressure. Where the Macan Turbo makes 434 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque on 1.3 bar (18.85 psi), reducing this by 0.2 bar (2.9 psi) to 1.1 bar (15.95 psi) leaves the GTS with its headline numbers of 375 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. There is no overboost facility with either.

Where the transmissions in other Porsche models come from German supplier ZF, the Macan’s seven-speed PDK gearbox is the VW Group’s own unit. Its rated maximum torque capacity is billed as 405 lb-ft, although a Porsche engineer told me this is more like 420 lb-ft. In either case, this leaves plenty of headroom when paired with the Macan GTS engine, whose peak 383 lb-ft is from 1,750 to 5,000 rpm. It is no surprise that the Macan Turbo makes exactly 405 lb-ft from 1,800 to 5,600 rpm.

Photo: Balancing Act 3

While the Macan may appear compact compared to big brother Cayenne, it is a solidly built vehicle that tips the scales at 4,370 lbs in GTS form. However, with its permanent all-wheel-drive system able to perfectly dispense the power and torque on tap, the GTS is able to produce acceleration numbers that would have been the province of many supercars from the turn of the 21st century.

The 0-60 mph sprint is covered in 4.7 seconds, further shaved to just 4.5 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package enabled Launch Control. The 100 mph mark is passed in 11.6 seconds, which is remarkable for a blunt and heavy SUV when you consider that back in the mid-1980s, any vehicle that could break 20 seconds to 100 mph was considered rapid.

Top speed is 162 mph, so it is just as well that Porsche provides strong brakes for the GTS in the form of 360 mm (14.2 in.) vented discs in front, with 330 mm (13.0 in.) vented discs at the rear. There are two brake options over and above this, the first being Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) that offers better response, longer disc life, and up to 90 percent less brake dust. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCBs) are the hard-core drivers’ choice and have the added advantage of reduced unsprung weight.

Photo: Balancing Act 4

Only very fine adjustments have been made to the 95B.2’s suspension to optimize ride and handling performance. With most rival machinery, the ride quality differs dramatically between the basic steel spring and conventional damper set up and the air suspension option. That is not the case here because while—as with other Macan models—the GTS has the option of air suspension, Porsche open their offer with the steel springs and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) damping that is optional on lesser models. This uprated suspension, which includes beefier anti-roll bars, also drops the ride height by 15 mm (0.6 in.) over the stock Macan. If you do order the air suspension, this lowers ride height by a further 10 mm (0.4 in.). Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus is also an option.

Despite the potential for the huge 9.0J and 10.0J x 20-inch alloys wheels shod with 265/45ZR20 and 295/40ZR20 high-performance rubber to confer a stiff ride, the brilliant PASM system mitigates this very convincingly. Thus we would save the cost of the air suspension (unless, of course, the self-leveling and variable ride height features were must-haves for towing or negotiating off-road conditions).

Black is the color for the distinguishing features on Porsche’s GTS models, and this means dark backgrounds for the front and rear light clusters, alloy wheels, and side panels. In the cabin, unless you specify the optional leather trim, the default GTS interior theme features graphite grey Alcantara on the seat and door inserts and steering wheel, with red highlight stitching highlights on the seats, dashboard, and door panels. A nice touch is the red-stitched GTS logos on the headrest.

Photo: Balancing Act 5

On the Road

If you want an SUV that seems to refute the laws of physics, then the sportiest Macan of the lot performs with real aplomb. Not only is the Macan a better steer than any would-be class rival, but it also feels like it was designed to handle relatively like a sports car from day one. In comparison, most other sporting SUVs feel like they are being forced to challenge the laws of physics using every mechanical and electronic trick in the book.

With respect to visibility and safe stopping distance on a dry road, no-one in their right mind should be able to find the limit of adhesion of a Macan GTS. It tracks around bends like it is on rails, and—as noted above—feels like it was born to corner just as well as it will cruise on the autobahn all day long. In fact, we have easily kept up with well-driven sports cars on a race track while behind the wheel of a Macan Turbo, so this comment comes from first-hand experience.

The way a vehicle accelerates from rest and on the fly is just as important as the stopwatch numbers it generates. No matter how fast it is, a car with an uninspiring soundtrack and an engine that is unwilling to spin heartily to its redline is unlikely to appeal to a keen driver. The Macan GTS is guilty of neither. Its V6 singing voice is strong and tuneful, while the rev counter needle whizzes round towards the number 7 on the red dial with real alacrity. Make no mistake, the GTS has real character. The counterpoint is its ability to play the restful and civilized long-distance cruiser that can convey you and three companions over significant distances in relative comfort.

Photo: Balancing Act 6

Also from Issue 274

  • 1986 911 Carrera 3.2 RSR Clone
  • Top Speed 991 GT2 RS
  • 804 Formula One Car Drive
  • Porsche FLA Concept
  • Market Update: Boxster & Cayman
  • Porsche Police Cars
  • Porsche vs. Borgward vs. EMW/AWE
  • 992 Turbo S Tech
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