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Porsche Macan Diesel S: More sport than utility

Porsche Macan Diesel S: More sport than utility

The new Porsche Macan manages what many so-called sport utility vehicles don’t: deliver a driving experience that’s unequivocally sporty, despite also offering space for family and luggage. But is it sporty enough to wear the Porsche badge with pride? DEON SCHOEMAN finds out in a rain-drenched Cape of Storms.

The rain is coming down in sheets, turning the view through the windscreen a watery white while the windscreen wipers manfully try to move at least some of the water off the glass. Through the side windows, I see angry rivers of water pouring down the ravines of the surrounding mountains.

Coming as I have from a brown, dry and dusty Highveld, where the closest thing to moisture is the morning frost on a hay-hued lawn, the deluge is both a welcome distraction and cause for concern: with so much water on the road, traction will be compromised, even on the well-tended tar of the N1

But our steed seems unflustered by the conditions. From where I’m sitting, ensconced in a bolstered, form-hugging seat, with a large rev counter dominating the instrument cluster, and a small, thick-rimmed steering wheel tugging in squirming ever so slightly in my hands, the car feels every inch a sports car – and the Porsche badge on the steering wheel boss confirms it.

However, the motorists I’m passing might think otherwise: in the spray, all they are likely to see is the silhouette of a sleek and swift SUV sweeping past. They won’t notice the slanted, profiled bonnet and the ovoid headlight clusters, nor the large, hungry air intakes and the big alloys with generous rubber.


But even if the weather was clear and sunny, not too many other road users would recognise the new Porsche Macan – the Zuffenhausen sports car maker’s first compact SUV, which has only just made its South African debut.

Mentioning Porsche and SUV in the same sentence still seems somewhat incongruous, even though the larger Cayenne has been around for more than a decade now.

At the time, the decision to create a big SUV was greeted with some dismay by Porsche traditionalists, but with hindsight, it was the Cayenne that opened up the brand to a whole new market, propelling Porsche from niche sports car maker to an altogether bigger, and more successful super-premium brand.


Global Porsche sales exceeded in excess of 87,000 cars in the first half of this year alone, and employs more than 21,000 people. That’s hardly niche …

So, the Macan is Porsche’s second stab at the SUV formula, and should add a further 50,000 to the brand’s annual sales volume. The Cayenne, in all fairness, is just too large and cumbersome to assume a real sports car mantle – size and weight remain, regardless of how much power there is to balance the scales.

The Macan, however, is an altogether different proposition. It’s more compact, more wieldy than its senior sibling, which benefits not only overall mass, but also allows a lower centre of gravity. Wide tracks and short overhangs are further, promising signs of the dynamics on offer.

The shape, while unmistakably SUV, reflects some of the Porsche design traits more clearly, and more convincingly, than the Cayenne. The lights, the bonnet, the rake of the windscreen, as well as the LED tail light clusters and the ‘blades’ along the flanks, are all elements reminiscent of other Porsche models.


The rear treatment, with its generous tailgate, cocky roof spoiler and large-bore exhausts, is rendered with cohesive finesse, expressing a certain level of muscle, without resorting to overkill. The sculpted flanks add to an overall appearance that is lean, rather than mean.

The interior follows Porsche’s current ergonomic trends, already established in the likes of the 911, Boxster and Cayman. The centre console is an extended, sloping affair endowed with switchgear on either side, while a generous touchscreen display dominates the centre stack.

The driving position is what one would expect of a sports car: an unencumbered view of the large, round analogue dials in the instrument cluster, with the rev counter enjoying pride of place. The seats are supportive without ending up too racy, and the steering wheel offers multifunction controls for key systems. Shift paddles for the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox are standard.


Accommodation at the rear is generous enough, with decent leg and headroom, and seating that should remain comfortable even over extended distances. The motorised tailgate provides access to 500 litres of luggage space, while those who take the utility promise of the Macan seriously can fold down the rear seat, which creates a 1,500-litre loading area.

What’s less apparent is the Macan’s under-the-skin technology. Active all-wheel drive is standard, with drive between the front and rear axles continuously managed by an electronic multi-plate clutch, depending on traction requirements.

For those intent on using the Macan off the beaten track, an off-road mode can be selected, which adapts all traction control and assistance systems to optimise off-road performance. Standard ride height is 190 mm, but with the optional air suspension, this can be upped to 230 mm – a must for those who are planning on tackling the rough stuff.


Indeed, I’d suggest that, in standard trim, the Macan recognises that most owners will negotiate nothing more serious than mild gravel, and instead will expect their Porsche to perform like a Porsche on the black stuff.

And that the newcomer certainly does. With an all-aluminium, independent suspension featuring wishbones front and rear, and damping that finds an excellent compromise between taut control and smooth comfort, the Macan feels poised and planted.

A Sport button adds extra verve by offering crisper throttle response, shift points at higher engine speeds (if you’re relying on the gearbox to shift gears automatically), and faster overall cog swaps.

For those with an even greater need for sporty dynamics (this is a Porsche, after all), the Sport Chrono pack allows further, even sportier adjustments to suspension, and exhaust note, while also adding a launch control function. Sprint times improve marginally, too.

For now, the Macan range consists of three models, all featuring turbocharged engines, seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmissions, and all-wheel drive.

The most affordable member of the trio is the Macan Diesel S, which employs a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel rated at 180kW and 580Nm. Performance is brisk at 6.3 sec and 230km/h.


Only R10,000 more expensive than the Diesel S is the Macan S, fitted with a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine good for 250kW and 460Nm. The petrol version is quicker than the turbodiesel, with a zero to 100km/h sprint time of 5.4 sec and a 260km/h top speed.

The Macan flagship is the 3.6-litre Turbo, credited with a whopping 294kW and 550Nm. That allows a 4.8 sec zero-to-100 time and a 266km/h top speed. I drove both the Diesel S and the S during a stormy, rain-drenched day, with much of the time spent chasing some elusive sunshine.

That quest took as north-east along the N1 past Worcester, and then south along the R316 towards Montagu. The rain only rarely let up, but the roads and the conditions did deliver a decent test of the Macan’s capabilities.

Does the newcomer feel like a Porsche? Yes sir: despite a kerb mass in excess of 1.8 tons, it sprints, turns and drives like a sports car. Even the elevated seating position can’t rob this car of its dynamic thrills – and that goes for both petrol and diesel models.


The Diesel S is arguably the better all-rounder, thanks to its low-down grunt and midrange clout. The urge starts from very low down the rev rage, accompanied by a gruff, engaging exhaust note that suits this Macan’s character. Acceleration always feels instantaneous and punchy, and there’s no sign of the dreaded turbo lag.

Cruising is effortless, even in the appalling conditions we encountered, but it’s in the twisty stuff that the Macan really impresses. The R316 starts off with long, stretches of tar through a wide-open, wind-swept landscape, but once it starts plunging down towards Montagu, it traverses two passes with a mix of sweeps and corners, many slightly off-camber, and featuring the kind of undulations that can all too easily unsettle a car.

The Macan, however, revelled in the conditions, even pressing on in the wet. The all-wheel drive certainly contributes to the SUV’s ability to stick to the chosen line, while the suspension’s damping ensured composure, even under duress.

Vitally, the steering managed to efficiently communicate the Macan’s reactions, and its intentions, while accurately reacting to input – an area where most SUVs suffer from bluntness and over-assistance. It’s one of the key aspects of the Porsche’s appealing and engaging road manners.


Only when braking late and hard into a tight hairpin did the impetus of the car threaten to unsettle it, suggesting that it’s best to get the speed down, and the turn in point correct, before accelerating away. But the Macan certainly lives up to its sports car promise, and is both entertaining and engaging to pilot with intent

The petrol-powered, twin-turbo Macan S displays the same handling traits, but the power delivery is quite different: the stream of urge is more linear, more consistent, but not as punchy as the diesel, encouraging more frequent gear shifts. It’s the more thrilling car in a mountain pass, demanding a closer rapport between car and driver. But the diesel, for once, may be the better, day-to-day all-rounder.

The Porsche Macan may be an SUV, but for once, the sport triumphs over the utility. And considering the badge on the bonnet, that’s exactly how it should be. DM


Porsche Macan Diesel S


2,967cc V6, turbodiesel


Seven-speed PDK dual-clutch


180kW @ 4,000rpm


580Nm @ 1,750rpm

0-100 km/h

6.3 sec

Top speed

230km/h (governed)

Fuel consumption

6.9 litres/100km (tested)

CO2 emissions


Retail price

R912,000 (five-year maintenance plan)


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