So easy it is, to fall in love with a press car. Auto makers love to send fully-optioned examples of their creations, eager to have us test out every switch and stomp every pedal. Of course, I do not need to make a payment on a press car. So while I’d love a Porsche Macan GTS in my driveway, there is a $26,000 tab to pony up for the difference. Can a base Macan, with its four-cylinder engine and 173 fewer German horses, be that much worse?
Can we make a case for the base car?
The 2022 Porsche Macan Overview
Short of perhaps multi-million dollar rare examples such as a Ferrari Enzo, automobiles are not something you’d ever call a sound financial decision. They cost money to acquire, money to run, and sometimes they cost money to sell if you’re upside down on the loan.
But Machines With Souls isn’t about that. You don’t fall in love with a monthly payment, and love is never rational anyway. So when you step into a Porsche dealer, you can smile because pretty much everything inside will make you feel something. It’s just a matter of how much you want to feel.
The basic Macan certainly looks the part on the outside, and in typical Porsche fashion, you can option it to your heart’s content for something truly unique (don’t do that, I’ll explain later). Is the driving experience up to par? Will you make a sad face every time you pass a Macan GTS, however unlikely that may be?
Let’s find out.
Performance Score: 8. A Macan with moves
Let’s start by saying that even a base Macan is not cheap, coming in $15,000 higher than a basic X3 30i. To compare both would be a disservice to the Macan, so elevated in its feedback and responses from that Bimmer.
But the two do share one sin, and we start with the worst part of a base German experience.
A lot of people will be going for the badge on the back of the trunk, and for them I’m sure a turbocharged four-cylinder serves the purpose. But for you and I, it’s the weak point in an otherwise divine driving event.
Push the Macan’s start button, and you’re greeted with a snorty little roar that gives the impression of a Pug barking from behind a glass screen door.
“Bro, you barkin’ at me?”
Zoom around town, and the engine is perfectly fine, being both smooth and responsive, especially in Sport mode. Get on it, and you will meet your friends Turbo and Lag. Revving it to the 6,800 RPM redline doesn’t inspire much of a thrill, mostly because there’ such a solid whack of torque off the line (1,800 RPM).
Don’t get the wrong idea – 295 lb-ft of torque is as much as an E92 M3, and less power means more reason to push the Porsche Macan and drive it hard. I just wish this little 2-liter was more eager to do it.
To put it another way, it’s an excellent four-cylinder. But it’s still…you know, a four-cylinder.
If the Macan is let down a bit by the engine, the choice of transmission elevates it back. Porsche’s PDK (Doppelkupplung, isn’t that fun to say?) is a mind reader.
Typical of a dual-clutch unit, it fires off lighting fast shifts that make the car feel so much faster than it really is. ZF automatics are wonderful and alllmost as good, but the precise feel you get from pulling the aluminum paddles (along with a satisfying click) cannot be defeated. The only thing better than one is a Porsche with a manual.
Steering and Chassis
For 2023, Porsche has added a Macan T (Touring), which comes standard with Active Suspension Management. You can also add an air suspension, torque vectoring, stiffer anti-roll bars and an all-wheel drive system that focuses more on delivering power to the rear axle.
This car has none of that. Guess what? Doesn’t need it. Down 129 lbs from the GTS, the base Porsche Macan proves my theory that proper basic suspension tuning and less weight is the best way to go. This car is tossable and reactive in a way no tall SUV should be, yet here we are. Forget fuddling with buttons or spending an hour to “dial” the car in properly only to ask yourself, “Yea, but if I move the suspension over to SUPER DOOPER SPORT FIRM, surely I’ll be faster.”
The Macan also has wonderful steering feedback, perhaps the best I’ve felt in a long time, save for maybe a true sport machine like a GT4. And this is with all-season tires. Simply Delicious, capital D.
19-inch wheels might look a bit puny on the Macan, but they give the added benefit of making the brakes look larger. Black calipers with “Porsche” look exotic enough for a machine with four cylinders, and they provide excellent pedal feel. If you feel as though you need to reduce fade, you’ll have to opt for a more powerful Macan; no Carbon Ceramics are available here.
You can get Porsche Surface Coated Brakes which combine a cast-iron brake disc with a ceramic coating, and that will help reduce dusting. Does come with white calipers though, so it’s clearly a masochist option.
Wagons might be gone, but SUVs like the Macan make me miss them just a bit less.
Utility Score: 4. You need me to move up?
One of the reasons I do not have a Macan myself is that the car fails as its most basic function – hauling stuff.
It’s simply tight inside, especially the rear. If your child needs a car seat, expect the front seat backs to rub against the carrier (or little tootsies). In the trunk, it’s a bit more livable. Fine for your weekly needs, but skip if you need to make Home Depot runs often.
In the front, it’s nice, with comfortable seats and everything easily at hand. You feel as if you sit in this car, not on it despite the ride height, thanks to an excellent cockpit that wraps around you.
Still, an SUV without the U would be a…Sport Vehicle? Sounds like something you should consider as an alternative.
Economy Score: 4. Gas Buzz-iler
The benefit of choosing the four-cylinder engine here is hopefully some return in the form of better gas mileage. While you should always take the EPA’s numbers with a grain of salt, the numbers here are telling.
The basic Macan gets a combined 21 MPG, while the fire-breathing GTS gets 19. That might equate to a few thousand dollars of range over the course of ownership, but it’s not really a good enough reason on its own to sit out the bigger motor. You can opt for a very choice gas cap though, so that’s fun.
Features and Comfort: 6. Back to basics
Porsches and BMWs suffer from the same issue on the inside – they all look the same. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing – the basic design is always good. And a GT4 or Taycan certainly have ways of making you feel special compared to this basic Macan.
But the basics are good.
If Apple ever decides to actually make a car, I suppose Porsche could be their benchmark. Everything inside is so clean (almost too clean). As you climb inside, you’re greeted with black. Black leather, piano black trim, black steering wheel spokes. Touches of silver pop out at you, and the look is minimalist, but elegant.
Grip the perfectly-sized steering wheel and view actual gauges poking through. Even the biggest, baddest Turbo GT utilizes a real tachometer, but this Macan has a dash that isn’t quite as nicely integrated. Still, it’s refreshing.
Things get a bit weird once you start to look to your right at the center stack. A decently-sized screen has just two buttons without labels so I hope you can read the mind of this Macan. The HVAC controls are moved down by the transmission tunnel and are activated by touch, making it look more like the controls on the Starship Enterprise helm. Thing is, how are you supposed to know what does what unless you look down (not good while driving)? Perhaps an owner gets used to all of it, but on most cars you can simply hop in a drive off.
One other thing about the center stack – it’s clear that options are missing because you can still see the icons for what you don’t have, as if Porsche is constantly waving a finger in your face. “Told you that you needed ze super duper suspension, ya?”
The Macan is extremely comfortable to drive, a car that melds around you once you sit inside. Basic seats might not look as cool as sport buckets, but they are all-day comfortable. Missing here were Adaptive Sport Seats – which add more memory functions and bolstering, so I might check that box, but it’s nice to know even the standard seats are excellent.
There are enough touches throughout, like Porsche crests on the headrests, to make the Macan feel upscale inside, but start checking boxes for color-matching seat belts and Alcantara roofs and before you know it, you’re easily beyond $100,000. The customization options are very nice, but it’s difficult to feel as if Porsche isn’t nickle and diming you to death for some of this.
Outside, the Macan has adapted the Porsche family look well. I take offense to the black plastic cladding throughout – this is not an off-road SUV. The GTS might get a few more body color panels, but the entire family is afflicted with the disease. It’s a terrific way to lower production cost due to unpainted panels while selling it as an “upmarket” sporty item.
The Porsche Macan proves the basics are enough
Maybe the best way to look at this car is Disney World (go with it).
If you stay at a basic Disney resort, you’s not getting some of the nice experiences that one might expect on a vacation of this cost. But you’re still going to the park, enjoying the rides, and making memories. In five years time, will you even remember the hotel, or the smile on your kid’s faces?
So it is with the Macan. Yes, the engine isn’t really a “sport” engine per se, and it doesn’t give you the aural experience you might expect. Ditto a few of the other elements in a car that still costs upwards of $60,000. But the basic elements of the car – the chassis tuning, the transmission – these are things that outshine even an X3 M40i.
This Macan still begs you to take the long way home, and so I must ask the same question. In five years time, are you going to remember the missing suspension button, or the numerous fun drives this Macan gave you?
Thanks to Scott for providing his beautiful (and clean!) Macan!
Want your car reviewed?
If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email!
Support the cause
Commissions may be received for product links on this site. Help out if you can.
I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.
Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls