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2020 Porsche Macan GTS: Drives like a big hot hatch with big power

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Article and photos by Rob Sass

At this point, pretty much everyone reading this knows by heart what the Porsche AG press materials reiterate: No matter which model range, “the GTS models are some of the sportiest, most dynamic and most emotive vehicles in their segment.” This was certainly true in 2015 when the first iteration of the Macan GTS was introduced. And now five years later, even in the face of a new wave of sporty crossovers from the likes of Alfa Romeo, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz/AMG, the Macan GTS remains the most visceral and fun-to-drive vehicle in its class.

Outward changes are few: The expected black GTS trim is present along with available five-spoke color-keyed 21-inch wheels or standard 20-inch black RS Spyder Design wheels, according to your preference. The GTS suspension lowers the car 15 millimeters (an additional 10 mm of crank-down is possible with the optional adaptive air-suspension). The stance is about as good as it gets in a crossover. From a purely subjective standpoint, we think it’s the best looking Macan yet, and along with the Alfa Stelvio, the most handsome small SUV on the planet.

Mechanically, the heart of the Macan GTS remains a bi-turbo V6, now displacing 2.9 liters rather than the 3.0 liters of the outgoing Macan GTS. Although it gives up 100 cubic centimeters of displacement, there’s a noticeable 15 horsepower bump to 375 as well as an additional 15 pound-feet of torque (385 lb-ft total). With the optional Sport Chrono package, 0-60 miles per hour now comes up in about 4.5 seconds. Let’s take a few seconds to let that sink in. While not a sub-three-second hypercar time, it remains astonishingly quick for something with this much practicality baked in. A scant ten years ago, this was 997.2 Carrera S quick. The fact of the matter is, and we’ve said this before, the Macan reminds us more of our favorite hot hatch than any SUV, particularly so in GTS trim with the air suspension fully lowered, at which point, the Macan doesn’t seem to sit that much higher than, say, a Golf Alltrack.

Driven aggressively, like your favorite hot hatch, the Macan GTS shines. The twin-turbos located within the V of the engine provide an exceptionally short route for exhaust gas, resulting in impressive throttle response. On the roads that wound through the coastal range of hills in Portugal, north of Estoril, there was ample opportunity to sample the car’s handling: Turn-in is crisp, and grip more than ample once the summer tires and the road surface warmed up. The Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) along with the now familiar PASM and quick-shifting PDK made it nearly impossible to put a foot wrong. For the truly hardcore, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) are also available. The only time that we were at all envious of the numerous VW MQB-based hatches flying around (mostly Seat Ibizas and VW Golf GTIs) was when we found ourselves lost in the narrow medieval streets of Sintra, Portugal (the nav. system seemed to forget about the concept of one-way streets). It was the only time during the drive that the significant width of the Macan was terribly apparent.

Disappointments were few. One notable area was in the auditory department. The new 2.9-liter (a detuned version of the Macan Turbo engine, and one that also sees duty in the Cayenne and Panamera) doesn’t sound bad by any means, just less edgy than the 3.0 that it replaces. This seems to be a common theme at Porsche at the moment where the new Boxster Spyder for example sounds far more sedate than the old one. We blame the gas particulate filter and European noise regulations. Boo.

For the record, the Macan is based on the VW Group’s MLB platform, which is reserved for larger vehicles with longitudinally-mounted engines. It’s largely academic, the VW Group’s modular platforms allow significant freedom for Porsche’s chassis engineers to do what they do best, and the Macan remains a wholly different and far sportier experience from say, Audi’s Q5.

As we’ve mentioned before, at least in terms of style, sportiness, and handling, perhaps the closest rival in the market to the Macan probably remains the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Stelvio however lacks a mid-range trim level comparable to the GTS in performance and horsepower. Its slower-shifting, 8-speed automatic suffers from adaptive software issues that seems to make it hunt for the right gear far more often that it should, and then there are the issues of resale and reliability that are wholly alien to the Macan. MSRP should be in the $73,000 range, about a $3,000 increase over the old model.

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