Smarter, more comfortable, and yes, faster.
Porsche is smart. See, just over a year ago, a certain Italian-American automaker decided to stick 75 percent of a Ferrari V8, God's own power steering system, and a fantastic suspension into a beautiful body. The result was the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, arguably the most entertaining crossover SUV on the planet.
But the Stelvio has a secret: It's a lousy daily driver. It's loud, too firm, the brake pedal is terrible, and reliability problems persist for the Italian brand (allegedly). So rather than pivot to performance in pursuit of the Stelvio, the 2019 Porsche Macan balances itself out. It remains just as charming on a winding road but is now far better in everyday driving. What was once an overeager crossover is now smarter, more comfortable, and far better balanced – all things that luxury shoppers want. But it's also sharper and more powerful, thanks to a new engine. And for those reasons, Porsche's entry-level vehicle is more appealing than ever.
The Macan's newfound balance starts with its ride/handling poise. On the tight, winding roads scattered across the Spanish island of Mallorca, the two German-spec Macans we tested – both Macan S models with the optional air suspension – switched between aggressive and relaxed with ease. Aside from the Macan simply being too large for the roads, it never put a foot wrong. The air-suspension controls body motions well, so that when you apply angle to the tight, direct steering, the Macan feels as poised and dynamic as anything this side of an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Gallery: 2019 Porsche Macan S: first drive
But the Macan doesn't take a madman to drive daily. This is down to changes Porsche made to address criticism of the original Macan being too focused on performance. The steel suspension components are now aluminium, reducing unsprung weight by 1.5 kilograms. It sounds modest, but any reduction in unsprung weight is a good one. Along with revised suspension geometry and new shock absorber hydraulics, the new Macan’s suspension readily shrugs off potholes. But even on smoother roads, it feels planted.
When the Macan launches in the UK, it will be with either a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder or a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. And while it's an auto journalist cliche, we liked the less powerful Macan a lot. It doesn't sound all that exciting – there's just 245 bhp and 273 pound-feet of torque. Opt for the Sport Chrono Package – pro tip: always spring for the Sport Chrono Package – and the 2.0-litre Macan takes 6.1 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour with a modest 142-mph top speed. That's identical to the current base model.
But it's intensely likable. As my co-pilot during the drive so eloquently argued, the 3.0-litre Macan S is certainly more powerful, but the 2.0-litre feels like it's giving its all; like it's in its highest state of tune. The Macan S, meanwhile, always feels like it has more to give (which is probably true, considering the inevitable Macan GTS and Macan Turbo will likely use the S' new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6).
Low-end torque is impressive in the 2.0-litre, and the exhaust note is throaty for a base model. It's a fun engine to play with, to wind out, and to enjoy. It revs willingly, and with the help of a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – one of Porsche's excellent PDK (or doppelkupplungsgetriebe, if you delight in the absurdity of the German language) units – the base Macan feels eager and pointy. That's often enough.
But the star of the show will continue to be the Macan S. Now packing the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 from the Panamera and Cayenne, the S model has 349 bhp and 354 lb-ft of torque, with peak twist coming in at just 1,340 rpm and carrying on to 4,800 rpm. The Macan S is a tenth of a second faster to 60 than the current model, doing the deed in just 4.9 seconds (or 5.1 seconds if you ignore our advice and pass on the Sport Chrono Package) and continuing on to a top speed of 157 mph. It’s far more appropriate for autobahn work than the base model. But the new Macan S is too relaxed off the line.
But the star of the show will continue to be the Macan S.
There's a degree of turbo lag, despite the twin-scroll turbocharger and the hot-V configuration. That said, we experienced this in standing-start, wide-open-throttle situations – at speed, the turbo spools up more readily, giving the Macan S a more engaging character.
The 3.0-litre is also the more ear-pleasing engine. Switch the active exhaust to the louder setting (and leave it there), and the result is rich, sonorous exhaust noise that's as smooth as whipped cream. The turbocharger's whistle dominates the intake noise, but it's easy to tune this out with the radio, in case you want a more au naturel voice.
Like the base Macan, the S uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The computer does a fine job when left in automatic and Normal mode, but the transmission is at its best in Sport or Sport Plus and with a human working the perfectly sized, metal paddle shifters. Mounted to the steering wheel, these two units have a perfect action that feels as sharp and purposeful as the PDK's upshifts.
But focusing exclusively on the Macan's performance misses some of the most substantial improvements to Porsche’s entry-level model. Taking inspiration from the Cayenne, there's a new, smarter, and slicker infotainment system with a bigger screen – 10.9 inches from corner to corner, or a whopping 3.7 inches bigger than last year's display – that's better integrated into the dash. It feels modern, responds quickly, and is easy to learn, although the Macan uses traditional buttons instead of touch-capacitive controls. And while they have a pleasant, solid feel, there are going to be a lot of extra, unused buttons unless you go all out with the options catalogue.
What the cabin does get is more cohesion. The addition of a larger screen necessitated a new home for the air vents – Porsche flipped them 90 degrees and positioned the twin vents below the larger display. The result is that the 10.9-inch screen feels like a part of the dash, rather than something that an unimaginative designer simply tacked on. The change also allows the eye to move more naturally from the centre display to the instrument cluster. The only thing separating the two is a simple, subtle strip of the selected dash inlay and aluminium trim.
And once the driver plants their eyes on the twin displays of the mostly digital gauge cluster, they can take a solid grip on a new, 911-derived GT steering wheel. Thick, properly bolstered, and finished in Alcantara suede, this steering wheel has no business being on a crossover, but we're thrilled it’s there. The optional wheel is a delight to work, helping the driver of even the base Macan get into the mood for some corner carving.
This steering wheel has no business being on a crossover, but we're thrilled it’s there.
By now, we've recommended a few particular options. You want the Sport Chrono Package, and you should at least consider the air suspension. And the GT steering wheel is neat, too. But as with so many Porsches, it's easy to get into trouble with the options catalogue. Prices for the base Macan start at £46,344, but if you want the Macan S, you're on the hook for £48,750. And if you want something like the Chalk coloured car featured in our gallery, plan on spending a good bit more. Playing around with the Porsche UK configurator we were able to easily build £40,000 in optional extras. Spending over £90,000 for a compact crossover is no small ask, but with a little more restraint, it's entirely possible to build a Macan S that even the most demanding customer can happily drive every day.
The 2019 Porsche Macan is more composed and comfortable, but it's equally able to dance on a twisty road. If the suspension was all that Porsche had changed, we'd be satisfied. That the new Macan adds smarter, better-integrated technology and extra power along with a fresh look is simply a happy bonus. If you were worried that Porsche's smallest CUV was too hardcore for family work, the 2019 Macan will change your mind.