Back road. Behind a semi and trailer. Sport button! Mash throttle!
Hiccup. Lurch. Grind. Vibrate-vibrate-vibrate-vibrate-vibrate…warning message.
That was the first time I tried to go fast in a Macan.
Excellence Magazine recently did a Macan GTS review. It was one of the most damning-with-faint-praise car articles I’ve ever read, replete with gems like “engine output feels acceptable but honestly rather unexciting,” “surprised by the amount of understeer,” “unexpected quirks,” and “feels too heavy and underpowered relative to other contemporary performance machines.”
Amazon’s The Grand Tour released an episode a few weeks back where the boys spend some time in Canada testing and comparing small luxury crossovers. Hammond gets a bright red Macan Turbo, which, when asked to do some rodeo-style barrel racing in loose dirt, quickly throws an “AWD overload” warning message and goes into a power-limited “limp” mode.
If you hadn’t caught on to my thesis just yet, it’s that all small crossovers—including Porsche’s—are essentially useless. The Cayenne is one thing; especially in its original form, it was a full-size SUV designed to comfortably seat four adults and transport their luggage while retaining the ability to not only go fast on the road, but also to dependably and capably go off-road, as well as to tow a respectable amount. The Cayenne does things a car could not do.
The Macan cannot comfortably seat four adults. It cannot transport their luggage. It is less capable around corners than a car would be. It is less fuel-efficient than a car would be. It cannot tow any significant amount. The base model’s stock tires are Pirelli Scorpion Verde low rolling resistance fuel-economy-at-all-costs tires that offer minimal lateral grip in dry or wet cornering, even less grip off-road, and still less grip in snow.
You would think a company whose history is recorded in a series of volumes titled Excellence Was Expected would only agree to produce such a subpar vehicle to the absolute minimum extent possible. And yet this very week, Porsche unveiled another of the type, a “concept study of an electrically driven Cross Utility Vehicle (CUV)” at the Geneva Motor Show. This is the first paragraph of their press release:
“This car has many talents and is aimed at people who like to spend their free time travelling, playing sport and pursuing other outdoor activities. Thanks to all-wheel drive, every ski slope is easy to reach, while the flexible interior creates space for all kinds of sports equipment and modern load-carrying systems facilitate the transport of surfboards or a Porsche e-bike.”
Except for the “Porsche e-bike” statement, that paragraph could be used by just about every other automaker in the world. I read that disgusting, poorly-written, uninspiring drivel and come away with nothing except “This car is what our accountants say the market demands. We need cash to recover from Dieselgate.”
With all this, I was girding myself to go on a longer tirade about how Porsche has left top-tier LMP1 racing, how the new 911 RSR remains uncompetitive in sports-car racing even after a ground-up redesign, and how the company’s Formula E effort is still a year off. I was going to point to the sales numbers that indicate without question that the public-road-going soul of the company has a higher center of gravity, larger footprint, and heaver curb weight than ever before. I was going to say that that same soul was diluted, lost, aimless, and who knew where it would end up next.
Then I remembered that the other car Porsche unveiled at Geneva was the new GT3RS, and I watched the hype video they made for it. And suddenly, everything was fine, just fine. Even better than fine. In fact, things might just be unabashedly brilliant.