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Sticking to what works
Porsche's mild redesign of its popular Macan compact SUV includes more technology and a cleaner engine
Special to The Globe and Mail

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Friday, December 14, 2018 – Page D6

MALLORCA, SPAIN -- 2019 Porsche Macan

BASE PRICE: $55,000 Engine: Four-cylinder single turbo 2.0-litre (Macan); six-cylinder twin turbo 3.0-litre (Macan S) Transmission/drive: 7-speed dual-clutch (PDK)/all-wheel Fuel economy (litres/100 km): N/A Alternatives: Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Range Rover Velar, Audi Q3 N ot so long ago, Porsche made only two-door sports cars that it sold to wealthy aficionados. Then, in 2002, it produced the Cayenne SUV and purists sneered, though it shared the same lines as the sports cars and was designed to drive very fast.

Nobody else sneered - drivers bought them in droves.

The Panamera sedan followed the Cayenne and Porsche began selling more four-door vehicles than two-door cars. Then, four years ago, Porsche introduced the Macan compact SUV into what's become the fastest-growing market segment. There are more than 350,000 Macans on the world's roads today.

There was a mild redesign a couple of years ago, when the GTS edition joined the other versions, but the Macan is now "refreshed" for 2019 to spruce it up and catch up to modern technology.

Porsche is known for the multiple trim levels of its cars - the 911 has 25 different variants - and the Macan is no different. There's a basic Macan - at $55,000, the least expensive new Porsche you can buy - as well as the Macan S, Macan GTS, Macan Turbo and several other variations.

For 2019, the refreshed Macan will be fitted with a redesigned four-cylinder engine, while the Macan S will have the new six-cylinder engine that's already under the hoods of the basic Panamera and Cayenne models. Both will be equipped with new technology and conveniences and will come to Canada next year, while other Macan editions will follow in due course.

The four-cylinder Macan is no more powerful than before because it uses basically the same 2.0-litre engine, now redesigned at the cylinder head to run a little cleaner.

"As a driver, you're not going to notice a lot of the changes, but the necessity for us was to meet emissions legislation," chief program engineer Antoon Janssen says.

The six-cylinder Macan S is 14 horsepower more powerful thanks to its new engine, but again, it's not a noticeable difference from the previous version.

Zero-to-100 kilometres an hour is shaved by 0.1 seconds, to just a bit more than five seconds.

"The six-cylinder in Macan S is now as powerful as we can make it. We have to guarantee durability," Janssen says. "Believe me, when we say that 260 kilowatt (348 hp) is the maximum output of this engine, we also give you the guarantee it can do at least 200,000 km. But I also guarantee there will be no customer who is going to drive this car as harshly as our durability test drivers will drive it."

The Macan now has the latest technology for both connectivity and driver's assistance. It includes traffic jam assist, which allows the SUV to follow traffic and maintain a safe speed and distance behind the vehicle in front, even coming to a complete stop if needed. This sounds impressive until you realize a similar system is available in the most basic new Toyota Corolla.

Also as with Toyota, Porsche now offers Apple CarPlay for integrating an iPhone into the Macan's display and controls. It does not offer Android Auto for integrating Android phones. "We are still considering it, but we haven't started implementing it," says Jonas Pieper, the Macan's project manager for software development. "At the moment, this does not fit our strategy. It's a lot of work for the IT company, with interfaces and development and certification. Different devices behave differently. It sounds easy, but in most cases, it is not."

The new Macan is pricey even before adding options, but it's a Porsche and doesn't make any compromises to price. And if you're in a hurry, it'll go like stink.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

RATINGS LOOKS The Macan always looked good, but the new version is another step forward. LED headlights now have four-point daytime running lights around the main beam, and at the back, a taillight strip runs right across the rear door and integrates into the main lights, also now LED. This is a similar approach to the wide strip that will be on the new 911. There are new wheel designs for up to 21 inches, as well as four new paint colours and a choice of five colours for the strip of flashing beneath the doors. And like before, with that curved hood, there's no mistaking that it's a Porsche.

INTERIOR Most automakers are removing buttons and switches from their dashboards and consoles, replacing them with digital taps and swipes on a central touchcontrol screen. Not Porsche. Its drivers like to feel they're in a jet fighter and there's a dizzying array of physical toggles and buttons and knobs running the length of the centre console to control just about everything.

The central control screen is larger this year, bumped up to 10.9 inches from the previous 7.2, and it's clear and easy to use. Also new this year is an optional choice of steering wheel that borrows from the 911, and if you order the Sport Chrono package, you'll get the driving mode switch integrated into the wheel. This includes the marvellous "Sport Response" button - push it with your right thumb and you immediately get Maximum Everything for 20 seconds. If you're overtaking, it's the next best thing to a nitrous button.

PERFORMANCE Handling is apparently improved thanks to a new suspension setup that uses aluminum spring forks at the front and retuned anti-roll bars. I can't verify that it's actually better, however, without trying the old and new models back-to-back on a track.

What I can verify is that after a day of tossing and turning on the narrow, serpentine roads of this mountainous Spanish island, neither the Macan nor the Macan S put a wheel wrong.

TECHNOLOGY The newly designed Porsche Connect app lets drivers access various features through all Apple and Android smartphones.

CARGO No different from before: There's still a reasonable amount of room for all five passengers and the rear seats fold flat for bulky cargo. There's 500 litres of space behind those rear seats and 1,500 litres when they're folded down.

THE VERDICT 8.0 A lovely and sporty SUV, easily capable of competing against the stiff competition in the luxury compact SUV segment.

Associated Graphic

The 2019 Porsche Macan is available in four new paint colours, with five new colours for the strip of flashing beneath the doors.

Unlike many of today's touchpad-laden vehicles, the Macan's revamped interior still includes a wide array of physical toggles, buttons and knobs alongside its 10.9-inch central control screen.

Huh? How did I get here?
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