Porsche says its new Macan, soon to be launched in India, is the ideal blend between a sportscar and an SUV. It certainly looks somewhat radical, sitting on a picturesque hillock on the outskirts of Nashik. What strikes me when I first walk up to it is the relatively modest size, the comparatively low slung stance and that rear hatch, that wouldn't look too out of place on a coupé or grand tourer. In fact, the Macan looks like a junior Cayenne. Viewed head on, the Macan looks like it’s ready to gobble up anything in front of it (for which it certainly has the pace) and it sure is going to look quite intimidating in your rear-view mirror too.
No point in wasting time; I lower myself into the perfectly contoured driver’s seat, yes lower, because you sit lower than you expect in a typical SUV and fire up the diesel engine. Even a quick glance around is enough to give me the impression that I’m sitting in a full-blown sportscar and not an SUV. Most of all, this can’t be mistaken for anything but a Porsche. The rev counter takes pride of place in the three-dial instrument binnacle, just like in a 911, Cayman or Boxster, and the three-spoke steering wheel with tiny multi-function controls is borrowed from the 918 supercar.
The centre console, again, is typically Porsche, with a sea of buttons that flanks both sides of the gear lever. All the switches are logically laid out, but I wonder if it’s time for Porsche to clean them up by moving some of the functions into an iDrive or MMI-style rotary controller.
The headroom at the rear is surprisingly good for a car with such a sloped roof, but then again, the rear seats are quite low set. Legroom is decent too and there’s adequate space for two.
The Macan S Diesel does not fail to impress. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is so refined in this car that I had to glance at the modest 5200rpm redline on the large rev counter to figure out what diet this car was on. This oil-burning Macan is very un-diesel-like in the way it performs too. There’s no explosive mid-range, but instead, a nice surge that builds up like a tidal wave from as low down as 1,500rpm. Throttle inputs are met with a sharp response and there’s practically no turbo-lag here. Also, the PDK twin-clutch gearbox always manages to keep the engine in the meat of the power band most of the times.
The diesel, though good, isn't the best bit. Assaulting corners is what this Porsche does best. The Macan turns in with incredible agility and it has enough grip to carry ridiculous speeds through the bends. You can’t not be blown away by the seminal driving experience in something that’s a relatively lofty 1624mm above the ground. It’s easy to forget that this is an SUV that’s also capable of playing mountain goat up a muddy slope. For now though, I’m enjoying every bit of the car on this tight, yet flowing road. What makes it even nicer is that the direct steering is simply brimming over with feedback and feel. Yes, there is some amount of understeer as the tyres start to lose traction, but this can often be cured by waiting and getting on the power when the corner opens up.
And what’s amazing is that all this hasn’t come at the expense of ride quality. Leave the damper settings in Normal mode, and even on a bumpy road, the Macan doesn’t feel bone-jarringly stiff despite the 20-inch rims and the low profile tyres. In Sport Plus, you can feel the dampers stiffen considerably and the Macan feels a bit jiggly on an uneven surface too, but never to the point of being uncomfortable. The ride is truly phenomenal.
Porsche calls the Macan ‘the sportscar among compact SUVs’, and that, frankly is what it is. This means, you get the best of both worlds with sportscar performance and SUV-like off-road ability. It’s fast, luxurious and its immense dynamic ability completely belies its body style. At around Rs 80 lakh, it’s very expensive and some may argue that it’s a bit too cramped and doesn’t buy you much road presence at that price either. However, if you want sportscar-like driving pleasure and compact SUV-like utility and clearance, in one single package, look no further.