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2015 Porsche Macan S / Turbo First Drive Page 3

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2015 Porsche Macan Turbo

2015 Porsche Macan Turbo

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Blown away

That's the economic lesson at the heart of the Macan: spend more, love more. To get the classic Porsche experience--scalding acceleration, effortless grip, impeccable balance--you need to tick a few boxes. When you do, make sure you belt everything down. Except your debit card. That will need to fly.

We drove various trims of the Macan on the autobahn, on a 3.7-mile off-road trail, and at Porsche's F1-certified test track. The "base" Macan S acquits itself just fine on all those surfaces, but it also invites comparisons in a way the turbo doesn't.

Powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower, with standard rear-biased all-wheel drive (with the rear wheels always delivering some power) and Porsche's dual-clutch PDK transmission, the Macan S doesn't slouch its way through any driving mode. Porsche promises 0-60 mph runs of 5.2 seconds, and a top speed of 156 mph, Add the Sport Chrono package for swifter transmission shifts and throttle tip-in, and the Macan S accelerates to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds--keen for a vehicle weighing in at more than 4,100 pounds. Like an SQ5, a bit quicker than the uprated turbo-six X3, possibly the upgraded '15 Evoque, too.

We still see a bright future for the Macan S as the suburban shuttle of the now.  It takes flight on the autobahn, building speed swiftly though not too silently--there's a slight amount of wind noise at the tops of the doors, and the smaller-displacement turbo churns out a pleasant brap that can linger a little too long in the cabin. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission couldn't be more in tune. There can't be any dithering in the Macan's electronic steering at autobahn speeds, and there isn't--and when the Macan S is tapped out of its Sport mode, it's truly relaxed. We'd still add on an infotainment package ($2,990) and a bundle with more premium features like a panoramic roof ($5,990), which puts the Macan S at $61,235.

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And to goose its dynamic profile, we'd also add three-mode-adaptive shocks (a $1,360 package), a torque-vectoring system ($1,490), and the Sport Chrono package ($1,290). The adjustable dampers give the Macan more roll stiffness, while the torque-vectoring setup gives the rear wheels the ability to draw down torque on the inside wheel via an electronically controlled locking differential across the rear axle. Sport Chrono adds a lap timer to the gauges, a launch-control mode, and quicker execution for shifts and throttle inputs. All combine with Porsche Traction Management (PTM), which sends torque to the rear wheels at all times, and varies its torque split back to front, with the capability to send all of it to the fronts.

It handles beautifully, utterly predictable so long as the stability control stays on, steering with precision, landing shifts exactly when they're called for, settling briskly into corners, powering out with a flicker of torque to the outside wheel. But as strong as it is, the Macan S struggles to keep pace with the Turbo on the 2.3-mile circuit at Leipzig. The Macan Turbo hustles through corners with the liquid flow of mercury. The adaptive dampers are standard; along with Sport Chrono and torque vectoring, an air-spring-and-damper suspension is an option ($2,745, including the adaptive shocks--keep reading).

Of course, 60 extra horsepower makes a difference. The Macan Turbo pumps up displacement to 3.6 liters; its V-6 can launch to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, or 4.4 seconds with Sport Chrono. Top speed is 165 mph. The split between the S and the Turbo doesn't even span out a full second, but the perception plays out a little differently.

2015 Porsche Macan Turbo

2015 Porsche Macan Turbo

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If any SUV could be called unflappable, the Porsche Macan Turbo can. It blows by sluggish autobahn traffic in vast, Amtrak-sized chunks with a part-throttle foot on it. With plenty of wastegate noise and a deep-throated exhaust, the Macan Turbo drives as if it could light up the neatest, cleanest driving line from beneath the pavement. Yank it into a steep right-hander, and it falls into line, complying with a bare second of tire noise. Paddle down, and crank out of a corner, hopping curbs to save a hundredth of a second, and it resets itself, shuffling torque to the outside wheel, passing briefly through a mild stage of understeer.  It's really, really hard to overcook it inside its Sport+ modes--and even if you do, it takes just a brief pause to let it blur over your, er, oversights, and blaze on. Massive brakes are the picture of confidence--upsized a half-inch in front on Turbos to 14.2-inch rotors, and 1.2 inches to 14.0 inches in back, all with six-piston front calipers.

It's almost impossible to get the Macan Turbo flustered, even if one of the great writers and drivers is pressing badge on your rear glass, while Porsche's North American CEO is riding shotgun. Even if said Macan is riding on no-season treads chosen because February is a fickle thing. All Macans ride on standard 19-inch, 55-series tires--Michelin Latitude Tour HP all-season treads on our late-winter drive in eastern Germany, staggered 235/55 front, 255/50 rear. Wheels can be sized up to 21 inches, or downsized to an 18-inch lightweight design at no cost.

The ne plus ultra setup, and the one the most expensive and most rugged Macans will sport, swaps out the steel coils for air springs coupled to the adaptive shocks. All Macans have an off-road mode that diddles with shifting patterns and torque distribution, up to 50 mph. And with 7.8 inches of ground clearance and hill-descent control, the Macan S will trundle through mud pits with the aplomb of an Evoque, with the bonus of its air springs lifting it an additional 1.58 inches for more than 9 inches of ground clearance when needed. The air suspension will also drop the Macan 0.59 inches for aerodynamic smoothness at high speeds, or nearly two inches in a luggage-loading mode. If there's a line you must draw in the options sand, it's probably here. How many Starbucks are surrounded by mucky riverbeds anyway?


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