This is the all-new Macan, Porsche's compact SUV, a car you'll see a lot of in the next few years. When things are going well, a company could be forgiven for sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the well-manicured landscape. Porsche, however, doesn't tend to align itself with such rose smelling pleasantries. 2013 saw record sales figures of their current 'Sports Utility' offering, the Cayenne. First introduced back in 2002, it scandalised many Porsche fans but quickly proved its worth. Last year, Cayenne sales eclipsed not only the iconic 911, but also the sum of all other models in the group portfolio as well (Boxter, Cayman and Panamera), accounting for over 50% of Porsche's worldwide sales.
In its wake has grown a sizeable luxury SUV market. For a time it looked like the SUV would wither and die as a socially unacceptable extravagance, but that moment has passed. Now SUV's are considered capable of providing a tangibly cool level of practicality to everyday motoring. Porsche wants more and has dialled deep into its clients' desire for constant progression.
Porsche claims the new Macan sits unchallenged in its own market sub-sector. To the casual observer, the Macan is a slender Cayenne, but Porsche is pushing its sporting credentials ever more. Simply categorising the Macan as a compact SUV would invite comparisons with the Audi Q5 (with which it shared about a third of its components) and Range Rover's Evoque, Instead, Stuttgart prefer to refer to its newest breed as the first premium sports car in the compact-SUV segment, a claim based on significantly larger power output from the turbo variant.
We had the good fortune of making the Macan's acquaintance in Morocco where the snow capped Atlas Mountains rise dramatically from the barren Agafay desert. During our time with the car, we subjected it to various conditions, from the pitted tarmac of downtown Marrakech, to the loose gravel of the tricky winding Atlas switchbacks and the arid dirt of the baked desert tracks. It coped with everything admirably, with a true mix of abilities.
Aesthetically, Porsche design is abundantly apparent, with sports car cues borrowed from the 911 and stylistic touches taken from the 918 Spyder. The Macan sits low and broad, elegant at rest but distinctively poised and eager for action. Inside, an expected elegance greets the driver. The sporting brief continues with a low slung driving position and a steeply inclined steering column making you often forget you are in charge of a 2-tonne vehicle. The Spyder similarities continue with 918-inspired multi-function sports steering wheel.
Porsche offers three power train options. £43,300 will secure you either entry-level variants, the 3 Litre 258hp Diesel S or the 3 Litre 340hp Petrol S, both unobtrusive when driving sparingly and amply willing during periods of haste. The range-topping 3.6 Litre 400hp Turbo will hit the pocket substantially harder at £59,300 although the difference in performance is vast; in sport or sport plus mode, the previously sedate cruiser tightens up, offering quicker gear changes, more direct handling characteristics and a noticeably more aggressive soundtrack to proceedings.
Investment in production is another nod to the importance Porsche is placing on the new model's success. The recent Leipzig plant expansion is rumoured to have cost Porsche €500 million, tripling the production area by extending it by a further 17 hectares. Analysts are expecting around 50,000 Macans to be built each year, with scope for increase based on demand. That number might be pessimistic. Currently (in the UK market) demand is outstripping supply. The car is due to hit showrooms imminently (May 14), yet customers placing immediate orders will not receive delivery until the first half of 2015.
So, as the dust settles and the sunsets on our North African adventure, we have the distinct feeling that Porsche has designed another hugely desirable machine. A brimming order book and the ability to upscale output signify a bright financial future for the newest arrival of Porsche's ever-expanding portfolio.