Brand integrity and economic security aren’t always on the same page. When Porsche stretched its image and started building SUVs all the way back in 2002, there was predictable scorn from diehard fans of the marque. What was a sports car maker doing messing around with bulky off-roaders? The immediate answer – making lots of money and effectively saving the company – didn’t really gel with a lustrous brand image that had taken many decades to perfect, but that didn’t really matter; Porsche was now making more cars than ever before, and making money hand over fist.
Over time the company has honed and refined that original SUV, the Cayenne, into a thing of genuine wonder, creating a benchmark that other manufacturers know they have to attain. Three years ago, in another spreadsheet-driven design decision, Porsche launched the Macan, a ‘small’ SUV designed to plug what was becoming an increasingly important gap in the market. Straight out of the gate, the Macan benefitted from all the know-how accumulated in the Cayenne, and the car emerged fully formed, a hugely credible sporting machine with a hefty dose of off-road ability and the all-round family car practicality so conspicuously lacking in Porsche’s dedicated sports cars.
The interior of the Porsche Macan GTS is a driver-focused environment
So far, so good. Today’s Macan GTS is tweaked and fettled even further. Like its big sibling it does a creditable job of slathering Porsche’s long-established design identity over its tall and broad flanks and there’s never any question as to what this car actually is. The interior will be broadly familiar to anyone who’s sat in a recent Boxster or 911, a driver-focused environment with great ergonomics and satisfyingly precise and weighty controls. You sit high – not as high as in rivals – but without that sense of disconnection that characterises other sporting SUVs (a tautological definition if ever there was one). This car shifts and twists with pleasingly instant responses, although fuel economy suffers hard if you make use of all 360hp with thumping regularity.
Under the skin there's a certain amount of shared componentry with its close sibling, the Audi Q5, but the Macan trumps it in every respect, from looks through to dynamics and day-to-day usability. Porsches have also been high on the practicality stakes – unless you're after a stripped out, track-focused special – and the Macan inches ever closer to normalising this once exotic brand. With an all-electric car on the near horizon, and with SUVs becoming the most desirable model for the battery-only treatment, the Macan is both a perfect car for the age and a positive indicator of things to come.