2020 Porsche Macan Turbo review (video)

It’s regarded the epitome of performance medium-size SUVs. But there are some very strong competitors out at the moment. Can the 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo hold onto the crown?

The latest model, introduced late last year, has to fend off some quite impressive newcomers, such as the 375kW Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV, the 375kW BMW X3 M Competition, and the monster 405kW Jaguar F-PACE SVR and Range Rover Velar SVA. Obviously power isn’t everything but up against those, on paper at least, the 324kW/550Nm Macan Turbo could appear like it’s falling behind.

However, like with all Porsche vehicles, there is much more to the story than pure power. Let’s take a deep-dive in and see what we find.

Firstly, prices start from $142,000, which is significantly less than the Velar SVA’s price (from $176,412), a good deal cheaper than the X3 M (from $157,900), and cheaper than the Alfa (from $149,900), and only just a touch more than the F-PACE SVR (from $140,020). There’s also the 375kW Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S which is priced from $164,600. The Macan’s price point should be a substantial attraction for anyone in this market.

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Output: 324kW@6600rpm / 550Nm@1800-5600rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 21×9.5, 265/40  R: 21×10, 295/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1973kg
Power-to-weight: 6.08:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 10L/100km
Economy during test: 12L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 75L/98 RON

Power efficiency: 32.4kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 1.97 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.18 seconds*
0-200km/h: 16.06 seconds*
60-110km/h:
2.97 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.49 seconds at 180.8km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.145g
100-0km/h braking: 2.91 seconds at 35.74 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.240g
Decibel at idle (/Sport mode): 46/50*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 83*
Priced from: $142,000

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* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo – THE PACKAGE

We love that Porsche has been carrying through its boxy dash layout for so many years. Decades, in fact. That long, straight edge that runs from the instrument cluster cowl all the way across, uninterrupted, until the passenger door – if you’re viewing this as part of your everyday life, you’re doing alright.

The dash is also positioned forward to provide a clear and open cockpit. In that sense, this is not a vehicle that suffocates you in unessential fixtures and awkwardly protruding shapes. Everything that’s there, is there for a reason. Porsche’s latest 10.9-inch touch-screen is seamlessly integrated into the flat fascia. It showcases very crisp and finely detailed graphics. A mostly black background within the screen means the subtle white menus stand out, without overly contrasting with the interior’s essentials-only personality. With no flashy colours or fancy animations, it is simplistic and user-friendly, too.

Unfortunately, the centre console, while appearing like a command module from a spaceship, is littered with buttons and controls. It can be overwhelming at first. Most of the functions on this are to do with the climate (at the upper end) and the vehicle settings (at the lower end). Here is where you’ll find the exhaust modes, the suspension settings, and of course the gear selector. In Australia the Macan Turbo comes standard with adjustable air suspension, and there’s a button on here that allows you to adjust the ride height as well.

Given that the Macan sits in the same segment as those aforementioned rivals, the cabin is one of the smallest in this class in our opinion. There are no complaints in the front. Although, that cascading flow of buttons on the centre console can seem to take up a lot of room. Perhaps additional storage could be merged in this area? Headroom and legroom and the general sense of space and freedom is quite good. These sports seats hug you perfectly too, and the sports steering wheel is presented right at your chest. Pedal placement and steering column alignment and all of that is spot on. This is undoubtedly a driver’s office.

Rear seat room is a bit more confined. The two outer seats are comfortable, with decent lateral support thanks to cushioning and contours that appear to be inspired by the front seats. Getting in and out though we notice the door opening is relatively narrow, and the middle seat is definitely one of the squashiest in this class. If it weren’t for the chunky driveline tunnel taking up all of the legroom, things would be better. Adjustable climate vents and dual charging ports add convenience.

Likewise, the boot is at the smaller end of the segment standards. While most European rivals offer around 550L and around 1600L with the rear seat down, the Macan offers 500L/1500L. You can lower the floor level/suspension from the boot area via some buttons, which is handy, and there is some extra storage under the boot floor – this area is shared with the space-saver spare wheel. A 12V socket is also available on the boot wall.

So, what about overall packaging and standard features? We won’t reel off all of the equipment, as that’d be boring. But the $142k starting price means it is more affordable than the majority of the high-performance rivals, as mentioned. However, you do need to be careful not to be tempted by the extensive options list if you are concerned about costs. For example, this test vehicle is fitted with $24,670 worth of options, and some of them are fairly ordinary; Porsche is charging $4970 for the  ‘Crayon’ (grey) exterior colour, $2070 for adaptive cruise control, and $1030 for white instrument cluster dials.

There are some awesome options worth ticking though, such as the 21-inch Sport Classic alloy wheels as featured here ($1740). They look superb. The black badges at the back ($980), the tinted LED taillights ($1600) and tinted LED headlights including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus ($1840), and the carbon fibre interior package ($1770) are all very cool. We’re not convinced on the white instrument cluster. For some reason Porsche hasn’t bothered to hide the warning symbols from view when they aren’t illuminated. Not only does it look messy but it can be a bit distracting as you glance down to check your revs or speed.

As you can see, some options are a bit ridiculous. But like with many premium vehicles sometimes it’s the high cost that allows customers to create a more exclusive package. In other words, if you’re at this end of the market you probably want something that stands out from the rest.

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo – THE DRIVE

New for the 2020 Macan Turbo is the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, also seen in the Panamera S since 2016. It replaces the 3.6-litre twin-turbo unit, which produced 294kW and 550Nm in its last-sold form. Now, the 2.9 roars out 324kW at 6600 and 550Nm between a hugely flexible 1800-5600rpm. These outputs are a nice jump up from the Macan S‘s 3.0-litre turbo that generates 260kW/480Nm, and more than the 2.9L Macan GTS’s 280kW/520Nm output.

What’s the go with 3.0-litre and 2.9-litre engines from Porsche and the greater Volkswagen Group? Well, they all start life or stem from the VW EA839 unit. In general, 3.0L versions feature a single turbocharger while the 2.9L adopts twin turbochargers. The decreased capacity is due to a shortened stroke (by 3mm). Essentially, it means the pistons don’t have to travel as far up and down in the cylinders with each combustion cycle, assisting with response and revs. The main bearings are also 2mm larger in diameter on the 2.9L to ensure it can cope with higher demands.

The end result is a bore size of 84.5mm and a stroke of 86mm. It’s not what’s known as an ‘over-square’ design, which is favourable in performance and motorsport realms as this type of layout is commonly supportive of higher revs and faster-building revs. However, compared with the 3.0L version the 2.9L does get closer to that ideal.

Plenty of high-tech components and innovations are here, including direct injection, quad cams with variable valve and lift timing, and turbochargers which are mounted within the V – ‘hot V’. In fact, the exhaust manifolds which drive the turbines are integrated into the cylinder head and are treated with the same engine coolant that circulates around the block. This unique innovation aids temperature management, both helping the unit heat up to normal operating temp quicker while reducing fuel consumption during high stress demands.

We find it strange that in some Audi RS models, such as the RS 5, this same engine produces 331kW and 600Nm. To us, it should be the other way around. Porsche should get the higher tune, always. Not that we’re complaining about the performance available from the Macan Turbo. It’s just that we think Porsche deserves the best that’s available.

You can forget the on-paper stuff, though. Out on our private road we saw some very excitement numbers in the real world. Using the launch control system our Racelogic Vbox Sport showed a best 0-100km/h run in just 4.18 seconds. That’s quicker than Porsche’s claim of 4.3 seconds (4.5 without the Sport Chrono pack). We ran it again to make sure and it did 4.20. We also clocked the quarter mile in 12.49 seconds, and 0-200km/h in a dashing 16.06 seconds.

The Macan Turbo isn’t the lightest weight proposition in this class. With a tare mass of 1973kg, it’s about average. They are all very close though. For example the lightest out of the five rivals mentioned so far in this review is the BMW X3 M Competition, with a tare mass of 1928kg. The heaviest is the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, with a hefty tare mass of 2088kg. Out of all of these that we’ve driven, the Macan feels the lightest behind the wheel.

Down a spirited road the Macan Turbo is just superb. Grasping the sporty steering wheel and looking over that traditionally short and square dash, you feel very connected with the car. In some of the competitors there can be a sense of distance between man and machine. But in here, you’re always aware that you’re actually driving the car. It’s like you’re wearing it rather than riding in it.

The turn-in is very responsive from the power electromechanical steering. There’s lots of feedback so you always know how the tyres are coping. It’s difficult to provoke the car into understeer, despite all-wheel drive, and the air suspension works wonderfully to soak up imperfections in the road surface, so stability is outstanding. It doesn’t matter how hot and fast you come into a corner, the Macan always feels reassuringly solid and on track. Part of this is down to the impressive tyres.

German vehicles are almost always equipped with huge tyres. But Porsche’s setup trumps the lot. On the front (even in standard trim) are 21-inch wheels that measure 9.5 inches wide, wrapped in 265/40 tyres. And then at the back are a pair of mammoth 295/35 tyres mounted on 21s that are 10 inches wide. This is the standard package. As you can begin to appreciate, grip and cornering capability is paramount.

With so much grip, precise steering and excellent suspension, it just feels so connected to the road. I remember two-time World Rally Champion and Porsche senior test driver Walter Röhrl talking about the skill of driving in a documentary once, and he said, “If you have to think, it won’t work. If it doesn’t happen intuitively, it won’t work.”

And that kind of relates to the driving quality and characteristics of the Macan Turbo. It never feels like it’s being put into an uncomfortable situation. It feels natural. Some sports cars – especially SUVs (for obvious reasons) – can feel like they are being forced to do something they aren’t inherently and naturally designed to do. Not here.

Is there any negative at all? Well, we’d have to say the steering feels almost too enthusiastic, and too good for the rest of the chassis. The suspension copes and responds immediately, but the VW MLB-based platform can feel like it’s just following the boss’s orders. We guess that’s probably the laws of physics knocking on the door, reminding you of that 1973kg.

The Macan Turbo does present reasonable off-road capability for this class, mainly thanks to the adjustable air suspension. In its highest setting you have 230mm of ground clearance, which is similar to some dual-cab 4×4 utes. In this state you also have an approach angle of 25.7 degrees and a departure angle of 25.3 degree. And, what Porsche describes as a maximum clearance between ground and water-sensitive parts of 340mm.

These are some respectable measurements for this segment. With those big tyres there’s also a large footprint, which can be beneficial across some types of terrain. Being so low-profile though, and featuring a very road-focused tread pattern, the Macan is never going to win any 4×4 contests. But it is good to know that despite its exemplarily on-road performance and skills the Macan can venture onto rugged surfaces if needed.

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo – THE VIDEO

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo – THE VERDICT

With a lower entry price (without options) than most rivals the Macan Turbo is off to a great start. It should attract buyers just from that. However, the product, the lifestyle, and even the potential experiences you’re getting can’t be attached to a monetary value. Driving a Porsche is like nothing else. And even though the Macan is the entry nameplate for the legendary marque, it’s still a splendid driver’s car and a frighteningly quick one.

PROS:
– Traditional Porsche interior and build quality
– Standard air suspensions strikes perfect balance between comfort/agility
– Ridiculously quick
– One of the lowest starting prices in the hardcore mid-size SUV segment
– Some very cool options available; Sport Classic 21in wheels, carbon fibre packs

CONS:
– 324kW/550Nm 2.9TT V6 misses out on Audi’s 331kW/600Nm tune
– Options list can be daunting (and expensive)
– Smaller boot and rear seat space compared with most rivals

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Brett is the editor and founder of Performance Drive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.