From £57,2959
Compact SUV is a brilliant all-rounder, but so refined it almost hides its more eye-catching capabilities under too big a bushel

What is it?

The seven-year-old Macan is one of the most successful Porsches in history, which is quite a claim for a model that's made by a world-famous sports car company but isn’t even a sports car. 

Porsche is extremely adroit at projecting its sporting image onto models of non-sporting layouts (its Porsche Taycan, for instance, is billed as “the sports car of luxury limousines”) and this is more of the same. The Porsche Macan, however, is especially valuable for the way it brings new buyers into the fold.

Statistics stress its value. Porsche has sold over 600,000 Macans in the past eight years, a better performance than even the most optimistic early expectations. Around 80% of those cars have been sold to owners new to Porsche. Better yet, 60% of the buyers are women: Porsche looks, image and quality are regularly cited as the decisive factors for female owners. 

Given the success, it’s small wonder that Porsche has made sure its latest round of Macan changes are worthwhile but unthreatening – a shuffling of the pack rather than a change of deck. There are neat but fairly subtle body changes to the nose and tail, especially the underbody diffuser. The interior gets improvements, too, mainly to the centre console and its switchgear. The gearlever is shorter, and there’s now an analogue clock on top of the fascia. The suspension gets tweaks, notably to damper rates, that improve its agility and steering response, but Porsche continues to claim “a wide suspension bandwidth” for the Macan that allies comfort with sporty handling.

There are three models: the four-cylinder entry-level Macan, plus the S and GTS, which both use enhanced (and differently powered) versions of a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine. All have four-wheel drive and seven-speed paddle-shift gearboxes. Our test car, an S with a starting price of £53,500, looks the sensible choice, saving £5540 over the GTS – it’s a Porsche so you’ll want to spend that on options – while still offering near-supercar performance (a 161mph top speed and a 4.6sec 0-62mph sprint). The GTS is only 0.3sec quicker.

2 Porsche macan s 2021 uk first drive review side pan

What's it like?

When you drive the Macan S, it conforms to all the happy stereotypes: quality is first-class, the structure feels enormously strong and everything works beautifully. Our only real criticism of the new equipment concerns the haptics of the console switches and the new steering wheel (adopted from the Porsche 911). They look great and the concept is very modern, but we suspect old-tech rocker switches might be easier to find and feel more positive.

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The Macan S is a very simple car to drive. Visibility is good, it feels compact, the engine is smooth and docile at low revs and in the automatic shift mode you choose most of the time its changes are imperceptible, far more seamless than dual-clutch ’boxes a few years ago. Give the car its head and it also displays a big but effortless turn of speed, the V6 turbo engine emitting a growl-whine that says high performance but not too loudly. 

The Macan is beautifully stable, a quality that combines with sensitive, perfectly weighted steering and reasonably compact dimensions to make it easy to punt briskly on back roads. In contrast to many Porsches, road surface noise is acceptably well controlled (without being class-leading). Perhaps that’s because the S runs 20in wheels as opposed to the GTS’s 21s and thus has taller, more flexible tyre sidewalls.

It probably sounds a perverse kind of criticism, but if anything the Macan is a little too refined, a little too easy to drive, hiding its capability too well. If you drive a lot in town and fail to exploit the outer reaches of the longish-travel accelerator, you could believe (but for the badges) that you’re driving a much more basic member of the Volkswagen Group family. We’re not sure that’s what Porsche buyers really want.

There’s a pretty good remedy, of course. The Macan is one of a very few SUV models whose maker has performance driving experience centres dotted all over the world, notably in the UK beside the Silverstone grand prix circuit. Go there in our Macan, climb in with an instructor (as owners are invited to do) and you’ll pretty soon find yourself unleashing capabilities that can match those of decent, purpose-built sports cars. 

6 Porsche macan s 2021 uk first drive review cabin

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Should I buy one?

Bottom line: our feeling is that in its day-to-day performance, the Macan S could do with advertising its on-limit capabilities a little more. Just to whet the appetite.

3 Porsche macan s 2021 uk first drive review tracking rear


Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
Mile after Mile 7 January 2022

Its the only car in a long time my lovely lady has asked "what is that" car. Maybe thats my "in" to get one. Hasnt shown interest in cars for a long time so quite a shock

HiPo 289 6 January 2022

Some would find it hard to accept that anything with four doors and an engine in the front is really a Porsche at all. Also, the old adage "The only water in a Porsche should be in the windscreen washer bottle" would also count against the Macan.  But maybe that's all very old-fashioned now.   More importantly, the Macan is shortly going to be replaced by a new gen car that's electric.  So it seems completely pointless to buy the current model when the imminent new one is going to be so much better.  In fact I don't even see the point in reviewing the current model.   Like the Taycan, the new Macan will be awesome, so why bother with this obsolete Internal Combustion model? 

Cobnapint 6 January 2022
So much better in what way? The present one is supposed to be at the top of it's game already. The EV might weigh 2 tons and handle like a bag of spuds. Not everyone wants to be ars*d with an EV.
Boris9119 7 January 2022

HiPo,  'the four doors and an engine in the front' rhetoric is honestly only lazy journalism and bull#hit. I have been a Porsche owner, and yes fanboy since 1984. Yes the air cooled were iconic, yes the Mezger is legendary, but all those old school 911 guys understand that it was the Cayenne and the Boxster that saved the 911. Sure,  Peter saved it in the early 80's but as you say the rest is very 'old-fashioned now'. The rest of your comment I struggle to agree with. The electric Macan is an unknown quantity and even if it was known as to whether that was superior to the current Macan is moot. I agree the Taycan is impressive, I have enjoyed a Taycan turbo for a day, but its not replacing a Panamera GTS for me. Finally, not calling you out but how many Porsche cars do you own or have owned, I ask because your post suggests none? 

johnfaganwilliams 6 January 2022

OK I'm a Porsache fan - my Boxster S is my 14th - and a Cropley fan - Hi Steve your turn to buy breakfast at RAC - but I just don't get this review. So: it's quiet and comfortable in day to day use but supercar like when you want to play. And that's a criticism? Just weird to me. Sounds like the ideal car and I'm going to look on line to see if I can buy one for my birthday (tomorrow).