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Porsche Macan 2014 on the road

We take a high-speed ride in the Porsche Macan and experience all three engines, on and off-road

“Some of the journalists have said it’s pointless driving you around like this,” our test driver tells us as he flicks the Porsche Macan sideways over a crest and holds another precision drift around a long left-hander. “But I say this is exactly how it has to be driven, it’s a Porsche after all.”

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Anyone scared that Porsche had sold its soul to the devil by building a second SUV needn’t worry. From where we’re sitting this is the sportiest SUV money can buy – an entirely different proposition to the Audi Q5 it shares its platform with - and we’re bursting to have a go ourselves before it reaches UK showrooms in April 2014.

That will have to wait until mid-February, but to whet our appetites until then Porsche has laid on passenger rides in all three versions - the Macan Turbo, Macan S and Macan S Diesel - along with access to the men and women responsible for the Macan’s development.

Only a third of the components are carried over from the Q5 untouched – the other two-thirds are either entirely new or repurposed for the Macan, all with the intention of sharpening up the drive.

The electromechanical steering, for example, is ten per cent quicker, while the four-wheel drive system is heavily rear-biased, sending 80 per cent of the torque to the rear axle in steady-state driving, although it can send up to 100 per cent to the front if the grip conditions require it.

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Mixed tyre sizes (wider at the rear than the front), bigger brakes with six-piston calipers (carbon-ceramic discs are optional) and air suspension are all unique to the Macan.

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A rear axle differential lock and a torque vectoring system known as PTV Plus are optional, but essential if you’re a fan of power oversteer, while the seven-speed PDK gearbox can swap cogs in under 100ms.

Porsche Macan price, news and video

Three separate suspension setups can be ordered – steel springs with fixed rate dampers, steel springs with PASM adaptive dampers and air suspension with PASM. The latter let’s you raise the suspension by 40mm in off-road mode, and lower it by 40mm via a button in the boot to make loading that little bit easier.

We rode shotgun for four hot laps in each of the three launch models: the £43,300 Macan S with its 335bhp 3.0 V6 bi-turbo, the Macan S Diesel with its 254bhp 3.0 V6 turbodiesel and the range-topping Macan Turbo packing a 394bhp 3.6 V6 bi-turbo.

You sit low, cocooned by a Panamera-inspired centre console, while the quality is every bit as good as the Cayenne. We particularly like the new 918 Spyder steering wheel – the first sign of that car’s development costs trickling down to the rest of the range.

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The two petrol models were fitted with air suspension, a rear differential and PTV Plus, while the diesel was on steel springs with PASM adaptive dampers. What’s immediately apparent in both the petrol models is how neutral the handling is.

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Even with wild entry speeds it refuses to understeer and is happy to tighten its line with a lift of the accelerator, or in the case of the Turbo, a bootfull of throttle. If you do get over exuberant though, the tail steps out slowly and predictably.

Porsche Macan 2014 drifting

Physics dictate the Macan can’t stay perfectly flat in the bends, but it always feels absolutely planted. Without the rear-axle handling aids the diesel needs a little more coaxing to slide around, but trail braking into a corner does precisely that, and feels just as much fun.

We’ll have to wait to deliver our verdict on the ride quality and refinement – a smooth test-track is no match for UK roads - but the acceleration feels as vivid as the numbers suggest. With Sport Plus mode engaged (which opens up the exhaust baffles) the Turbo flies forward with a snort from its exhausts and burbles on the overrun – in fact, 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds seems a little conservative to us.

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The Macan S tones things down slightly but still rips through the gears, while the diesel is far more muted. But with 580Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds, it’s still a genuinely quick car – and one capable of returning 46.3mpg.

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We were also treated to a brief off-road demonstration, and while the Macan isn’t likely to see much rough stuff it’s more capable than you might think.

Pushing a button marked off-road raises the body by 40mm (if you specify air suspension) and adjusts the gearbox, throttle response and ESP accordingly. It’s enough to climb steep slopes and negotiate rutted paths with ease, while a hill descent mode will help you get down safely on the other side.

There was a worry that with the sensible Audi Q5 as a starting point, the Macan would lack dynamic sparkle, but the engineers have done a wonderful job infusing it with Porsche DNA. Porsche plans to build 50,000 cars a year at its plant in Leipzig Germany – we’d be hatching plans to make a few more.

  
Porsche Macan Turbo 
Price£59,300
Engine3.6-litre V6 bi-turbo
TransmissionSeven-speed PDK twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power/Torque394bhp/550Nm
0-62mph4.6 seconds
Top speed165mph
Economy31.7mpg
CO2208g/km
  
Porsche Macan S Diesel 
Price£43,300
Engine3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
TransmissionSeven-speed PDK twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power/Torque254bhp/580Nm
0-62mph6.1 seconds
Top speed143mph
Economy46.3mpg
CO2159g/km
  
Porsche Macan S 
Price£43,300
Engine3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo
TransmissionSeven-speed PDK twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power/torque335bhp/460Nm
0-62mph5.2 seconds
Top speed158mph
Economy32.5mpg
CO2204g/km
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