Not long ago, we at Autocar India declared that the Porsche Macan was quite simply the best driving SUV in the world. Trouble is, when I say ‘we’, I mean my colleagues; unfortunately, I wasn’t around when they tested it. The months since have been agonising. I mean, if someone were to make a claim so bold, wouldn’t you want to see, no, feel it for yourself? Itching doesn’t even begin to cover it. Now I’ve finally got my chance. I’ve slyly requested Porsche to bring the Macan to me, rather than to the office, and before anyone else knows it, I’m going to head out by myself in the wee hours of the morning to see what all the fuss is about.
The perfect storm
I’m going to make sure I do it right too, and that starts with the road. As with any of our road tests, the car has to be subjected to all kinds of conditions. There need to be straights to let the engine stretch its legs, corners so that the suspension can flex its muscles, gradients to see what the torque makes of all the weight, surfaces of varying grip to evaluate the traction, and maybe a few rough patches; this is an SUV, after all. Oh, and hairpins – you always need hairpins. Amazingly, all this and more can be found just outside Pune, a few kilometres off AH47. Just beyond the town of Lavale is Paud, where this great road starts. It then winds around the scenic Mulshi lake and up towards the Tamhini ghat –and that’s where the fun really begins.
The other thing that had to be just right was the car itself. You see, the Macan the team tested back then was the Diesel S, which I’m sure was incredible in its own right. The one I have with me, however, is the whole hog – the Macan Turbo.
Yes, I know, all Macans are turbocharged, but if you know your Porsches, you’ll know that the ‘Turbo’ badge gets stuck onto only the very fastest models. Fittingly then, this one uses a powertrain that no other car does. It’s the 3.6-litre petrol V6, onto which the crazy folk at Porsche bolted two turbochargers for the Macan Turbo. The 395 horsepower and 56.1kgm then makes its way through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, through all four wheels, through 265- and 295-section tyres, to the road. Instantly, it would seem.
Maharashtra’s roads are still a little greasy in the wake of the monsoon, but I’m not concerned. If anything, I’m only egged on a little bit more. Sat low as I am at the helm of the Macan – more like a car’s seat, less like an SUV’s – the immediate sensation is that I’m not in a big off-roader. Everything seems to bend towards me, from the raked-back A pillars, to the tall dash, to the thick, button-smattered centre
stack – this could very well be a low-slung sports sedan. But as I take the first set of slow corners, I’m cocooned by a sense of security that can only come from a 1.9-tonne, four-wheel-drive SUV with very wide tyres.
It gives me the confidence to even break off the tarmac and onto the grass for a few photos by the lake. A button-press later, the Macan is cranking itself up on its air springs to ‘all-conquering’ height, and we’re comfortably smothering mounds of uneven earth as it rolls beneath us.
Look at those curves
But the ghat beckons and I must answer. We’ve left the lake behind now and the ascent begins almost immediately. Incline, hairpin, incline, hairpin, and on it goes. The SUV is back down at its lowest possible spring height, the engine, gearbox and steering at their most aggressive configuration. Its bark is not scary, nor very loud, but it’s there, and it’s very encouraging.
At no point as I try to manhandle the Macan around each bend am I ever afraid to do so. And boy, do I try! It is just so damn secure, no matter how hard I boot the throttle or saw away at the steering. The ‘season’s greasing’ that’s been left on the tarmac after the recent downpours does nothing to disturb its composure. But don’t for a second think that this security equals sedation. The steering is super accurate and so very full of feedback, it makes even simple traffic manoeuvres a thing of enjoyment.
I see a good, wide open corner and finally manage to unstick the Macan’s rear tyres just a little bit, a stupid giggle slipping involuntarily from my lips. It’s fallible, after all. Waterfalls, small and large, sprout from nooks in Tamhini’s walls and draw small packs of revellers, especially in the monsoon. They are happy to see the blue bicep bolt by, and I am reminded to tone things down a notch now that we have some company.
Macan for all seasons
Going down the other side of Tamhini is just as exhilarating as the way up. You simply have to remember that gravity is now on your side, and after being so enthusiastic with the accelerator pedal, I have to now remind myself to use the superbly weighted brakes and solid metal gearshift paddles to rein the big bruiser in.
As it grunts and heaves its way down the hill, I try to put in perspective just what it’s done on this great road today. Let me put it this way, and bear with me on this one – lots of cars have a Sport button. Pressing it tends to make them a little louder, faster and maybe even tighter-controlled around bends. In Comfort mode, the Macan is a luxury SUV – comfortable, solid and secure. Put it in Sport Plus, and it just no longer is. It’s a sportscar – growling, chest-thumping, agile and fleet-footed. Never before has a toggle switch been so powerful.
The road ends rather unceremoniously in an industrial zone, at which point you could carry on and eventually make your way to Kashid beach. Or you could do what I did and try the Tamhini ‘stage’ in reverse on your way back. It’s a road that can really tell you a lot about any car, and it has more than answered my burning question about the Porsche Macan. Best driving SUV in the world? Ohhhh yes.
on the ah47 that runs alongside Pune, branch off at the major (and rather roundabout) junction towards Lavale. Follow the signs amidst town traffic until you reach Paud, after which all will be forgiven. It’s a road that paces you and your car. Small straights for quick blasts early on, followed by smooth and scenic meanders around Mulshi Lake and then on to properly exciting stuff as you ascend Tamhini ghat. Though traffic here is pretty scant, you might find the odd holidaygoer stopping to enjoy the scenery, so be a little cautious. Other than that, it’s a great stretch on which you can get the most out of any car.
Mobil 1 ™– Power Punch
Strenuous uphill drives can be taxing for your car, no matter how much power the engine packs. As the wise ones say, it’s better to be prepared. And what’s a better way than Mobil’s touch!
With a high-performance additive system providing unparalleled engine protection, Mobil 1 has been Porsche’s factory-fill for over 16 years. In fact, at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nico Hulkenberg’s Porsche 919 Hybrid took the glory away — a testament to both the car’s endurance and why Porsche believes in Mobil 1.
Which is why we say, trust the experts.