Review: Porsche Macan and Macan S

The German automaker shows us how well the cars have taken to Australia with a road trip in Victoria.

In the revamp of its Macan S (left) and Macan, Porsche has introduced subtle tweaks that noticeably elevate their aesthetics and driving experience (All photos: Porsche)

It is no secret that Australia is as weird as it is wonderful. Just as its magnificent surf, flora and cuddly creatures — found nowhere else on earth — inspire awe, its isolation, harsh ultraviolet rays, deadly reptiles and arachnids, and the desert that takes up 40% of its land mass provoke outsiders to question the practicality of living here. In fact, conspiracy theories of the flat-Earth variety suggest that the country does not really exist and all that we know about it is fabricated — “one of the biggest hoaxes ever created,” they claim.
While the continent has singularities unique to it, such as Aussie speak (a language seemingly composed entirely of English abbreviations) and Chris Hemsworth, it does share similarities with the world beyond its borders. Its major cities are as cosmopolitan as any capital and there are familiar sights aplenty — takeaway coffees, bustling crowds at tram stops and the wide rivers that form the island nation’s massive network of waterways.
Another accustomed, yet always appreciated, sight here is a particular animal that goes by the name of Macan. It has been spotted both in the cities and desolate lanes of the outback, fluidly adapting to varied landscapes. This species of the Porsche genus wears many cloaks and some 2,000 of them hit the Australian roads every year, their silent purrs and eager growls joining the surrounding chorus of wildlife.
The Macan looks and feels at home both in the city or through quiet country roads

On a recent tour of New South Wales, we rode with the Macans, seeing Victoria through their eyes. Our regional cohort of journalists was introduced to them at Melbourne Airport, where we exchanged a cursory hello before walking around these beasts to examine their evolution.

The newest breeds of the Macan and Macan S appear more agile than their predecessors, the illusion of speed and grace enhanced with LED headlights (now standard and eliminating the need for fog lamps) and daytime running lights redesigned as horizontal slashes through the air intakes and revamped front bumper. While the wraparound bonnet has been retained for a flowing silhouette, its horizontal lines are sleeker, recalling the sports-car influences in this crossover while the width of the lights contributes to a wider look, suggesting the heft and low-slung, stable stance of a sport utility vehicle.

Around the back, the appearance of its powerful haunches is tempered by similar rear treatment to that of its Cayenne and Panamera cousins — a three-part, three-dimensional LED light panel stretches across the width of the car, seamlessly connecting both tail lights and recalling the visual emphasis of width in the front. The central light panel also highlights the three-dimensional Porsche logo integrated beneath it.

If the word “light” is starting to sound repetitive here, it is because Porsche has learnt how to manipulate something so functional into an instrumental part of its aesthetic — in the daytime, the sculptural interior of the headlights in three-dimensional light modules is a striking design element in itself.

From silhouette to handling, the crossover Macan displays the best traits of its sporty and SUV references

The most noticeable change in the leather interior is the upgrade of the central touchscreen from 7.2in to 10.9in. Its high-definition interface is intuitive to use, and we decided to test the internal navigation system — always touch-and-go in cars — on a route that would take us from the airport to lunch at Flowerdale Estate in Strath Creek and then to Michelton Winery Estate, where we would check in for the night before returning to the airport early the next day.

Although intimidating from the outside, the Macan seemed eager to make our acquaintance. It deftly linked up with our phone and upbeat classics blared from the steady sound system as we turned out onto the main road. It was a cool autumn day, not that the season makes much difference in this beauty. Australia in spring is not so kind to me with its abundant pollen, but the Macan has adapted to the climate and conditions. It rolled out with particle/pollen filters with anti-allergen coating as well as an optional ioniser to further improve air quality. If there is ever a companion I want when the flowers begin to bloom, it is this.

Being part of a convoy is rarely pleasant, especially in quick-changing traffic. Getting out of the city is difficult, with vehicles frequently cutting in and numerous turn-offs threatening to confuse drivers further back in the convoy. It was here that I appreciated the distinctive effort poured into the Macan’s lights — the four-point design of the brake lights and strips of light that are the signals make it easy to pick the Porsches out of the crowd.

We were sharing the road with trucks, trailer lorries and cement mixers, all of which seemed to conspire to throw up as much dust as possible in our path as we turned off the highway. The vivid metallic mamba green Macan S ahead of us remained conspicuous, as did the tail lights of the lead car. We were entering farmland territory, acres of sprawling green broken up only by defensive tree lines and grazing cattle or horses. It was quietly picturesque, and the cloudless sky beamed a smug bright blue.

The most noticeable difference in the upgraded model is the enlarged touchscreen

It was all serene and civilised, befitting the refined character of the latest Macan iteration, but lest we forget this creature straddles two worlds, the landscape changed in the second half of our drive. Flowerdale Estate proved an idyllic spot to while away an hour, but I was eager to slide into the driver’s seat after lunch. Being a passenger is always a treat, particularly in a traffic-choked city like Kuala Lumpur, but the open road here beckons and the Macan begs to be given free rein.

That I did, to a certain extent, savouring the freedom of being away from Australia’s ubiquitous speed cameras and dutiful police. The land on either side changed from lush green to parched brown, straggly trees having shed their summer leaves and dry scrubland peeking from the horizon. The roads were quieter and winding with a hairpin turn thrown in for fun.

I was alarmed at the sharpness of a corner and when the steering wheel slipped from my hand for a split second, the crossover held firm, taking the bend without wavering or sliding out of control. I later learnt this was due to the new engine mount with increased driving dynamics support, in which the engine roll on the mount is suppressed more effectively under load, thus influencing handling when cornering. If the driver accelerates when driving out of a bend, the movement of the engine has a significantly reduced effect on handling, improving the tracking of the Macan.

Even under the stars, the new LED headlights compete for attention

We were approaching a moderate incline and the road disappeared from and reappeared again in our view. The walkie-talkie crackled and the voice of our instructor in the lead car filled the cabin. “This is a nice little twisty part, enjoy it.” There was a second of silence before the device crackled again and he added as an afterthought, “Safely.”

Easy enough. The four-cylinder engine (V6 in the Macan S) ate up the miles effortlessly. I left the Macan in normal mode and the Porsche dual-clutch transmission shifted gears easily as required while the brake pedal — steel has been replaced with a lighter glass fibre-reinforced thermoplastic sheet material — was responsive, providing immediate feedback. I was more confident now, dropping the top to sing along with the music above the wind. We lost sight of our convoy but the navigation system was up for the challenge, dependably leading us to Michelton Estate. It was an enjoyable drive, cruising along the curves and speeding up on the straight roads, and I found myself turning into the winery far sooner than I would have liked — both the pleasure and pitfall of driving a fast car.

Dinner that evening was in the Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, a cool subterranean space featuring the artworks of Australia’s First People. And parked in the corner of this bunker, most surprisingly, was the Macan, gleaming and at home amid expressive works of art. For a non-native animal, it seems to have adopted the ways of man and adapted well to the land. In many ways, it has become like the creatures with which it shares this habitat, mastering the ability to blend in or stand out as desired. And like many things about Australia, it is at once foreign and familiar, an import that clearly now belongs here.


This article first appeared on June 10, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.


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