2020 Porsche Macan Review: Impractical Fun

The verdict: The Porsche Macan is more sports car than SUV. Depending on your needs, that’s either an enticement or a warning.

Versus the competition: In a class of luxury SUVs that are largely fun to drive, the Macan is among the best. But — perhaps unsurprisingly — it’s expensive, cramped and hard to see out of.

After some mild updates for 2019, the 2020 Macan brings back the GTS and Turbo models, both of which had taken a one-year hiatus. (Compare the group here, or stack up the 2020 trims here.) The 2020 Macan comes in four variants, all with standard all-wheel drive: base, S, GTS and Turbo. Performance ranges from 248 to 434 horsepower. We tested a moderately optioned Macan S.

A Riot to Drive, Obviously

It should shock no one that the Macan S is quick. Its turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 is good for 348 hp and 354 pounds-feet of torque. More notable is the drivetrain’s responsiveness; the engine pulls especially hard when revs climb above 3,500 rpm or so, and Porsche’s PDK transmission — a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic — holds lower gears longer to keep revs high, even in normal driving modes. When you reach cruising speed and let off the accelerator, the PDK upshifts multiple gears in quick succession, but if you get back on the gas it’ll kick down just as many in one fell swoop.

Kickdown lag ranges from acceptable in normal driving modes to gratifyingly minimal when you activate Sport mode. Regardless of mode, though, the drivetrain can exhibit some lurching at lower speeds — a widespread tendency in the early days of dual-clutch automatics, though some more recent examples have mitigated that.

Porsche says the Macan S hits 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, substantially quicker than the base Macan (6.3 seconds with a 248-hp turbo four-cylinder). The GTS and Turbo get a turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6, with the GTS (375 hp) hitting 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and the Turbo (434 hp) in 4.3 seconds. There’s an available Sport Chrono Package that includes an over-boost mode to maximize acceleration in 20-second spurts, shaving a couple tenths off each model’s sprint. Still, some rivals’ sportiest variants are even quicker (based on manufacturer-estimated acceleration times).

Adaptive shock absorbers are optional, as are air springs. Our car had both, and ride quality was palpably firmer with the shocks adjusted to their sportiest settings (again, there’s a driver-selectable button). Overall ride quality is firm but controlled, though uneven pavement can chuck the Macan around a bit; a longer wheelbase might sort through that more easily. Still, the chassis feels exceptionally rigid, handling bumps with virtually no reverberation. I drove a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class a couple weeks prior, and the GLC bounced around significantly more over the same stretches of road.

Steering and handling remain towering strengths for the Macan. Turn-in is quick without feeling twitchy, and steering feedback is excellent through full turns. Despite that, turning the wheel requires relatively little effort at parking-lot speeds, a characteristic befitting an SUV. The Macan we drove had 20-inch wheels (18s to 21s are available) with Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 winter tires, which served up impressive grip. As such, the SUV seldom understeered, and the rear end was responsive — but not overeager — to progressive application of power through sweeping curves to help rotate the car. Equally impressive was the Macan’s powerful braking, though our test car’s hardware exhibited some squealing at low speeds.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that our vehicle performed so well even without Porsche’s optional rear-axle torque vectoring system or two ascending levels of higher-performance brakes.

Apps & Aesthetics

The current generation of the Macan dates back to early 2014, with only minor updates since, but there’s an upside to its age: the absence of touch-sensitive controls, a maddening development in more-recent redesigns of the Panamera and Cayenne. Still, many editors found the Macan’s center console’s sea of physical buttons and tiny backlit indicators hard to sort through, and some options (separate fan directions for the passenger?) seemed unnecessary.

A 10.9-inch touchscreen is standard. App-based pairing through the Macan’s Porsche Connect account facilitates Amazon Music and Nest smart-home coordination. Wireless Apple CarPlay is available but Android Auto is not, and the touchscreen confines CarPlay to just 7 diagonal inches of undersized icons and text. (We’ve found this a frequent problem with supersized touchscreens from brands of all stripes, but some automakers have managed to solve it.) The Macan’s four standard USB ports are now Type-C for 2020; multimedia options range from wireless smartphone charging to in-car Wi-Fi and premium audio from Bose or Burmester.

Porsche loyalists will defend it as a brand aesthetic, but the Macan’s interior feels antiseptic. No materials or controls are downright cheap, but it’s missing the generous padding and stitched trim that enliven other luxury interiors. Of course, some of that changes if you spend more money, as Porsche can wrap everything from the dashboard to the seat bases in leather.

SUV… ish

Unfortunately, no amount of money can fix the Macan’s practical limitations. The cabin is cramped, hard to see out of and starved of much driver-accessible storage space. The front seats have limited rearward adjustment range, overly firm bolsters and too much lumbar support — and that was with our test car’s normal seat bolstering, not the Macan’s optional sport seats. Festooned with buttons, the center console limits knee clearance and offers precious little storage space. Behind all that, the backseat has minimal legroom and no seating adjustments.

All that said, compact luxury SUVs aren’t particularly gifted in any of these areas, so the Macan is hardly an outlier. But it doesn’t need to be this way: The Volvo XC60, a walkaway winner in Cars.com’s latest compact luxury SUV comparison, has visibility, storage and seating space in spades.

Some redemption comes in the Macan’s cargo area. Porsche quotes 17.6 cubic feet of volume behind the rear seats. Manufacturer-quoted cargo specs are generally an unreliable statistic industrywide, but our measurements (in accordance with Cars.com’s latest methodology for measuring luggage room) found 18.0 cubic feet. That’s a stone’s throw from Porsche’s figures, and not too shabby for a compact SUV.

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Safety & Value

Like many Porsche models, the Macan has not been crash-tested by a major U.S. institution. Standard features include lane-departure warning but not forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, which Porsche instead bundles with optional adaptive cruise control. Given the importance and widespread standardization of automatic braking, it’s unacceptable that a luxury vehicle in 2020 would make it optional, not standard. (It’s standard in a Toyota Corolla, for Pete’s sake.)

The Macan’s available adaptive cruise control can function all the way to a stop, but lane-centering steering (again, a widespread feature these days) is unavailable. Surround-view cameras are optional, as are adaptive (swiveling) headlights with automatic high-beams.

Pricing starts at $52,250 (all figures include destination), a bit steep when many alternatives start in the mid-$40,000s with AWD. Standard features on the Macan include eight-way power seats trimmed in a mix of leather and Alcantara fabric, plus a power liftgate, LED exterior lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control and lane-departure warning. Curiously, some features that are standard in many mass-market cars remain optional here. For example, our test car stickered at $74,840 and we still had to put the key into the ignition. Porsche’s keyless access system remains an extra-cost option, even on an $84,950 Macan Turbo.

Keyless access is among scores of available options that can raise the price of even a base Macan into six-figure territory. Go to town on a Macan Turbo, and the price can top $150,000. The good news? Most examples don’t reach such stratospheres. Of the new 2020 Macan SUVs on Cars.com, nearly 60% are listed at or below $70,000. For every Macan shopper springing for custom metallic paint ($11,430) or matching cabin trim (another $1,890), many more are keeping a tight rein on the options.

Even at such prices, the Macan remains a clear choice for those who value driving fun above all else. If your needle swings even partway to practicality, however, there are better choices elsewhere.

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