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The Macan is the smaller sibling to the Cayenne, the German marque's original SUV, which sent Porsche purists into fits when it was introduced a decade ago but reaped huge profits in the U.S. and globally.
The company is hoping for similar success with the Macan, which is Indonesian for "tiger." For sale now, it's Porsche's play for the burgeoning compact crossover segment — one of the fastest-growing areas of the luxury vehicle market, fueled by wealthy empty-nesters, first-time luxury buyers and professional women.
All three groups are lured in by equal parts indulgence and practicality, and automakers are scrambling to find just the right mix of both in new products.
Lincoln, Lexus, Audi and Jaguar have all-new models on the way. They will crowd a space already occupied by Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti and
Nearly all those models will span the $30,000-to-$45,000 range.
The Macan S starts higher, at $50,895, but that gets you surprisingly little in the way of standard features.
Start adding what should be gratis and the price quickly rockets higher — all the way to $67,895 for the one we tested. Among other extras, that vehicle had $2,745 worth of active air suspension, $2,990 worth of navigation and satellite radio, an $810 keyless entry and a $1,400 Bose sound system. Another package, for $2,590, included parking sensors, a backup camera and heated seats.
Things get even more expensive with the Macan Turbo, which starts at $73,295 but with extras quickly gets to $85,000 and beyond.
On paper, this pricing gulf between the Macan and the other luxe cute-utes flooding the market seems odd. But unlike current sales leaders such as the Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX or Audi Q5, the Macan is unequivocally fun to drive.
The Macan S' twin-turbocharged V-6 pulls 340 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque out of 3.0 liters. Porsche's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard, as is all-wheel drive. The Macan S will do zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds in standard guise, or 5.0 seconds with the $1,290 Sport Chrono option on our model.
With your right foot planted, the Macan's transmission and engine are unimpeachably smooth and robust. In normal mode and in normal driving, initial acceleration can be a smidge tepid, but that's why God invented the Sport button.
In true Porsche fashion, this is a vehicle that likes to dance when the road gets bendy. The brakes are firm, the steering is direct and the Macan S holds tightly to the road in hard cornering without leaning ominously to the side.
That grip is courtesy of our tester's aforementioned — and pricey — active air suspension, which helps hide the fact that the Macan is several hundred pounds heavier than its peers.
Which might explain why it's so thirsty at the gas pump. The Macan S is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. During a week of testing in more city driving than on the freeway, we averaged 16.5 mpg. That's not a good number, especially for a compact vehicle like this.
But what the Macan S lacks in efficiency it makes up for in practicality inside. The crossover's tidy proportions belie ample leg and headroom for five full-size adults. The two riders upfront also revel in wonderfully supportive and comfortable seats.
The cargo area in the back swallows a useful 17.7 cubic feet of gear, and the rear seats fold flat for extra room. This functionality is then bundled in a package that's easy to park and maneuver around tight cityscapes.
Looking ahead, an even cheaper base Macan is planned, but Porsche hasn't decided whether it will use a detuned version of the S' gas engine or switch to diesel for that. (The recently updated Cayenne SUV offers a diesel as its cheapest model, and Mercedes has also adopted a diesel-as-entry-level strategy on some of its models.)
For now, this SUV may be a gateway Porsche: Buy the Macan S today, pick up a mid-engined Cayman coupe tomorrow. This, mixed with how it hauls gear and just plain hauls, means the Macan could easily trump the larger Cayenne SUV for Porsche's top seller.
The Macan is priced like a sports car, drinks like a sports car and handles like a sports car. But unlike a low-slung two-seater, this is a vehicle you could use every day. And one you would want to.