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2020 Porsche Macan GTS | PH Review

Expensive but excellent, the Macan GTS drives better than any SUV rightly should

By Mike Duff / Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Let's start by lightly skipping over the question of whether any SUV can truly earn a GTS badge, the close-to-the top range indicator that Porsche reserves for the best-handling versions of 'mainstream' ranges - those not fettled by the Motorsport Division. The company has been doing it since 2007, when the first Cayenne GTS struggled on both the Gran Turismo and Sport sides of the brief. There have been other versions since then, including the pre-facelift Macan. Horses should not be shocked by arrival of this refreshed version.

If you dislike the idea of performance SUVs coming over here and taking all our PCP plans then you might not want to hear this, but the Macan GTS is pretty damned good. This is a Porsche that is fast, dynamically accomplished and comfortable enough to have earned its GTS branding. It just happens to be taller and chunkier than more natural recipients of the badge are.

Changes over the previous Macan GTS are limited, with most coming from the facelift the whole clan was given last year. The new GTS switches to a "hot vee" Audi-sourced 2.9-litre V6 which mounts its twin turbochargers in the not especially large area between the cylinder banks, the idea being to minimise the distance between exhaust port and turbine to reduce lag. It's basically a brawnier version of the single turbo V6 in the Macan S. Or, alternatively, a modestly detuned version of the Macan Turbo.

By the ludicrous standards of its segment, 375hp looks like a losing hand these days. It's barely a fortnight since we brought you a comparison between the 503hp BMW X3M Competition and the 542hp Jaguar F-Pace SVR. Yet the GTS seems to turn this relative lack of firepower on its head. It's harder to make an SUV that shines in corners than it is to build one that shrinks straights.

The GTS's engine never overwhelms the rest of the dynamic experience, but it is more than effective enough. It pulls well and without lag - something the single turbo Macan S can still suffer from. There's also none of the sense of top-end tightness present the last GTS, this one zinging all the way to its 6,750rpm limiter. It sounds pretty good, if not quite as compelling as one of the V8-powered alternatives.

The engine's case is sharpened by a PDK gearbox that turns the table on the way torque converters are starting to feel like twin-clutchers. The seven-speed transmission does a spookily good impression of a conventional auto in its gentlest default dynamic mode, but turns finger-click fast in Sport and a bit savage in Sport Plus, banging in new ratios with a forceful bump of torque. Heavy, clicky flappy paddles positively encourage you to take control, and deliver similarly scintillating changes when you do. The lack of imagination of the car industry was demonstrated by the fact that Macan's Portuguese test route was also being used for Toyota Yaris and BMW 2-Series press launches at the same time; a conflation that gave the Macan plenty of targets to demonstrate the mightiness of its overtaking prowess.

The GTS gets steel springs as standard, but all the cars on the Portuguese launch had the upgraded air springs. This will be a £1,044 option, including PASM adaptive dampers, and seems like a box worth ticking given how well the air set-up managed to pillow away bumps and maintain order with higher speeds and loadings. The adaptive dampers become increasingly firm in the punchier dynamic modes, but never turn the ride harsh. Standard wheels are 20-inchers with 21s optional. Beyond the need to pay extra there doesn't seem any dynamic reason not to splash out on the bigger ones.

At risk of sounding like I've developed a taste for delicious cyanide-laced Kool Aid and am encouraging you to have a swig, the steering is also pretty special. It's precise, well-weighted and capable of delivering genuine feedback under spirited use. The GTS isn't a hooligan: it doesn't have the power or the rear-biased torque split necessary for sideways antics. Nailing the throttle in tight corners doesn't produce any slidey sensation, rather the feeling of the smart all-wheel drive system shuffling torque to the corner best able to find use for it.

But that doesn't mean it isn't properly fun. The GTS puts its driver into the loop nearly as well as the brand's proper sportscars do, even small inputs making big outcomes, fractional changes to throttle or steering have a marked effect on the cornering line and it's easy to play the grip levels of the front and rear axles off against each other. It's fun, too. Driven hard the Macan feels like an oversized, high-riding hot hatch.

My test car was fitted with the acronym-tasting Porsche Surface Coated Brake discs (PSCB) - these wearing a tungsten carbide coating that dramatically reduces the creation of dust, without any noticeable effect on braking performance. Full on PCCD ceramics are also an option, although few buyers would be likely to get real benefit from them beyond the unlikely scenario of regular track use.

Praise isn't entirely unalloyed. Despite the facelift, parts of the Macan are beginning to feel old. The cabin is smaller than in most similarly priced rivals, the boot positively dinky compared to segment standards. Many will appreciate the amount of cabin architecture the Macan shares with the Cayster and 911, but the small white-on-black switches that surround the gear selector are lacking in ergonomic clarity, to say the least. The basic price isn't outrageous by inflated segment standards, but a full options workout will turn it very expensive, very quickly - the sort of activity best left to the small subset of masochists who get off on inflicting pain on their wallets.

In short, the Macan GTS is further proof it is possible to make a compelling performance SUV, however much some people may hate that idea. Making something this tall and this fat drive this well is some strange kind of black magic, but Porsche really does seem to have pulled it off.

2894cc, twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 375@6700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 383@1750rpm
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 162mph
Weight: 1835kg
CO2: from 218g/km
MPG: 29.4
Price: £58,816

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