The Sell: Porsche styling and performance in a small (but not too small) package.
The Test: Drive an AWD Macan ($50,895; 17city/23 hwy) to an off-road trailhead, and you’ll understand why Porsche’s best selling cars aren’t the two-seat 911 or Boxster, but the Cayenne—the Macan’s big sister. That beast is quite capable off-road, wicked quick, and like the Macan (and unlike a 911) useful.
The tauter, smaller, lighter Macan is more agile and intimate than the Cayenne. The seats are superb, probably the most supportive we’ve experienced in any vehicle at this price range, and the cockpit is rich with sports-car cues, from real aluminum trim to three inter-locked circular gauges. The center console even has buttons to control the stiffness of the (optional) air suspension.
Porsche is famous for giving you everything you want—and making you order a la carte. No other compact crossover offers air suspension that lets you add 1.5 inches of lift and provides automatic load leveling, adapting instantly to acceleration and cornering forces. Yes, there’s a 340-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6 under the hood, but what’s surprising about the Macan is that instead of handling like an SUV, this Porsche drives like a sports sedan, with precise steering and a controlled but not punishing ride.
We also love the 40-20-40 split to the rear seats, enabling a broader center slot for skis than the typical armrest shove-through that’s never quite wide enough. Of course, Porsche’s engineering is part of what you’re buying. On a cold, rainy evening, we experienced how torque vectoring can keep the car from veering wide on a turn by braking only the rear inside wheel; this is well beyond stability control and works even more aggressively in the snow. Likewise, a dedicated four-wheel-drive mode focuses the transmission on maintaining each tire’s grip and preventing the rear end from breaking free.
What’s Missing? At this price you could pile every option into Volvo’s $37,000 V60 wagon and still come out with better fuel economy, similar cargo capacity, and a spirited (if not quite Porsche-like) ride.
The Verdict: The most sprightly, entertaining, non-sports-car Porsche ever made.