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.
I can’t tell if you’re serious or sarcastic. These things are a travesty. Profitable, sure.
When is Porsche coming out with a re-badged Jetta? They could make a killing on that I’m sure. How about a Porsche Beetle?
The Porsche Beetle was called the 356.
Good god, I hope he’s sarcastic. One can only be cut off so many times by those wielding these ridiculous things (or it’s fat sister Cayenne) before they all get lopped together as traffic jam poison…
i look at this and im weirdly reminded of the amc eagle 2d fast back ?
I had the exact same thought, the AMC Eagle SX4 came to mind when I saw the Macan.
I’ll admit. I find this a very good-looking machine. Yes, there’s a lot of “911 sitting on top of a large rectangle” to it, but it works much better than the Cayenne. I hadn’t really been paying attention to this market so I missed the launch, then when I saw one on the street it quite literally stopped me in my tracks.
The fact that it really has no reason for existence, and indeed *should not* exist to those of us who still think that Porsche as a full-line manufacturer is ludicrous, makes it kind of sad that it’s so good-looking. Kind of like my opinion that all Jeeps should be “Trail Rated”, a Porsche should have two doors, a low, sporty body, and a model number that starts with a 9. (Apologies to the Cayman, being very much a Porsche and an excellent one at that, but it should have a numeric name.)
To each their own. I find the gaping holes in the front awkward and the rest of it rather generic.
It desperately needs a 3-5″ drop, after which you’d have a really nice hatchback.
I really hope that in 20 years we will laught at these the way the broughams are laughed at today.
Although there will likely be 30 year olds in 2030 or 2040 who are nostalgic about SUVs/CUVs like many of us are nostalgic for the Great Brougham Epoc.
I’ve been wondering the same thing. I work at a dealership that sells these and get to drive them often.
The first Porsche was a tractor. So I guess they can be whatever they want (or sells). The fact is that they may as well target more market niches, a truck or sedan sale is most likely an incremental sale and takes no other sale away. Although with no doors, no windscreen and very limited seating perhaps the tractor was a “Speedster”…
I love the fact that I can take my three kids kids in my 911 (assuming the wife stays home), but some days it is way more comfortable to pack everyone into one of my other cars. If that car can be fast, comfortable, and be a Porsche is all some people need.
The Macan is apparently much more sports-car-like than the Cayenne ever was (or will be), notwithstanding the serious speed and handling that some Cayennes have. Keep in mind as well that the only thing that stops me in my Porsche with Blizzaks is when there are over 4-5” of snow on the ground due to clearance issues. While I have taken it skiing, I did so only after careful perusal of the weather report. The last thing I want is to be stuck in some parking lot in the wilderness with too much snow at the end of the day. A Macan or Cayenne would require no such thing, assuming of course that proper tires are fitted.
Are there a lot of posers driving these? Sure. But the same can be said about the 911, Boxster, and Cayman. While there are plenty of people who are enthusiastic about the speed, handling, and style of those, there are just as many who are driving them the same way they would a 500SL.
Like most Porsches within the first few years of their lifespan, Macans will depreciate rapidly, especially when the next shiny thing debuts. They will look even more attractive when their price is a fraction of the sticker, and most of the remaining life is still within the car for the next owner to enjoy. As long as Porsche keeps on building their sports cars, they are welcome to make money on other projects as well as far as I am concerned.
A decade ago, the idea of Porsche making an SUV was so ridiculous to me, but I’ve softened a little, and it’s hard to deny the success of the Cayenne and it’s important place within Porsche’s lineup for its continued viability. I suspect the Macan will follow suit and be a very good business decision for Porsche.
SUVs/crossovers aren’t really my thing, and any Porsche is well beyond my means. But for what it is–a sport/luxury crossover–it’s a pretty good and very stylish effort. If I had superfluous amounts of money (won’t happen) and felt that a crossover would make sense for me (probably will happen), and could get past the whole being flashy thing (probably won’t happen), this could be a strong contender for my consideration.
Uggggggggly boring car.
“It converts so ably the aesthetic currency of the 911 into a more usable proposition.”
Bingo. There is a baseline of functionality that most people ask of a car. Beyond that, it’s decoration.
Tailfins and whitewall tires used to be mocked as too frivolous and decorative; now cars have impressive and expensive technical capacities that will never be used, but hey, that Porsche SUV stuck in LA traffic sure is Functional!
To each his/her own. Gimme a Camcordusion with whitewalls.
Actually I find most modern cars have impressive and expensive technical capabilities that you WILL use, whether you would prefer to or not! I couldn’t begin to tell you the amount of stress that has caused my mom and other older relatives.
I sat in a Macan, the interior is nice but the rear seat area is very tight and the cargo area is very small. It may be more practcal than a 911 but it’s a major compromise as an SUV and as a sports car. It will probably sell like hotcakes.
I really like the picture of the grey one in the snow. It looks very business like and serious from that view. What is it’s business? To transport it’s affluent owner in a stylish,capable, comfortable, manner wherever he wants to go. I remember watching a Top Gear episode where they put a turbo Cayenne through it’s paces and it was amazing. I give it it’s props. I like that Macan because it’s a little smaller and it has that great red interior. I’m never going to be able buy one but I am not in their demographic. The sales of these things keeps Porsche financially healthy.
I think the Macan is gorgeous, particularly in person. It just has all the right proportions. I never liked the Cayenne, or most any CUVs, but Porsche really got this one right (at least aesthetically). I get that styling is subjective, but I’m still surprised to hear people say it’s ugly.
I doubt it will be remembered as anything more than it really is, an overpriced re-badged Volkswagen.
Overpriced rebadged Audi, maybe. It does share a platform with the Q5 (and more distantly, the entire Audi lineup save for A1/A3/TT as they’ve mostly gone to the MLB architecture). But it doesn’t share anything directly with VW, except for the 4-cylinder engine in the base Macan which is only sold in certain markets.
The idea of an I4 Porsche seems a little jarring these days, but they did have a long tradition all the way up to the 968…
I thought the Cayenne and Panamera were blasphemous, but I came to accept that that was the new reality if Porsche was to survive. Yes, they’re expensive. Yes, plenty of poseurs drive them (but that can be said of a lot of cars, like just about every automatic-equipped Ferrari and Lambo, which is all of them). But I’ve been in them, and I’ve driven them, including the new Macan, and there’s no question that they are fantastic drives and are truly special inside. Are they “overpriced”? Sure, maybe. But IMO, they’re superior to any competitor. You pay a price, and maybe that’s too much, but if you do, you’re getting something special.
Always interesting to read such piece from someone who understands it, and can identify and observe the salient points.
But I still think this, and cars like it, are answers to a question that wasn’t asked and find them very hard to like or want. There’s some clever engineering though.
A pointless vehicle for overpaid badge buying idiots. Porsche is dead to me.
How many have you purchased?
Why you ask? Have shares in Volkswagon group too?
I find the idea of a Porsche badged SUV less offensive than an SUV riding on 20″ Rims with low profile, high performance street tires.
Porsche pricing insanity aside, that vehicle with about 3″ of lift and some proper AT wheels and tires would be appealing. It isn’t like Porsche doesn’t have history in rallying.
Simply put, the sales success of the Cayenne has allowed Porsche to invest money in both a return to LeMans and full remodels of the Boxster and Cayman. The just released Cayman GT4 is an incredible sports car, as worthy of the marque as an early Speedster or the beloved 993.
What exactly is the problem?
I never liked the Cayenne as I felt a vehicle of its size was too great a departure for the marque. The Macan is what I think the Cayenne always should have been.
I don’t mind the concept of the Panamera – personally I’d love to see Ferrari do a four door – but I would have liked it much better had it been a stretched 911, a la the 989 concept… like a German Tucker. Also, I’d have preferred they bin the nonsense name and instead used the original idea – Panamericana, after the Carrera Panamericana.
My real problem with Porsche is that none of the water-cooled boxer engines are a safe investment due to the awful design flaw known as the IMS bearing. Basically no Porsche built between 1998 and 2009 is immune from a part failure that can lead to a $20,000 engine rebuild, aside from the Turbos and the GT3 which have a different crankcase based on the old air cooled engines.
The IMS bearing is a replaceable part without engine disassembly, at least on engines built through 2004. The later post-2004 design has a MUCH lower incidence of failure but cannot be replaced without engine disassembly. .
The most popular and seemingly well engineered replacement bearing and incidentals is around $700 (and some have done it with off the shelf bearings for under $100) and can easily be replaced at the same time as a clutch by a competent mechanic. It appears that the majority of failures are in cars with A) low usage and B) easy usage. In other words, those cars that are driven and are driven hard seem to have less issues. The ones that sit and are just driven around town at low revs are the ones that seem to be most affected. The issue seems to be related to the grease washing out of the sealed bearing (the seal fails but is still in place) and then a resulting lack of lubricant. It is thought that cars driven more often and hard end up with engine oil in the bearing. When replacing one of the bearings the general recommendation is to REMOVE the seal to expose it to more engine oil. The post-2009 engines do not have an IMS bearing but apparently have other weaknesses that are beginning to make themselves known (According to Jake Raby of Flat Six Innovations, who is probably the most knowledgable non-factory person around in regard to these engines).
I’m not being an apologist for these engines (it IS a major flaw and could have been engineered around), however it is not correct to imply that it is an insurmountable flaw, it can be corrected. $700 plus installation is a lot for a bearing, but if taken in context (i.e. the cars were stickered from $39900 for a first year no-options base price Boxster in 1997 to around $80,000-$100,000 for the average Carrera model) it’s not that big of a deal. The average Carrera goes through a set of rear tires every 10,000 miles, a quality set of rears will be around $700 as well…
It really is refreshing to read positive comments about Porsche SUVs, or at least those that recognise the money-making SUVs allows Porsche to invest in other traditional models.
The UK car forums are full of ‘traditionalists’ that believe that a Porsche has to sit low, 2+2 seating, six cylinders behind the rear axle, and sent through a manual gearbox. Anything else is blasphomy. So the idea of a diesel powered SUV Porsche IS THE MOST HATEFUL THING EVER. Same issue with 4 cylinders, turbos and automatic gearboxes. despite Porsche having a great track record with all. Those that shout the loudest get the most notice. Such comments on Autocar and PistonHeads do make entertaining reading though.
I don’t mind the Cayenne or Macan, though would not own either. I have a soft spot for the Panamera, despite its looks. I see it as a modern version of the lovely 928, in that its a powerful comfort-based GT that happens to handle well.
I love the idea of a Boxter with a 4 cylinder turbo, a modern 944 turbo drop-top.
It’s not bad looking for what it is. Then again, Bosch makes good looking washing machines too. There will be no room for any 21st century crossover/soft roader in my hall of classics, regardless of marque.
So much poetic waxing going on here, I couldn’t finish the article……..
I read somewhere that Porsche sales in China were very strong. The chinese have no preconceptions as to what a Porsche should be. They (the chinese nouveau riche) see Porsche as just another status symbol akin to a Louis Vuitton handbag. Why can’t Porsche be to VW AG what Ferrari is to Fiat. It seems like VW AG is following the GM model of badge engineered cars while debasing the crown jewel it has in Porsche.
I am not a stranger to Porsches as I own/owned a few Porsches
(1966 912, 1974 911 Targa, 1979 930, and a couple of 1983 928S). I predict that 20 30 years from now, Panameras, Cayennes, and Macan will probably be less desirable than 928s (exc ’90-’95 GTs & GTS) are today.
This kind of reminds me of the fate of Harley Davidson comments though at a higher price point and more limited market. While both manufacturers were originally successful with a limited range of models they became so identified with these products that expanding their range has been difficult. A lot of devotees would imprison Porsche in a rear engined, air cooled prison. Of course we don’t know how many of these haters are in reallity potential buyers. I would imagine that the core of their new market doesn’t read the enthusiast mags and blogs. The problem is if product expansion is due to mostly rebadging with little re-engineering. I think that HD is worse off since their signature product the V-twin is not an outstanding performer in smaller displacements. Their water cooled V-Rod was not well received by their traditional buyers.
Oh, I don’t think anybody here thinks this won’t sell. Us haters just simply don’t like it for what it is. As someone mentioned above, it’s severely compromised as an SUV and as a Porsche.