The evergreen 911 sportster may well be Porsche’s poster car, but since its 2014 launch the more affordable and utilitarian Macan compact SUV has been the brand’s biggest seller. The Macan notched up 88,362 global sales last year, and in total Porsche has sold more than 680,000 units so far.
Fruitier variants of the Macan are powered by a potent twin-turbo V6 motor, but it’s interesting to note that the entry-level four-cylinder version accounts for more than 70 per cent of the model’s worldwide sales. Porsche now aims to build on the four-pot’s popularity via the launch of the new Macan T (short for Touring), which slots in between the base model and the Macan S.
According to Macan spokesman Ben Weinberger, the T philosophy is to offer “lean engines with sporty driving characteristics” and, in keeping with this ethos, the Macan T uses the same 265hp/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor as the base model.
Equipped as standard with the Sport Chrono pack, the Macan T dispatches the 0-100kph sprint in a very respectable 6.2 seconds, but straight-line performance is not really the Macan T’s forte – the more telling number to note is that it carries 58.8 kilograms less over the front axle than the V6-powered Macan S and GTS. This endows it with better balance and greater agility.
The Macan T’s kit list includes bespoke steel springs that drop ride height by 15mm, and supplementing these is Porsche’s PASM adaptive damping system. There’s also a firmer front anti-roll bar, along with titanium grey 20-inch alloys. In addition, the all-wheel-drive system has been tweaked for more rear bias, making the Macan T a nimbler device on winding roads.
If you have particularly deep pockets, you can tick the box for the optional air suspension, which lowers the ride height by a further 10mm vis-a-vis the steel-sprung car (and then another 10mm in Sport Plus mode), and this setup also adds a firmer rear anti-roll bar.
The Macan T is easily distinguishable from its siblings because there are badges spelling out its identity on the flanks and rump, plus there are agate grey metallic highlights on the front facia, side mirrors, skirts, spoiler and rear logos. Slide into the cockpit and you’ll find eight-way electrically adjustable sports seats, a Sport Chrono stopwatch on the dashboard and a multifunction GT steering wheel.
Porsche’s events team could not have chosen a more challenging drive route for the launch of the Macan T, as the 97km outward leg took us from our hotel on the outskirts of Nice and up to the 1,607m summit of the Col de Turini – a spectacular route that features each year in the Monte Carlo Rally.
The ribbon of tarmac that snakes up the Col de Turini is strewn with tight hairpins, where you need to get the car rotated virtually on its own axis. The fact the Macan T is less nose-heavy than the Macan S and GTS meant it could be flicked through these 180-degree turns with minimal tyre scrub at the front end.
The return leg from our lunch halt at the peak of the Col de Turini proved particularly dramatic and insightful as snowfall and sleet had set in, compromising visibility and making the descent treacherously slick. These conditions suited the Macan T to a … well, tee, as its high grip levels and impeccable balance made for a brisk yet non-taxing drive down the mountain.
I selected a Macan equipped with the optional air suspension for the outward leg, and then hopped into a car with steel springs for the return journey. There isn’t a discernible gulf between the two in terms of dynamism or ride quality, so we’d suggest saving your dirhams and opting for the latter.
The Macan T may not be a rocket ship by Porsche standards, but its combination of brisk – yet not neck-snapping – performance, relatively frugal consumption and impeccable chassis balance puts it in a sweet spot, which is exactly where Porsche intended to position the car.