Sure, the Porsche Macan has been conquering racetracks with its sports-car dynamics and enthusiasts’ hearts with its not-horrifying looks...

Sure, the Porsche Macan has been conquering racetracks with its sports-car dynamics and enthusiasts’ hearts with its not-horrifying looks, but it’s a crossover, and in our hands it faced the toughest test of all: family life.

Face it, if you didn’t need to stick two child seats or a gangly adolescent in back, wouldn’t you get a Cayman or a Boxster? Even if not, we wanted to find out what all the Porsche-hopeful families on the Macan waiting list are in for. In daily life. When not driving on a racetrack. Or carving up a canyon.

But before we get into all that in the Turbo, we have a nice little video by Jeff Voth and the crew at Exhausted Media of the more affordable Macan S. The price starts at $54,300, and Macan features a healthy 340 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque and all the same practical benefits of the Turbo.

The Turbo is powered by a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 (adding 0.6 L for its power advantage over the S’s 3.0L twin-turbo V6) that yields 400 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Really, you’ll usually only need about half of those ponies and torques for upwards of 2,000 kg (as much as 2,110 kg in a fully loaded Turbo) and a couple hundred kilos of family and possessions. Yes, that’s all you’ll need, but you’ll soon learn to appreciate the rest of ‘em. They are habit forming.

Easy to form a habit when the twin-turbo enable you, all of that torque available at 1,350 and sticks around like your weird aunt at the family holiday party, right up until 4,500 rpm. This means the Macan Turbo feels abundantly confident when picking up speed. However, despite the 4.8 second time listed for acceleration to 100 km/h, the Turbo doesn’t feel overwhelmingly fast – at least not in the rarefied air of Turbo Porsches.

Wait, didn’t we say we were going to focus on the more mundane aspects of the Macan? Oh yeah. We’ll save the comprehensive driving impressions for later.

Interior packaging

Let’s do this backwards. Hey, this is a crossover utility vehicle, so getting right into cargo space is fair. The trunk measures a suspiciously even 500 L up to the upper edge of the rear seats, and we found the length and width ideal for a typical Yarkony grocery run, bulky stroller included. Although the sides over the wheel wells are blocked off, it’s a useful square shape, and although I don’t usually comment on the quality of the finish in the trunk, the carpeting here is quite nice, and offers a promise of durability. The party trick: a button in the side of the cargo area that will lower the tailgate for easy loading of heavy objects. The rear seats fold down in three sections (40/20/40)

The back seat of this compact crossover is also impeccably finished in brown (agate grey according to the feature sheet) leather, with exposed Isofix anchors for easy child-seat installation, and a fold-down armrest. Legroom is par for the class (meaning you can’t really stretch out your legs, but knees won’t be crammed right into the seatback) and headroom is sufficient, but the low roofline meant it was more of a lean to buckle up the kids than in typical SUVs. The rear outboard seats are also quite comfortable, with lightly recessed seat bottoms and backs.

The front seats seem to have lost their way from the 911 assembly line – they are aggressively bolstered, but superbly comfortable, adjustable in 18 ways, with memory settings while being heated and cooled (the latter being a $600 perk). The only complaint was voiced by my wife, who, at about five-feet tall, found the thigh bolsters challenging to clear.

Fully Loaded

Okay, not really. In fact, a quick run through the Porsche configurator reveals plenty of options left on the table, though some seem a tad excessive on a compact family vehicle (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake – $9,300; various embossed crests and badges; stainless steel skid plates ­$1,610; door-sill guards in carbon fibre, illuminated – $1,410; and other such personalization from the factory). But hey, you can dress the Macan up to suit your whims just as you can any of the big-boy Porsches. It’s your money, spend it how you want it.

The items that I found most suited the character of the car were the air suspension with Sport Chrono Package, rear window sunscreens, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, back-up camera and parking sensors and lane-change and lane-keeping assist. While part of me felt it was sacrilegious to interfere with the purity of the Porsche steering by way of automatic steering corrections, there’s a button to turn it off when you’re driving all over the road, but when you’re just commuting I appreciate the occasional tug to keep me in my lane if my attention wanders. I’d far prefer that intervention than a visit to the body shop to touch up the $790 metallic paint job (which is pretty much a necessity as the only no-charge colours are black and white) or even more expensive panels. Plus, if that purity of steering experience means so much, you’re probably going to go the Cayman route, or a lightly used CPO 911, if not something older still.

The Macan here is an appealing luxury car with all this kit. The interface is a tad clunky, but the organized array of buttons becomes more intuitive every time I get in one, so I imagine a few months of ownership will have everything seeming second nature, complex functions like destination entry for the nav via the touchscreen and many direct shortcuts via console buttons, and access to trip info, media, phone and more via steering wheel or voice controls and the rightmost pod in the gauge cluster.

Performance

Oh, did I mention performance? Why yes, yes I did. As I’ve already covered the engine specs and sheer speed, it is time to delve into dynamics. This is where the Macan wins.

This Turbo is equipped with three particular options that elevate this crossover to rank among the best-handling utility vehicles I’ve ever driven, up in the halls of memory with the Cayenne GTS, Grand Cherokee SRT8 and E63 AMG Wagon. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, air suspension, and Sport Chrono package, with an honourable mention for the ungainly large 21-inch wheels and Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tires.

All Macans are equipped with Porsche Traction Management active all-wheel drive, which electronically distributes torque front and rear via multi-plate clutch, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+) option varies torque side to side between the rear wheels using brake and an electronically controlled rear differential lock. The effect is mostly transparent, but cornering limits are prodigious, and with the air suspension set to Kill (it also offer Stun and Faze) and Sport Plus selected, you are, as the kids would say, “dialed in”.

The three settings of the air suspension aren’t perhaps as dramatically different as I implied earlier, the default mode still a sporty, firm, yet compliant setup, and the hardest firmed up noticeably, but still not as firmly dedicated as, say, a 911 GT3… or even a Cayman S or Audi TTRS. Then again, it shouldn’t be, this being a taller vehicle with a more well-rounded repertoire, but it manages the performance end of the task better than the SQ5 I sampled briefly last year, but is more flexible than the single-minded Cayenne GTS.

Similarly, Sport Chrono package unlocks the full aggression from the transmission and engine, adding the SPORT PLUS option that puts of throttle response to hyperactive and loosens the reins on systems such as PSM and PTM and features a “motorsport-derived gearshift strategy.” In other words, everything is a bit frenetic, but the car bolts off the line like a startled analogy, keeps the engine singing right up to redline (though it is neither the most melodic nor most refined engine in its class or Porsche’s stables).

Find a corner and turn in is sharp, and the limits are beyond anything I could push on public roads, Even the steering has a decent heft without being tiresome and uncanny accuracy that appeals to me. While I backed off, Brendan had a chance to shake it down on the track at the launch. My daughter was well pleased with its performance; she rated it a “Wheeeeeeee”. My wife rated it a cold, disapproving glare.

The Porsce Macan strikes just the right balance of surprising performance and reasonable practicality, and this Turbo brings a sensation of dominance over its significant weight with the additional power boost. However, it is in some of the dynamic options that the Macan distances itself from competition in its segment, but at a price that climbs over and above a range of other performance SUVs and vehicles. Still, for that family with only one spot in the condo carpark, a kid or two in tow and mommy with a heavy right foot or a taste for pushing traction limits and g-forces, the Macan is an enticing blend of luxury, utility and sporting panache.

Specifications

Model Tested 2015 Porsche Macan Turbo   Destination Fee $1,115
Base Price $82,200   Price as Tested $102,785
A/C Tax $100  
Optional Equipment
$19,370 (Rhodium Silver Metallic paint $790, air suspension with self-levelling function and height adjustment $1,590, trailer coupling without removable ball joint $750, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus $1,700, panoramic roof system $1,910, mechanical sunscreen for rear side windows $290, rear heated seats $600, ventilated front seats $760, carbon interior package $1,080, reversing camera including ParkAssist front and rear $1,670, lane change assist and lane keeping assist $1,580, 21-inch 911 Turbo design wheels $3,770, auto dimming mirrors $480, voice control $680, sport chrono package $1,480, online services $270)