But when I finally got a proper steer in 2016, on a track no less, I completely changed my tune. I came away gobsmacked by its sheer breadth of ability as well as its impeccable build quality.
Mind you, it’s wasn’t the quickest, nor the roomiest or the most luxurious in the segment – but that wasn’t necessarily the brief, either.
Just like the 911 it was all about the driving experience and how it made the driver feel behind the wheel. I can tell you, it was special in that regard.
Everything from the low-set driving position to the precise handling and peerless ride comfort made it the benchmark in the segment from day one. Here was a Porsche SUV of modest proportions that drove exactly as the badge intended.
Not much has changed over the ensuing years, so it can be difficult to tell one model year from another, outside of contemporary lighting tech and a couple of nip and tucks to the front and rear bumpers.
That’s entirely by design too, as it remains one of the most resolved SUV designs in the class and the best-selling Porsche ever. You know the proverb if it ain’t broke…
In fact the 2022 Porsche Macan S tested here is still technically a first-generation model which has been around since 2014, but incrementally improved by various tweaks along the way.
Its most recent nip and tuck occurred in December 2021, when Porsche tidied up the bumpers, cleaned up the cockpit and dropped in its latest and greatest 2.9-litre twin-turbo powertrain – a proper game changer in the eyes of this tester.
The previous 3.0-litre V6 only had a single turbocharger, whereas the newer, slightly smaller displacement engine is significantly improved with two turbos making more power and torque, as well as a wider torque curve to boot.
However, if you’re wondering when the next-gen is going to hit the streets, that’s likely not before 2024 when Macan will move to Porsche’s new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture – which will make it the second all-electric model after the Taycan.
The good news is the EV Macan is intended to sell alongside petrol versions at least for a few years.
This makes sense for those of us who still love the exhilarating sound of that twin-turbo V6 (and there are still plenty of those fans around) as the automotive landscape inevitably pivots towards a world devoid of the sound of the combustion engine.
Less enticing for new Macan buyers will be the latest price hike across the line-up. It’s anywhere from $5300 to $8300 depending on variant, and that’s after a previous price increase in 2021, which was similarly significant.
Porsche’s pricing is not alone in these unusually volatile times, with almost all luxury carmakers forced to raise prices in order to absorb extra costs for the likes of parts and shipping.
Moreover, the competition has also lifted their game with new designs, new tech and sizeable performance gains. The question is, does the Porsche Macan still hold up as something of a benchmark among key rivals?
After its second price hike in as many years, pricing for the entry-level Macan now kicks off from $90,100 plus on-road costs (+$5300), while the better-equipped Macan T wears a $93,500 sticker (+2000). The Macan S tested here is priced from $113,200 before on-roads (+$7400), significantly less than the range-topping Macan GTS at $138,100 (+$8300).
While those price hikes are indeed significant for almost all variants, they’re noticeably less than more expensive Porsche models like the Cayenne, 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman, Taycan and Panamera, all of which have seen even larger increases.
More importantly, for Porsche buyers at least, it’s still appreciably less than nearly all its key rivals, even when comparing the athletic Macan with the less sporty wagon competitors instead of pricier coupe-like versions.
Take the BMW X3 M40i that’s priced from $118,900 plus on-roads, or the Audi SQ5 TDI Sportback priced from $116,400 ($110,400 for the regular wagon body). The Mercedes-AMG GLC43 wears a big $123,324 sticker, while the coupe version is priced even higher at $130,724.
Prices quoted exclude on-road costs
Climb into a Porsche Macan for the first time and any expectations you might have of a Porsche SUV will likely be met, and then some.
There’s less bling than most rivals, but this is still a very polished cockpit which gets all the important stuff right with perfect ergonomics.
Take the driving position: you won’t find better sports seats in the business. They provide a high level of comfort and bolster in equal measure.
There might be some that offer the same levels of support, but they’re usually too firm and don’t offer the kind of long-haul relief as those in the Macan S.
Even though the seats are luxuriously wrapped in the softest leather with abundant cushioning, the driver is buried deep into the car, more like a perfectly fitting glove than a regular sports seat.
It gives you the feeling of total control with the steering set slightly lower than you might normally be used to. Mind, it’s endlessly and electrically adjustable via an easy-to-use rocker-style lever on the underside of the steering wheel itself.
Don’t expect a fancy flat-bottom steering wheel in your Macan either; Porsche don’t do those.
Instead, you get a perfectly round three-spoke tiller with a couple of scroll dials and the all-important drive-mode controller on its own. And, if you’re like me, you’ll be fiddling with that thing constantly to suit the changing road conditions.
The latest flight-deck-style console is borrowed from the Porsche 911, Panamera and Cayenne and while there are still plenty of buttons about, they’re the capacitive type, so the look and feel is a whole lot cleaner and less cluttered than previous iterations.
There’s still a couple of old-school features on board like the properly chunky shifter and key starter in lieu of the drive toggle and push-button start found in newer Porsche models.
Frankly, I like both in the Macan – as there’s something purposeful about pulling a genuine lever and twisting a key to start an engine.
Same goes for the trademark triple binnacle driver’s instrument display – it’s neat and tidy, and again, pleasantly old-school and all the more familiar if you’ve ever owned an older Porsche.
Newer models get a mostly all-digital screen, though, still with a proper centre binnacle for the tacho in keeping with Porsche tradition.
And, just like the 911, the infotainment screen is nicely integrated into the dash (Porsche doesn’t do floating screens), with crisp clarity, colour and touch response.
Hard plastics are few and far between in the Macan, at least 90 per cent of the materials used are soft-touch with a premium look and feel about them.
Only the stuff at foot-level looks cheap, otherwise it’s a thoroughly business-class environment.
However, even though Macan is one of the longer SUVs in its class (only the BMW X3 is longer) rear-seat accommodation is most comfortable for two.
It’s the combination of the high-set hump in the middle of the floor and the not-so-generous rear legroom that can stifle comfort back there, especially for those above 6’4” in height (as tested).
While boot space has never been a strong point with Macan (453L), I’d argue it all depends on your family situation and lifestyle.
If your kids have already flown the coop then I can tell you unequivocally it’s the ideal size that will easily swallow a couple of short boards and a mountain if you fold the seats – which expands luggage space to 1468 litres.
Oddly enough, there’s more load space in the entry-level four-pot Macan (488L/1503L), most likely the result of the adaptive suspension hardware in V6 models.
In any case, it’s less than the Porsche’s main challengers, with both the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 boasting 550L, while even the Audi SQ5 offers 520 litres of boot space.
The mid-spec Macan S gets the latest EA329-designated 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 originally out of the Cayenne S, except in the Macan it’s tuned to develop 280kW of power at 6700rpm and 519Nm of torque between 1850-5000rpm.
It can dash from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono package, while top speed is electronically limited to 259km/h.
If you want more, then you’ll need to step up to the top-spec GTS, which gets a more powerful tune of the same twin-turbo V6 with 2.3 bar of boost pressure developing 324kW and 550Nm.
The extra oomph means is will scoot from zero to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds and top speed increases to 272km/h.
All Macan engines are paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch (PDK) automatic transmission along with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive.
Equipped with a 75-litre fuel tank, Porsche claims combined petrol consumption of 10.2L/100km on the combined test cycle using premium 98 RON for the Macan S.
It’s not the first time I’ve said this, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re behind the wheel of a 911 Turbo S, an all-electric Taycan or the Macan S, you immediately feel right at home.
It’s not just the familiarity of the cockpit, it’s more the solid feeling you get from all the major controls; throttle, brakes and steering weight.
It’s satisfyingly robust and asks a tad more of the driver than other makes in this category.
From the moment you twist the key in the Macan S, you’ve got an instant smile on your face, thanks to the characterful start-up routine that pleasantly blips engine revs before settling down to a higher than-usual-tempo idle.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Even as a 911 owner, you’re going to like the Macan S right from the get-go.
If you’re city-based then most of your driving should be in the Normal drive mode – where the power delivery is smoother and most linear, not that there’s much in it – with the exception of Sport+.
Personally, I prefer to live life in the fast lane with the Macan, so Sport is my go-to drive mode even for the local commute.
It’s immediately more alert, especially with throttle sensitivity but without being nervous like some rivals.
The steering is a tad heavier, too, but I don’t mind that in the Macan (or any other Porsche), thanks to it being one of the best examples of electric power steering (EPAS) in the business.
There’s no artificiality about it and the accuracy, quickness and feedback to the driver are benchmark.
Give it a proper boot full and there’s no doubting the fact Macan S is a very rapid machine. I wasn’t expecting this level of acceleration given its 4.6-second 0-100km/h claim.
I can tell you it feels noticeably quicker than the claim given the complete lack of any turbo lag.
Then there’s the sound emitted by Macan’s quad-tipped exhaust system. Mind, I’ve got the small button on the left of the shift lever permanently lit up for maximum decibels.
It’s not really offensive but it’s on the cusp if you keep it pinned – even at low speeds it’s still very satisfying.
And, while the throttle pressure asks a bit more of your right quad than you’re like used to, you’re able to adjust the pace (usually more, and even mid-corner on a bumpy road) in very small increments, such is its beautifully linear calibration. It’s massively reassuring to the driver.
Dialling up Sport+ is almost pointless unless you’re on a track or travelling at a punishing pace on twisty Targa-style roads.
However, you still won’t need to use the paddle-shifters (you do anyway), thanks to the PDK’s uncanny intuitiveness that calibrates shift points to revs so, so perfectly.
Honestly, it’s difficult to think of a competitor that delivers such a complete all-round driving experience as the mid-range Macan S.
It’s easy to forget you’re driving a two-tonne SUV, because it handles more like a well-sorted hot hatch, but with all the comfort of a luxury car.
It’s not a 911, but there’s an extraordinary level of engineering at play here with all the main controls and systems working together in perfect harmony.
Best of all, the ride/handling balance is simply without peer in the luxury SUV segment and that includes more expensive makes and models equipped with air suspension.
It doesn’t seem to matter what the condition the road surface is in, the Macan’s adaptive suspension is able to absorb bumps, lumps and busted-up edges without any handling penalty whatsoever. And, that’s mid-corner bumps, too.
The brakes aren’t particularly large (360mm front, 330mm rear) but both the stopping power and progressive pedal make things very sure-footed.
And never mind the wet, we’ve previously driven this thing in torrential rain and the level of grip the car provides is exceptional. To me that’s as much about safety as it is performance.
Macan S highlights:
- 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- Eight-speaker sound system with amplifier
- DAB+ digital radio
- 2 x USB-C in front centre console
- 2 x USB-A charging ports in rear centre console
- 14-way power Comfort front seats with memory
- Privacy glass
- Keyless entry and start
- Automatic LED headlights
- 15mm lower suspension
- Electronic adaptive dampers
- Agate Grey Metallic exterior design elements
- Quad exhaust outlets
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors
- Exclusive upholstery with black leather, embossed Porsche crests on headrest
- Heated, eight-way power adjustable front sport seats
- Memory for driver’s seat
- Heated sports steering wheel
- 14-speaker Bose sound system
- Three-zone climate control
- Body-coloured front apron
- SportDesign side skirts, side blades, rear bumper
Our tester was fitted with the following options:
- Leather package in Black with contrast stitching in Gentian Blue: $6210
- 21-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels: $4860
- Sports exhaust system with tips in Silver: $4540
- Panoramic roof system: $3110
- Sport Chrono Package incl. mode switch: $1880
- Adaptive cruise control: $1620
- Front seat heating: $790
- Self-steering park assist: $650
- Adaptive Sports seats (18-way electric): $580
- Porsche logo LED courtesy lights $540
- Power-steering Plus: $490
The Porsche Macan doesn’t have a rating from ANCAP, though it has an older, five-star rating from Euro NCAP based on testing conducted in 2014.
This took place before ANCAP harmonised its testing criteria and ratings with its European equivalent. However, the rating and scores are considered expired by Euro NCAP.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Lane change assist
- Surround-view cameras
- 6 airbags
Like all Porsche models, Macan is backed by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. There’s no capped-price servicing like most rival brands offer.
If you’re looking for an exciting medium luxury SUV that ticks each and every box when it comes to performance, ride, handling and comfort for the price point there’s simply nothing out there better than a Porsche Macan S.
But there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind – it’s got less room than all its key rivals, especially when it comes to boot space and rear legroom for taller frames.
The tech isn’t quite as up-to-date as you find in its BMW and Mercedes-AMG counterparts. And, of course they have more bling.
Although it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly for those who favour overall driving pleasure ahead of larger, more dynamic screens and load space.
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MORE: Everything Porsche Macan