I'm about to complain. Not about the 2017 Porsche Macan GTS, that thing is damn near perfect. I'm about to complain about my life, and you're going to hate me for it.
(Image Credits: Michael Ballaban)
Welcome to my world: New York City, where king rats rule from greasy concrete spires and the rest of us elbow each other through potholed cattle lanes.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche wanted me to drive the Macan GTS so bad that I asked for one, and they dropped one off for a few days.)
This constant state of combat has left craters in the roads deep enough to disappear a car, or at least buckle a rim. Nevertheless, we drivers chose our weapons and enter the fray. Some are performance cars that can move fast and handle quite nicely. Some are large and luxurious and exceptionally comfortable.
But neither of those are good. In fact, they are terrible.
Oh, I'm sure they're actually wonderful. For someone. They can be cheap or expensive or fun or sublime and any number of positive descriptors, but they're not for me. They all either come with vast dishware covered in black cellophane as an excuse for a tire, because they are sports mobiles, or they're enormous and can't be parked on anything that's not explicitly your own driveway.
So many cars I've tried to survive New York in have been fast and perilous, or big and annoying. Or, even worse, boring. But not the Porsche Macan GTS.
What Is It?
The Macan GTS lives somewhere between air-conditioned shopping cart and luxury hot-hatchback on steroids. This is a Porsche that's also a compact crossover, not the other way around.
It actually feels just barely bigger than a Volkswagen GTI, which is already big enough for your adult life, and takes performance so much further than any GTI could ever dream of doing. At least, not without a few modifications.
The Macan GTS is so much hotter than any self-respecting hot hatch should be. And it's a family SUV, too.
The Specs That Matter
The 360-horsepower Porsche Macan GTS slots right in the top-middle of the Macan line-up, which also sees a base Macan (252 HP), a Macan S (340 HP), a Macan Turbo (400 HP), and the delightfully named "Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package," because you get right what it says on the tin, and 440 HP.
But the GTS is the one you want.
Too many performance cars these days are overpowered, 318kg-foot of torque freaks. That's great for ripping burnouts and pulling stumps and lighting your hair on fire the one time you ever take it to a track day, but it's no fun at all within the impossibly tall grey walls of New York.
The Macan GTS's horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque are supposed to be enough to move the 1,895kg vehicle to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Plenty of juice to squeeze through the last seconds of yellow lights, but the real magic is in the suspension.
The GTS rides on air. More specifically; the Porsche Active Suspension Management system which adjusts ride height and stiffness to seamless switch between rigidity for slicing and dicing through traffic, or compliance to float over lower Manhattan's cobblestone streets.
At its standard posture, the Macan GTS is actually 10 millimetres lower than the high-powered Macan Turbo, putting a little extra emphasis on balance while maintaining a dominant ride height and enough suspension travel for regular rough-road usage.
You know what's good in the Macan GTS? Pretty much damn near everything. The engine? Good. The seats? Splendid. The transmission? It's Porsche's dual-clutch setup, which has to be one of the most sublime gearboxes in the world.
Pull up a paddle, BLART — thwack as you're catapulted forward in the edgiest setting. Go down a gear, and the engine screams up the tach. Calm it back down, and everything's fine in the world.
The steering? Pretty much as good as you can ask for a family SUV. No, dullards, it's nothing compared to a classic air-cooled Porsche 911. But compare it to something like a Mercedes GLC, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Lower the suspension, throw it into a corner and hold on tighter than you should have any right to. It's wonderful.
We've complained about this sort of thing before, but Porsche's arcane ordering system, with its dizzying array of configurable options, left me with a Porsche SUV costing around $109,000 complete with everything a boy could love. A dual-clutch gearbox, a racy engine, air suspension that moved it up and down at will, but no navigation system and remarkably, no provision to Bluetooth my phone to the car stereo. Please see update below.
If you're thinking "what," mmm, yes, exactly. Big city living requires moving and shaking and business, friends. And I am not about to be seen in my Porsche with a Bluetooth earpiece like it's 2001. Seriously, I need to take calls while my exhaust is reverberating off the glass windows on Wall Street.
(UPDATE: A Porsche spokesman got in touch to say that actually, Bluetooth connectivity comes standard on the Macan GTS. My troubles with it may have been tied to this particular example being a press car, which means that so many people had driven it and connected their own phones, that maybe it just wasn't possible to connect another one, which may explain why I got a notification that said something along the lines of "feature not available." Anyways, when you buy your Macan, you'll get Bluetooth, Porsche says.)
Those sorts of things are standard on most luxury cars nowadays and are a commonly-ticked option on even economy cars. You would think that, for all the dollars, Porsche would just throw the SD card for the navigation system in the slot and call it a day.
But no, the company insists on nickel-and-diming people on everything. Which is how you can end up with absurd situations like a base Macan with a piddly 240 HP costing $US123,100 — $166,000 in Australia.
And that's just rude! You can get a very nice Range Rover for that sort of money, and have enough left over for a Fiat 500 Abarth on the side that's so cheap you could feel totally comfortable crashing it into your nearest tree and buying another one.
A Well-Balanced Road Warrior
Crossovers have consumed city streets because they're pretty good at everything, even if they don't stand out doing anything. With this car configuration, cargo and passenger capacity is above adequate, fuel economy is ok, poor-weather performance is acceptable and there's usually some vague notion of "adventure-readiness" in the mix.
But for a driving enthusiast, these compromises can kill your buzz. Even if you know deep down that the crevices on your street would eat a Cayman alive and split a 911 in two. The Macan GTS is a solid solution here.
It's exciting enough to save some of the soul you lose living in the city, tough enough to survive the inevitable beat down of ripped-up roads, poor parallel parkers and a sea of taxi cabs you want to be able to see over.
We're always getting questions asking "What Car Should I Buy," with a price range of $US20,000 to $US80,000 and it needs to be fun and sporty and it needs to haul the kids and it needs to not make you look sad and you need to be able to go somewhere in the winter. And it needs to have a manual. Obviously.
Of course, the answer to all of those competing, deeply strange demands is a 996-generation Porsche 911 Turbo. But if you can't do that, or most of that, you might as well get a Porsche Macan GTS. It's everything you want, without any of the pain.
Just make sure you watch your options list.
2017 Porsche Macan GTS MSRP: $US67,200 ($91,111)
As tested: $US81,020 ($109,849)
Engine: 3.0-litre Twin-Turbo V6
Power: 360 horsepower/369 lb-ft. of torque
0 to 60: 4.8 seconds
Body Type: 4-Door SUV
Curb Weight: 1,895kg