Ambush of Tigers

We get behind the wheel of the current full range of Macans.

Photo: Ambush of Tigers 1

Macan base

September 15, 2022

Driving a vehicle like the Macan—Indonesian for tiger—is a reminder that vehicle body styles and categories are, with a few significant exceptions, mostly marketing terms without much real meaning. Take, for instance, the difference between a compact, sporty SUV and a large, off-road-capable sport hatchback. The Macan range makes a good argument for those being two ways to describe the same car, even though they sound totally different. A creative person could even call it a wagon, though that might be a stretch.

Regardless of how you categorize the Macan, its substance leaves little room for doubt that, despite the body style, this is most definitely a Porsche. Even in its most affordable base form, the Macan offers plenty to love; by the time you’ve optioned your way into the range-topping GTS, things have gotten serious. So what is the difference between the various Macans and what’s new for 2022? We spent a day in the Malibu hills driving the Macan, Macan T, Macan S, and Macan GTS finding out.

Macan

The base model 2022 Macan is the most affordable, but that doesn’t mean you should skip over it in favor of something fancier or faster. In fact, unless you’re an accomplished driver with significant track experience, the base Macan won’t be the thing holding you back during your next club drive through the hills. Nimble and light-feeling in a way that’s counterintuitive in a crossover SUV, the Macan is not just fast but fun to drive, too.

Despite offering, in modern terms, a relatively modest output of 261 horsepower, the Macan’s seven-speed PDK transmission and all-wheel drive apply that power so smoothly and consistently that it feels like more. That 261-horsepower and 295-lb-ft output from its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine is an increase of 13 horsepower over the previous base Macan.

The exterior of the Macan has also been updated for 2022, with a new front-end look with trim in body color, integrated air intakes, and a new rear diffuser design. Other upgrades include standard 19-inch wheels (one inch larger than before), the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), Sport Design exterior mirrors in body color, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, and auto-dimming mirrors.

Porsche’s tungsten carbide surface-coated brake rotors (PSCBs) are also now standard for the base Macan, and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is available. The standard Sport air suspension system is now 10 percent stiffer in the front and 15 percent stiffer in the rear. Inside, the base Macan benefits from a redesigned center console with haptic touch and an open storage compartment. There’s also a 10.9-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and navigation. Behind the wheel, the entry point to the Macan range feels like anything but a base model.

Photo: Ambush of Tigers 2

Macan T

The steering is lighter and more feelsome than you’d expect, thanks partly to the 129 fewer pounds sitting on the front axle in the four-cylinder Macans compared to the V6 models. The engine is peppy and never left wanting for acceleration thanks to the strong torque output and the fast-shifting PDK dual-clutch transmission. Opt to flick the shift paddles yourself if you like, but the computer will make fewer mistakes. Braking power, likewise, is more than up to the task, even with the low-dust PSCB brake rotors and even after more than an hour of flogging the Macan over the hills and through the valleys surrounding Malibu.

Macan T

The Macan T is all-new to the lineup. Built around the same 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, PDK transmission, and all-wheel-drive system as the base Macan, with most of the same equipment, but also equipped with a selection of the choicest sporting options, the Macan T occupies the spot in the lineup normally held by a GTS model. The T isn’t the most powerful Macan, but it has almost all of the other GTS handling and performance go-fast goodies.

Upgrades to the Macan T over the base model include the Sport Chrono Package, which helps the Macan T run from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph, plus standard PASM. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+) is also available and was fitted to the model we tested. Unique appearance elements of the Macan T include exterior details finished in Agate Grey Metallic paint, Sport tailpipes, gloss black window surrounds, and “side blades” (the plastic accent along the bottoms of the doors) in black featuring the Macan T logo.

The Macan T also comes standard with 20-inch wheels, including an available Macan S design wheel in an exclusive dark titanium color. Inside, the T gets unique Sport-Tex center seat panels with leather seat bolsters and silver contrast stitching on the seats, headrests, and multi-function GT Sport steering wheel.

If all of this special Macan T stuff sounds like the options you could fit to a regular Macan, you’re essentially correct. Except for the Agate Grey Metallic exterior accents and a few visual tweaks, you could equip a base Macan with all of the key equipment of the Macan T. So why bother with the T? Because it’s about 13 percent less expensive than ticking those option boxes manually on a base model.

As good as the base Macan is for sporty driving, the Macan T’s upgrades are immediately palpable, lending the Touring version of the Macan even sharper responses. The PTV+ system especially is noticeable, helping the already nimble Macan make even quicker work of corner exits. Best of all, despite the even-sharper handling, when you dial the systems back to baseline, it’s no less comfortable or enjoyable as a daily driver than the base Macan.

Photo: Ambush of Tigers 3

Macan S

Macan S

The middle sibling of the Macan range, the Macan S gets a significant step up in power from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the base and T, scoring a 375-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine similar to that found in the GTS. As with the rest of the Macan lineup, a PDK transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Despite the big jump in horsepower from the base and Macan T, the Macan S starts just a few thousand dollars higher at $68,400, a $5,300 premium over the Macan T. Its performance includes 4.4 second runs to 60 mph (with Sport Chrono; 4.6 seconds without), and a top speed of 160 mph.

Of course, when you start ticking options boxes with Porsches, the sky is the limit, and in the case of the Macan S example we tested; the total price was $85,030. The extra $17,000 or so added: Volcano Grey Metallic paint, an interior leather package in red and black, adaptive air suspension with PASM, PTV+, PSCBs, a heated steering wheel, 21-inch RS Spyder design wheels, the Sport Chrono Package, LED headlights with PDLS+, a Bose surround audio system, the Premium Package Plus (lane-change assist, ventilated front seats, panoramic roof, and heated front and rear seats), and more. All in all, this is a nicely equipped performance SUV for the money.

So how does the Macan S drive? Amazingly well, conveying the same tossable this-is-just-a-big-hatchback feel as the Macan and Macan T, though with more power and a heftier road feel thanks to slightly more weight on the nose with the V6 engine. That minor steering feel difference aside, the Macan S’ athleticism is essentially non-differentiable from the base and T model until you press the throttle pedal. That’s when the extra 114 horsepower on tap make themselves known—with authority!

Taken together, the slightly less light-on-its-feet feel and greater power of the Macan S make it feel like it was designed more as a continent crosser than a corner carving commuter like the Macan and Macan T. Looked at another way, you could see the Macan S, especially when equipped with the performance add-ons like this example, as a Macan GTS-lite—and that’s anything but an insult.

Macan GTS

At the top of the Macan lineup is the GTS. Normally the top-end spot of any Porsche model line is held by the Turbo and its variants. However, the Macan Turbo model has been eliminated, and the GTS has been put in its place as the most powerful, most expensive, and highest-performance Macan. Powered by a 434-horsepower, 406-lb-ft 2.9-liter V6 engine, the 2023 Macan GTS sprints to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and carries on to a top speed of 169 mph—2.0 mph faster than the Macan Turbo it replaced.

Unique to the Macan GTS is the Sport air suspension system with PASM, which includes a sport-tuned PASM system at a 10 mm (0.4 in.) lower ride height than other PASM-equipped Macan models. The GTS also gets a host of appearance tweaks, including Sport Design exterior mirrors in body color, LED headlights with PDLS, body-color front and rear fascias, Sport Design side skirts in body color with matte black side blades, and red calipers clamping PSCB rotors. A rear roof spoiler with a fixed twin-wing design, tinted LED taillights, and Sport exhaust system with black Sport tailpipes completes the exterior look. Lightweight 21-inch alloy wheels are standard.

Photo: Ambush of Tigers 4

Macan GTS

A GTS Sport Package is also available (and was fitted to our test car), which adds Sport Chrono, PTV+, 18-way adaptive Sport seats, gloss black Sport Design side mirrors, gloss black front, rear, and side details, and 21-inch GT design wheels with high-performance tires—in this case, Pirelli P-Zero Corsa rubber. The GTS Sport Package also offers deviated stitching, carbon-fiber trim details, and Race-Tex elements.

No matter how you configure the Macan GTS, however, you’ll have your hands full just trying to keep up. While 434 horsepower might not sound all that impressive these days, it certainly feels impressive when you’re slingshotting out of tight corners (or up highway on-ramps) at speeds that would embarrass plenty of two-door Porsches—thank the excellent balance of the Sport PASM suspension, PTV+ system, Porsche Traction Management (PTM), and Porsche’s excellent all-wheel-drive system.

One area—the only area—where the GTS perhaps leaves something on the table relative to the rest of the Macan range is in steering feel. Owing to its slightly greater front-axle weight and perhaps to the setup decision necessary for the GTS’ larger performance envelope, its steering is noticeably heavier with somewhat less feedback than in the base Macan and Macan T.

The Verdict

So, which of this family of performance crossovers is the one you should go for? The short answer is: Any of them. You really can’t go wrong. Whether you’re looking for something as practical as an SUV, as comfortable as a sedan, or as nimble as a sports car, the Macan is a great answer in any trim. That said, there are good reasons to choose each.

The base Macan is a great choice if you’re looking for something sporty, stylish, and practical, but you have no intent to regularly spend extended periods of time driving hard simply for the joy of driving. The base Macan is more than up to the task if you decide to, to be sure, but it also doesn’t spend money on a bunch of features you won’t use often.

The Macan T is, as previously noted, the driver’s pick of the lineup—the role typically filled by the GTS variant in most Porsche model lines. Balancing the most efficient engine with the best steering and handling in the Macan lineup—especially when fitted with PTV+—the Macan T is an easy pick if you’re looking for a car that splits the difference between a weekend toy and a family-friendly daily driver.

If the Macan T fills the spot typically filled by the GTS, and the GTS is more like a typical Turbo, where does that leave the Macan S? Somewhere in-between, and that’s a good thing. Equipped with all the performance bells and whistles, the Macan S is a very fast, sporty crossover. Opt for a more comfort-oriented build, however, and you’ll still get great handling and lots of pace, but you’ll have much better long-haul road-trip experiences.

If you’re a Macan GTS buyer, chances are good you already knew you were a GTS buyer, because this is the car for the folks who want it all. Spanning a breadth of function from comfy commuter to ferocious canyon carver and nearly anything between, the Macan GTS looks, feels, and drives like a vehicle twice as close to the ground and twice the price.

Regardless of which type of Macan owner you might be and how you might feel about SUVs in general, there’s no doubt that the new Macans are Porsches through and through, and that ought to be enough to make any enthusiast happy.

Also from Issue 295

  • 992 Carrera GTS Cabriolet
  • 911 3.0 SC Hot Rod
  • Hal the 914-6
  • Market Update: 911 Turbos
  • Gemballa 928 Convertible
  • Porsche Design History
  • 964 Turbo Tech
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