TWO COWS standing in a field. One says to the other: Are you worried about Mad Cow Disease? The other replies No, I’m a squirrel. I often think similar of car-makers when one brand thinks that normal rules do not apply to them.
Such was the case in Europe in 2002. The SUV market was still getting used to its nomenclature: Hitherto such vehicles would be known as 4×4’s or off-roaders. Sometimes even as Jeeps. Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Toyota were the dominant brands, because an off-roader had to take its off-roading duties seriously, though BMW and Mercedes had started to think there may be something in the lifestyle aspect too. Where Range Rover was dutifully carrying hunters toward grouse, and The Duke of Edinburgh around his estate (possibly the same thing), in came the Porsche Cayenne with an unapologetic aversion to rocks and an predilection for speed. Footballing types and their wives loved them, and Porsche became associated with another acronym: WAG.
These were pre-Kardashian days, when television’s Big Brother was still a novelty and the financial crash inconceivable. How we ridiculed Porsche! We were so obsessed with rational, plausible products that represented easy extrapolations of our preconceptions, that the appeal of a sporty 4×4 was initially overlooked. But the Cayenne was a hit. Through it we learned an important lesson: Build it and they will come (hang on, that sounds familiar). Being desirable is reason enough to warrant development. Heart over head, and all that. So what could be more desirable than a smaller, faster, sportier, sexier Cayenne? Enter the Macan.
Let’s start at the front. At first, the graphics fool you into believing you are looking at the scion of a 911, lamps poised dexter et sinister to a low nose bearing the Zuffenhausen heraldry. Then you see that this is atop a sedimentary layer of inlets, splitters, fogs and blackout, all keeping as discrete as possible so that your eyes don’t get distracted. The clever sculpture wraps over the lamp, with a channel sunk beneath a crease to give the impression of a separate fender volume a la 911. Another crease further inboard helps lift the centre-line so that the bonnet has the necessary engine clearance for pedestrian safety.
The bodyside is another game of seeing how high the main design theme can start. A plain, geometric black-out lifts the main light-catcher above knee-height, but the killer feature here is just how phat that haunch is, spilling out more than any non-911 has dared. Clever, too, is that the roofline remains quite level, rather than dipping like a coupe, providing more rear head-room inside (the design of which is a triumph, interior fans). The fast rear-screen and metal bustle give the requisite accelerative shunt to the car, finished by natty tail-lights that give the finger to Mercedes, who invented, then dropped, the whole rib thing long ago.
Bold, voluptuous, simple, detailed: Porsche has absolutely nailed it. In some ways the styling looks even more comfortable on this package than the slightly pastiche-y 911. That the Porsche Macan is too heavy, too expensive, too thirsty seems to not really matter when it converts so ably the aesthetic currency of the 911 into a more usable proposition.
Everything you could ever want? You’d be nuts to buy anything else.