2015 Porsche Macan Off-Road and Track

Pasadena, CA – Being many things to one person is always better than one thing to many. Providing love, understanding, patience, and being attentive are qualities the lonely patron should have held in order not to lose his baby. They would likely have kept him from ordering drinks from the bartender and getting drunk “‘til he’s off of his mind.”

The Macan will be many, many things to 50,000 buyers in the next year or so. This was Porsche’s main point behind the short lead event held between Pasadena and Willow Springs International raceway.

The roads that led to the track were nothing short of maniacally twisty, sharp, with no run-offs or room for error. The Macan took it all in stride and made light of some of the harder corners, elevation changes, and blind switchbacks. With the right hands on the wheel, the Macan can tackle roads that are typically reserved for the sportier of cars. Then, we took it to the track, followed by off-roading.

Like its big brother, the Cayenne, the Porsche Macan fears nothing.
At this program involving Porsche’s latest offspring, I was given the opportunity to put the Macan through some serious tests. You see, Porsche doesn’t simply build something, make it “good enough” for some applications and then send it on its way. No, Porsche will hone and sharpen their vehicle’s skills until they are satisfied thus ensuring that drivers and owners alike will not only be happy with their purchase, but also want to come back for more.

This German manufacturer has always been known for producing some of the most stellar sports cars in the world. Almost 13 years ago, Porsche added an SUV to their lineup and thus also built a reputation for building “trucks.” If trucks or SUVs have fallen out of favour, the compact crossover has never been more popular. Porsche has now tapped into this vein and with a starting price of just under $55,000, it will win. Again.

The Cayenne and the all-new Macan are not typical SUVs/CUVs, and Porsche will always make sure that consumers are well aware of the fact. Hence why I got to do what I did with the Macan so that I can tell you about it.

Tech talk
The S’ 3.0L and the Turbo’s 3.6L V6 engines are one and the same. The extra displacement stems from the 3.6 sporting a longer stroke. The extra 60 horsepower seem conservative, but they are alive and well. I’m going to venture a guess that the Turbo S edition will push out 475 or so hp from the same mill in the not-too-distant future.

Suspension variations play a big role in how the Macan behaves in all situations. The basic steel spring setup does the Macan proud by keeping it on the right side of a perfect blend between comfort and agile handling.

From here, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and its active dampers play an important role in keeping the Macan flat and stable regardless of how the driver is manipulating the pedals or the steering wheel. It offers three modes: Comfort, SPORT, and SPORT PLUS.

The final and decisive trick is the option of an air suspension including PASM ($3,140 on the Macan S). It ponies up the extremes between comfort and cliff-hanging, high-speed grip. The Macan sits 15mm lower (normal level) than with the steel spring suspension (read: sexy stance) and can be dropped a further 10mm for improved aerodynamics (low level). If mild rock crawling is your thing, the air suspension will raise the Macan 40mm above Normal Level (terrain level).

2015 Porsche Macan Off-Road and Track

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

The Tests

One Scotch
On the track, the Porsche Macan connects with the driver akin to the Cayman. It goes something like plugging into the Macan’s central nervous system à la Matrix and communication between man and machine becomes unobstructed.

On the Horse Thief Mile portion of Willow Springs Raceway, the three suspension alternatives were put through their paces on this highly technical — with dramatic elevation changes — short track. The steel springs did well, but nose-dive under hard braking or the opposite with heavy throttle. With PASM, weight transfers were better manipulated, but ultimately the air suspension takes all margins of error from the chassis out of the equation. In this application, the tires are by far the weakest link.

On the Raceway itself, we were challenged with taming the track with the S and the Turbo. Suffice it to say that the Turbo is quicker out of the bends, but the driver needs to jump hard on the big pedal in order not to go through the corner.

In fact, I preferred the linear action of racing the Macan S as opposed to the balls-out rush and near chaos of taming the Turbo. Chasing a 911 Turbo S probably did not help the cause but, as I just noted, it was the performance-oriented yet street-biased tires that were unable to keep up with both of the Macans’ inherent abilities.

On both “trims,” the brakes held up very well except for one S that I suspect was not “properly” abused by the previous drivers. Steering is sweet, and delivers a tremendous amount of feedback despite the Macan being a CUV and not a sports car.

2015 Porsche Macan Off-Road and Track

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

One beer
Off the road, Porsche’s Macan is quite nearly as happy being redneck-like as it is clipping apexes, late braking, and accelerating flat out.

Every 2015 Porsche Macan is delivered with a standard off-road button that includes hill-decent or Porsche Hill Control (PHC). Once selected, the off-road mode utilizes all manner of electronics to optimize traction. Porsche’s traction management (PTM) sends power wherever it can do the most good, up to 100% either way.

Should the Macan be equipped with the optional air suspension, it will raise the “truck” for maximum clearance, up to 9”.

We set off with a trio of properly equipped Macan S on some steep uphill sections where we experienced firsthand how well PTM works. In fact, because the Macan uses the PDK transmission instead of a conventional automatic with torque converter, the compact CUV suffers from less delay in the transfer of power to the wheels, thus enabling quicker AWD reaction times and better off-road performance on loose surfaces. The lead Cayenne (8-speed Tiptronic) struggled far more than the Macan over the same terrain.

The way down was far too easy as PHC did all the work. It can be set to speeds between 3 and 30 km/h and all I had to do was keep the front wheels pointed in the right direction. Mild throttle or braking adjusts the speed and everything else is handled automatically.

2015 Porsche Macan Off-Road and Track

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

For the money, with no regrets
With all the right options and for a decent penny (in Porsche terms), the Macan can truly explore the depth of each apex as well as crawl its way up to the cabin by the lake on the same weekend.

The way it executes everything it can do is what I find most appealing about the 2015 Porsche Macan. Its poise, neutrality, and nearly over-confident behaviour in all conditions make it one of the best driving “tall” vehicles I’ve ever come across.

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