6 minute read
23 Apr 2014
10:00 am

Macan is pure Porsche

Many manufacturers are claiming to build cars that perform both on and off road.

SUVs and, more recently, crossovers, are proving increasingly popular and it’s a segment of the market manufacturers cannot ignore. Porsche yielded to this popularity when they brought out the Cayenne and took a lot of flak from the purists. But the fact is that the Cayenne is a financial mainstay for the iconic brand. While the SUV trend has been growing, the size of the cars in it has been shrinking and so we see the birth of the Cayenne’s sibling, the Macan.

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Porsche have been understandably weary of playing in the SUV market given the exceptional brand value they have garnered by building some of the world’s finest sports cars. Even cars that are only marginally capable have often sacrificed a lot of on-road performance. This is probably why Porsche have been slower to bring SUVs to the market. They have spent their time well. The Macan I would venture to say is even better than the Cayenne, not only because it has an obvious size advantage being a compact rather than large SUV, but clearly Porsche have thrown everything they have learned at the Macan.

Driving it in the United Arab Emirates at its Middle East and Africa launch, I found a pretty remarkable mixture of on and offroader. The Macan is packed with technology to assist drivers under all circumstances and when combined with the optional adjustable air suspension is able to handle as much off-roading as any sensible Porsche owner would want and a bit more.

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An essential ingredient is power. We drove the top model in the range, the Macan Turbo, which is equipped with a 3.6-litre V6 biturbo engine producing 294 kW and 550Nm, and the Macan S ,which produces 250 kW and 460 Nm. Diesel lovers need not fear as there is a Macan S Diesel, but it was not at the launch because the Middle Eastern market for diesel is virtually non-existent as their petrol is so cheap. The turbo diesel model coming to South Africa produces 180 kW and 580 Nm. But even the lowest torque figure of 460Nm made the point. Enough twisting force transferred to all the wheels under the beady eye of a sophisticated electronic traction mangement sytem and you can go most places. The beauty of the Macan is that you can do it comfortably and quickly while other people envy you. Its a bit like flying first class, economy will get you there, but if you’ve got the money…

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Porsche is now so certain of its PDK gearbox that the petrol Macans offer no other option and it is impossible to disagree, the transmission appears flawless.

Using the Launch Control function which comes with the Sport Chrono package the Turbo claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds, or 4,8 seconds if you try it without, which gives you an idea of the amount of power being put down.

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Off-road mode comes as standard in the Macan, and activated by pressing a button in the centre console at a speed of between 0 and 80 km/h it switches all the relevant systems to a traction-oriented mode. The engine and shifting speeds are geared toward a greater level of traction, the all-wheel clutch is pre-tensioned and the standard torque split between the front and rear axle as well as the accelerator pedal response are adapted to off-road conditions. When used in conjunction with the optional air suspension chassis, the ground clearance can be increased by 40 millimetres to 230 millimetres. Porsche Hill Control (PHC) keeps the vehicle speed constant during descents, and can be adjusted to between 3 and 30 km/h.

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For road use all Macan models are fitted with a Sport button which instructs the electronic engine management system to make matters more direct. The PDK transmission shifts at higher revs and the response times are shorter.

The Sport Chrono package adds an analogue and digital stopwatch on the dash and a Sport Plus mode for a more radical response set.

Porsche has developed three chassis versions for the Macan. There is a standard steel-spring design of both the Macan S and Macan S Diesel with a front axle is based on a five-link design while the rear axle is formed by a trapezoidal-link design.

The second chassis version features Porsche Active Suspension Management and is a combination of the steel-spring design and the PASM Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which comes as standard in the Macan Turbo model. The PASM can be selected as an option for the Macan S and the Macan S Diesel. The electronically controlled PASM shock absorber adjustment system increases driving pleasure, safety and comfort by continuously regulating the damper force on the front and rear axles depending on conditions and driver requirements.

Drivers can choose between three maps: “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport Plus”. The third version of the Porsche Macan chassis is the optional air suspension including levelling system, height adjustment and PASM. In comparison to the steel-spring design, the Macan with air suspension sits 15 millimetres lower at Normal Level providing an even lower centre of gravity. The air suspension aims at maintaining a consistent vehicle position at all times, automatically and regardless of the load distribution.

To allow the luggage compartment to be loaded easily, vehicles fitted with air suspension can be set to loading level, which lowers the rear end to 50 millimetres below “Normal Level” by pressing a button in the luggage compartment.

About a quarter of all accidents resulting in personal injury are “multi-collision accidents”, where a second collision follows the first. The multi-collision brake fitted to the Macan system automatically brakes the vehicle involved in a crash to reduce the residual kinetic energy inherent following the initial collision. The multi-collision brake is triggered when the airbag sensors detect a primary collision, at which point the system initiates maximum braking.

The Porsche Stability Management system limits this action to a maximum negative acceleration of 0.6 g, thereby ensuring that the driver can maintain control of the vehicle even in the event of automatic braking.

One of the greatest challenges of producing both good on and off road performance does not really lie in the hands of the manufacturer at all. Tyres are so often the limiting factor. The Macan is designed to use mixed tyres with different dimensions at the front and rear axle. The wider tyres on the rear axle increase traction and enhance driving stability. The front tyres enable sporty yet precise steering manoeuvres, thereby contributing to the agility of the vehicle. In practice.

The Macan’s tyres proved excellent on the launch drive, but I have no doubt that they will in the end define the limits of the Macan’s performance ability as the rest of the car is just too well built.

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