2017 Porsche Macan GTS Review
The key reason for the Macan’s immediate success comes by default, it’s part of the burgeoning compact luxury SUV segment, but it also needed to be a high performance, luxuriously equipped Porsche first, and then satisfy those looking for useful utility second. It fulfills both missions ideally, these seemingly juxtaposed challenges actually complementing each other thanks to one of the longer wheelbases and widest tracks in the segment that simultaneously enhance ride quality and handling while increasing passenger room and cargo capacity. It only took a short drive for me to heap praise upon both S and Turbo trims when introduced for the 2015 model year, but a full week spent with the new 2017 Macan GTS made the little SUV’s attributes even clearer.
Before delving into GTS details it’s important to note the entire Macan lineup has been made over for this new model year. First off a $47,500 base model drops the entry price by $5,100 and adds a new fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four that puts 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque down to all wheels, which when combined with a near 220-lb lighter curb weight of 3,902 lbs results in a 6.3-second sprint to 60 mph or 6.1 with the Sport Chrono Package upgrade, yet still achieves a claimed EPA rating of 20 mpg city and 25 highway. Think detuned VW Golf R, only larger and heavier with a lot more luxe and prestige for slightly more coin.
Meanwhile the Macan S gets a $2,000 price bump to $54,400 and the window sticker for the top-line Turbo grows by $2,400 to $76,000, but not without a completely redesigned infotainment system within the mildly reworked center stack plus new standard features across the line that include a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and lane departure warning, not to mention improved handling and better road contact via a reengineered steering controller. As usual the options list is long and thorough, with new full LED headlamps now available on all trims.
All of the above is also true for the subject of this review, the entirely new 2017 Macan GTS that becomes the 10th Porsche model to benefit from the Gran Turismo Sport treatment. The GTS slots between the 340 horsepower S and 400 horsepower Turbo in performance and price with a 360 horsepower version of the lesser model’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 and requirement of at least $67,200 plus freight and dealer fees. And yes, like that S and even the new base model the GTS strangely lacks “Turbo” badging of its own, all of the Macan’s engines turbocharged since inception. A similar scenario is playing out in the Cayenne, Panamera and legendary 911 lines, Turbo and Turbo S now trim designations for the brand’s most potent supercars and super SUVs.
Call it what you may, the GTS is one amazingly capable performance machine, the increase in output noticeable even if the mere 0.2-second improvement in zero to 60 mph sprint times isn’t. Its quick-shifting paddle-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission gets pulled up from the S (the base model uses a regular seven-speed automatic) and features Comfort and Sport modes, plus the addition of Sport Plus mode if equipped with the same Sport Chrono package, but either way it’s an especially intelligent system that lets you individually soften the shock setting while maintaining top-level engine performance, making it ideal over rougher surfaces where the extra wheel travel of a more compliant setup actually improves performance as well as ride quality. Oddly, however, handling enhancing variable torque vectoring for the standard AWD system is a $1,490 option, but options upon options are nothing new with Porsche.
Of note, the “full-sounding” standard sport exhaust is exhilarating, especially the raspy gurgle of back pressure when letting off the throttle, although it’s not quite the auditory delight of the hopped up Audi SQ5 or the even more stimulating sounding Jaguar F-Pace I recently drove, but some will like that you can press an exhaust button on the GTS’ lower console to kill all the raucous, which makes the Porsche easier to live with day to day.
Practicality in mind, the engine’s auto start-stop system is one of the best I’ve ever tested, shutting off every time you stop, even in near standstill bumper-to-bumper traffic, unless the air conditioning is blasting and or it’s in Sport mode, while restarting is near seamless.
Back to performance, while a powerhouse off the line with only 5.0 seconds needed to achieve 60 mph (or 4.8 with the Sport Chrono package), the GTS’ upgrades are even more about improved balance and at-the-limit handling prowess, Porsche dropping this model’s standard adaptive air suspension 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) below the base Macan’s standard steel sprung setup, its body roll almost nonexistent and grip otherworldly when flung hard into fast paced curves, although pay attention drift fans, it’s possible to make the GTS’ tail slide sideways in wonderfully controlled bliss if you set all the engine, gearbox and traction settings just right.
Helping in this respect are front and rear treads widened by 1.2 inches and 1.6 inches respectively over those on the Macan S, while the front rotors are 0.4 inches larger resulting in braking power that’s gone from breathtaking to astonishing. All the while it’s an SUV that rides comfortably and capably over most any surface, the kind of go-anywhere vehicle many of us dreamed of owning when our favorite buff magazines were filled with Lamborghini LM002s and Paris-Dakar rally-prepped 959s, albeit a much more refined way to bash through the wilderness.
Yes, so equipped the Macan GTS is still capable of some impressive feats off-road, the aforementioned air suspension raising 0.4 inches when set to “Off Road” mode, but you’ll likely want to swap out the beautiful 20-inch matte black alloys on 265/45 front and 295/40 rear Pirelli Scorpions for a set of 18s on all-terrains if you plan on getting into any rough stuff.
Those big black wheels are just four easily noticeable upgrades made to the GTS’ exterior, the rest of the SUV’s trim bits blackened as well, albeit finished in an inky gloss above the waistline. Porsche even trims out the headlight bezels in black, darkens the LED taillights, and caps the exhaust pipes in black chrome, while the rear diffuser they poke through is real and working, just like all the vents and ducts up front.
Inside, the GTS follows the same black theme with an anthracite roofliner and pillars plus the model’s usual alcantara upgrades adorning all the armrests and seat inserts, but not the steering wheel in base trim; you can pay extra to get a psuede wheel or just about any other surfacing treatment. Most will be just fine with base, especially when taking in the stitched leather dash top just ahead, a perfect match for the steering wheel and shifter boot, the former a delectable bit of design work featuring airy thin metallic spokes filled with some of the tiniest albeit best switchgear in the business, a real lesson in minimalism. The aluminum shift paddles just behind are perfectly placed for performance driving, although when in a more relaxed state a button for its optional heatable rim can be found hidden within the split bottom spoke, while the primary gauges just ahead follow Porsche tradition in layout yet include a bright, clear, full-color multi-information display within the right dial.
I noted an infotainment upgrade during the intro and the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) interface is so impressive it’s worthy of a review on its own. It starts off with a full-color high-resolution seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone style swipe and pinch capabilities plus proximity-sensing buttons that appear when your finger gets near. It’s pretty slick stuff that no doubt is mostly VW sourced being that the parent company and Audi are some of the only brands to feature such high-level capability, which also prompts multi-touch gestures and comes equipped with Apple CarPlay plus Siri voice control.
This brings up a contentious point for Samsung and other Android smartphone users who will no doubt feel disenfranchised at being left behind in Porsche’s internal tech revolution, but in reality it’s Porsche that will fall behind other carmakers, like VW, that offer both Apple integration and Android Auto systems. As it is Porsche’s internal studies show that 70-percent of its owners use iPhones, likely because it sells to an older, wealthier demographic that likes more limiting but easy-to-operate Apple devices, but Android’s 30-percent is still a very large number of customers that should be taken care of now that electronic integration has become a deal making or breaking decision for many consumers. So while the new PCM is a win compared to the previous version, now upgradable with a 360-degree surround camera, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and optional navigation featuring new 3D mapping that’s actually capable of getting you where you’re going more often than not compared to the all-too-often haplessly hopeless outgoing system (although it doesn’t estimate your time of arrival), it’s a fail for me and other Android users.
Another win/fail combo is the new proximity-sensing access and keyless ignition system. We’ve been waiting for Porsche, which has long sold more family haulers than sports cars, to offer this most convenient way to enter and start up its vehicles for what seems like a decade, and now that optional Entry and Drive is finally here it’s one oddball setup. Cabin unlock and lock is normal via touch-sensitive handles, but unlike most others that offer a simple and comparatively elegant start/stop pushbutton somewhere on the dash or lower console Porsche replaces the regular ignition switch with a large twistable protrusion that reminded of a stopgap method some domestic producers used when retrofitting fully loaded models many years ago. It comes across as a halfhearted aftermarket-style attempt to modernize Porsche’s convenience features, and while the user experience isn’t exactly state-of-the-art it’s better than fumbling through your pockets or purse for keys.
Rather than leave things on a downer I need to compliment Porsche on what is otherwise one of the most upscale interiors in the class. I mentioned all the psuede, leather and high quality switchgear a moment ago, those buttons, knobs and toggles no less impressive elsewhere around the cabin, but I didn’t touch on all the soft synthetic surfaces not only found in the expected places like the dash top, instrument panel plus door uppers front and rear, but also across the bottom sections of the dash and glove box lid where only knees and legs reside, not to mention the top ridge of the lower center console as well as all door panels in their entirety. This goes above and beyond anything else in the class, setting the Macan apart from its compact SUV peers, especially that F-Pace noted earlier. What’s more, the brushed aluminum inlays across the instrument panel and doors are also a cut above, literally, their thick edges almost sharp enough to slice thanks to their genuine metal fabrication.
An optional powered panoramic sunroof overhead sheds light on all the Macan’s goodness, the leather and psuede covered seats noted earlier impressively comfortable and totally supportive at the lower back and from side to side, and my tester’s not even upgraded from standard eight-way power to optional 14- or even 18-way capability, although benefiting from two-way memory. The Macan’s width makes for a roomy interior front and back, while the rear seats make memories of trying to squeeze into the back of a 911 (hey, you’ve got to at least try) forgivably distant, the Macan satisfying from all seating positions and my tester even more so thanks to optional three-way rear seat heaters.
The cargo compartment is smaller than most in the class due to the Macan’s low, slanted roofline measuring just 17.7 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks, but it’s wide and flat with 53.0 cubic feet available when the 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks are folded and nicely finished in high-grade carpeting with chromed metal tie-down hooks and a stainless protector plate, the 20-percent pass-through portion of the seatback allowing skis down the middle with rear passengers potentially warming their backsides on the way back from a day on the slopes.
While the Macan still has room for improvement, especially with respect to the majority of smartphone users, the new GTS is a superbly capable performance SUV with style, comfort, refinement, luxury, convenience and utility hardly forgotten. It’s pricey, with my well equipped albeit nowhere near fully loaded tester reaching into the low-$80k range, $3,120 of that extra cost for its exclusive Carmine Red paint, but it’s a Porsche, and one that thoroughly lives up to the storied brand’s name.
*Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American *