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2015 Porsche Macan S Review

Driving 2,000 miles in the Porsche Macan S to chase down the most famous car on the Internet.

2015 Porsche Macan S Review

One-forty, one-fifty, one-sixty!” The speed of the 2015 Porsche Macan S is being read off with the excitement of a New Year’s countdown, but not because these are unheard-of speeds by any measure. Rather, we’re in a crossover going 166 miles per hour—10 mph faster than its claimed top track speed—in the middle of Where Are We, Nevada. This is a Porsche that can tow two tons’ worth, mind you.

Sea to Salt Sea to Salt Sea to Salt

Sea to Salt


The blood was transfused and the ethos concretely imagined in a different light with the Macan. There’s no mistaking a Porsche for anything other than a Porsche. So when the Macan came out, the same detractors convinced themselves of its status as another dumbed-down car from Stuttgart.


It’s somewhat funny that photographer Tony Harmer and I were going to drive from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to shoot Ken Block’s Hoonicorn. It’s a similar story of detractors and critics always trying to find an angle on hating an idea or person because it’s not something they’re comfortable with. Trolls, if you will. Anyway, it’s fitting we had the Macan, an unorthodox Porsche to shoot an 845-horsepower, unorthodox all-wheel-drive Mustang. Time to pay the troll toll.


As every great road trip out of Los Angeles begins, this one too starts with traffic—#becauseLA.


Heading to Salt Lake City on a startup budget, mind you, is no easy task. SLC is the black hole of booking when you’re not trying to spend a fortune. It’s a place where no flight option will help you out; the fourth dimension of hell, especially when cost cutting is the aim. I didn’t particularly want to drive from Southern California to the Mormon mainland, but there really wasn’t a more affordable choice.

Porsche at Heart Porsche at Heart Porsche at Heart

Porsche at Heart

The plan for Harmer and I was to get out of L.A. by sunset, head to Vegas and leave early the next morning, before the sun out-powered the Vegas lights and the zombie half breeds. After landing just a few hours earlier and picking up the Macan S, we had a busy schedule to abide by, as we would only have one day to shoot the Hoonicorn. With the rear seats of the Macan folded down, we had 53 cubic feet of room to work with for all our gear, bags and random assortment of crap that gets collected during a long haul.


With the camera equipment being the highest priority, we had a lot of it—all in all, about 300 pounds’ worth of cameras, lights, stands, clamps, tripods, batteries, cables, laptops and miscellany that help Harmer produce magic. Plus, there are two well-fed Americans in front, so there were about 700 pounds of payload combined, which was a good enough test of the all-new aluminum, direct-injection 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which the 3.6-liter in the 400-horsepower Macan Turbo is based off of. The S model produces 340 horsepower between 5,550 to 6,500 rpm thanks to a boost pressure of 14.5 psi, and with a short stroke of 69 mm, the Macan S can rev all the way to 6,700, which is pretty damn high. We exploited that several times during the trip.


Because of the turbos, the almost identical 339 pound-feet of torque are available at an idle like 1,450 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm, when the horsepower starts to take over. With Porsche’s VarioCam Plus and direct fuel injection, the power is smooth and rewarding. When you’re navigating stop-and-go traffic while hauling almost 50 stone of people and equipment and you still feel like you’re in a Porsche, there’s something to be said about the power delivery acting extremely linear. If it weren’t for the instant torque, you’d be hard-pressed to realize it’s a twin-turbo motor.


Get the Sport Chrono package, because while it does remove an extra 0.2 seconds to 60, more importantly, it adds the extra gauge on the center of the dash that is just plain cool.


Hindsight is always 20/20, and 5 p.m. was a horrible, god-awful time to leave Venice. It didn’t really cross our minds until the 405 came into view like a vapor trail of blocky lights, but it did allow us to test the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Auto Start Stop. Porsche pretty much pioneered this, and in summary, it’s incredible how it can save your Achilles during traffic, making the shit storm of L.A. fade into memory a bit.

Wide Open Wide Open Wide Open

Wide Open

Driving down into the L.A. River to quell some of the sitting time on the highway, we started discussing how the lines of the Macan were starting to stir some emotion. First off, the rear of the car is how the Cayenne should look. Simple and smooth, the rear three-quarter might be the best angle. The integrated rear spoiler contrasts the white shell yet still doesn’t look as opposing as, say, a C7 Corvette with the black vents and spoilers, making for a subtle, sporty appearance.


Our test Macan was outfitted with Porsche’s $2,745 air suspension package that includes Porsche Active Suspension Management, as well as the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), a $1,490 option in itself. These two systems, each independent of the other, allow the Macan to alter its composure dependent on load or road conditions. The air suspension constantly adjusts the parameters to make sure the Macan is always level, with a 50/50 split. It also sits lower than the coilover counterpart. However, with the exception of the increased approach and departure angles, we would probably save the money and go with the stock steel units. Every Macan also comes standard with an Off-Road Mode that changes the ECU’s algorithms and tailors them to more control with unforgiving terrain.


Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus claims to offer the driver better engagement with the pavement through a series of targeted brake interventions on the interior wheel during handling. It’s completely unnoticeable while working, and I’d be lying if I could tell any different. The Macan is capable, for sure; if it’s more so because of the PTV, then an engineer would be better suited to explain. Oh, wait, of course there’s Porsche engineering to explain!


We found that the air suspension automatically stiffened the suspension to the highest setting, often making for a jarring experience once off smooth pavement. Manually changing back to the softest setting made for a more relaxing ride. With 7.48 inches of ground clearance stock (9.06 with the optional air suspension), there’s plenty of room for 99 percent of Macan owners to explore the next equestrian parking lot.


After leaving Vegas and picking up the prerequisite beef jerky, coffee and smokes, we drove until we could find a place suitable for soaking up that predawn light. What followed was a series of stops aimed at trying to find a “dope” spot. If you’ve ever searched for the perfect spot as a photographer, it’s almost impossible. Without the hours required of scouting a location, it’s usually by chance that something amazing comes along. Running to the hills off Nevada Route 93, we found some decent spots but nothing memorable. We were able to see how it reacted to the desert, but it was barely a test of the capabilities of the Macan or the photography we wanted to accomplish.


It was time to put the hammer down, make up time and find a legit spot to get something awesome. Next stop, Bonneville.

Bonneville Bonneville Bonneville


*Bonneville Images courtesy of the Author*


While we could’ve taken Route 15 through Nevada and Utah straight to Salt Lake City, it’s a boring, lifeless drive compared to the two-lane highways weaving through the state. With Route 93, we would have more opportunity for scenic Ansel Adams landscapes, fewer cops and more speed. The standard-equipped 19-inch wheels had a moderate 55-series front and 50-series rear profile, which allowed for a softer ride and, actually, an ability to travel at a higher rate of speed without being able to judge. The Macan was smooth enough at high speed that while clocking a rate of 150 mph for four to five continuous miles, Harmer sat retouching earlier photos none the wiser, only commenting “Holy shit, we’re flying” once he looked up from the MacBook Pro.


It boils down to the fact that it seems Porsche doesn’t make an SUV to appease a broader audience, but one that adheres to strict guidelines that have been set for decades. Of course, other companies make some great midsize haulers: Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. And yes, this is an SUV for a mass market, but none feel as good as this.


Porsche is used to making cars that seem strange, such as the rear-engined 911, but once they’re put against competitors, there’s a strong chance the Porsche comes out on top.


It’s even better than the Cayenne. With the standard electromechanical steering rack—the same type found in the 911—the Macan feels more precise with less on-center float than is associated with its bigger brother. Oftentimes, in any car on a road trip, there are the inevitable “pucker” moments, where you have to take a moment to settle down because you might run out of talent, but we never had that. Feeling comfortable at the helm became primary.


Reaching Bonneville was the reward for almost getting to SLC, and we utilized every possible moment of what we had. Stuffing our feet in leftover grocery bags—apparently one of the driest places ever had just seen major flooding—we got our feet wet, literally, by finding some spots to bring out the potential of the vast, salty landscape. Having never been there, it was quite remarkable, and it’s hard for anyone to take a “bad” photo there.


Flat and dry, usually the salt flats are forgiving, but this time there were concerns over submerging the Macan to depths only a hovercraft would feel comfortable. It was the unknown of what lurked beneath the incredibly reflective water that kept us a little timid at first. We had come this far, and getting stuck wasn’t in the plan. We continued anyway, got muddy and disgusting, and could’ve definitely used some WeatherTech mats.


We had come to love the Macan because of the unexpectedness of it.


What works best about the Macan is how well it can change attitudes. It’s a Porsche Boxster wrapped in an SUV skin. You don’t feel threatened or overburdened by the size. It’s comfortable, but not in the traditional coddled sense. It feels planted, secure and small. Part of it is the stability and steering. Trickling down from the sports cars they make, the Macan is an intermediate mix of everything that’s great about Porsche “feel.”


The trip didn’t end at Bonneville. We made it to Salt Lake City running on very limited sleep and energy. We shot Ken Block’s Hoonicorn in a frenzy from morning to night, and then we repeated the journey back to Los Angeles with an even quicker pace, forgoing the sightseeing and instead chasing the sun back to Venice, enjoying the 700-plus-mile ride in a Porsche that makes up for being an SUV.


2015 Porsche Macan S Specifications


Efficiency:      17/23/19 mpg (city/highway/combined)
0-60 MPH:      5.0 seconds
Top Speed:     156 mph (claimed), 166 mph (as tested)
Horsepower:  340 horsepower @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
Torque:          339 lb.-ft. @ 1,450-5,000 rpm
Cost:              $49,900 (base)/$62,230 (as tested)
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