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Porsche Macan: We drive it in Arabia

2014-04-23 05:08


 Porsche Macan

WORLD FIRST? Porsche has launched its Macan, the automaker's first compact SUV sports car - a first in the world it claims - in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. It will arrive in SA in May 2014. Image: Janine-Lee Gordon


2013 Porsche Macan

2013-11-20 08:49

Porsche celebrates the world premiere of its Macan at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. What's more, the compact SUV is headed for SA. Check out our gallery!

RAS al-KHAIMAH, Arabian Peninsula - Picture this: young Japanese boy Takumi Fujiwa who delivers tofu in his father’s 1983 Toyota Sprinter Trueno is about to make his nightly trip to the top of Mount Akina.

If you’re a motoring fanatic, like me, you’ll know those names from the 2005 'Initial D' movie. If not, it’s a film based on the 1980’s Japanese anime and manga series about a boy who learns how to drift from a young age from his legendary father, Bunta Fujiwa, in his little two-door sports car.

GALLERY: 2014 Porsche Macan launch

Yes, I know you’re probably thinking what does this have to do with Porsche’s new car, butlet my train of thought steam on a little further...

Anyway, his opponent in touge (Japanese for pass, better known as mountain-pass racing) with him down the twisty hairpins of Mount Akina you would think would  be a Porsche since we’re talking about that, perhaps a 1983 911? No.

Picture Takumi in his AE86 taking on Porsche’s new Macan. Crazy, right? Not really, in fact, I’d even put money on the Porsche as a more than worthy contender to cross the finish line first.

The new Macan, its launch slogan 'Life, Intensified', claims to be the world’s first sports car in the compact SUV segment. It has four doors and a hatch and seats five yet still carries the brand's racing heritage.

Its name is Indonesian for tiger and the car carries its spirit in all aspects - performance, styling, handling.

I speak of Mount Akina because the international media launch for Africa and the Middle East has just happened at in the northern tip of the UAE, Ras al-Khaimah, with a drive on a "recently constructed"’ road up Jebel al-Jais – the UAE’s highest mountain. Much, in fact, like the mountain setting for the 'Initial D' film in Japan.

The road is truly magnificent, a picture-perfect setting for any petrol head who really knows how to drive and control a car through the tightest bends, knowing how to steer through an intimate relationship with the accelerator - and without any run-off space.

And if you know Dubai or the UAE, you’ll know that most of the time it’s incredibly hot and humid - 40 degrees while I was there - yet my Macan pushed up that mountain road without breaking a sweat... or any of its parts.

It handled, its tyres screeched in the corners, as we threw its stubby bum ithrough them, never disappointing. In fact, thinking about it now, it hardly felt like we were driving in a SUV - rather one of the automaker's more-sporty cars.
Porsche Middle East and Africa MD Christer Ekberg said: “The Macan is a game-changer. The right vehicle at the right time. The compact SUV market is the only segment with stable growth. It’s shown a 185% growth since 1997 and will grow another 3.4% every year for the next 10 years.”

Ekberg added that the Macan wasa “another entry point to the exclusive world of Porsche”.

With Porsche claiming it to be the first true sports compact/SUV, I’d still like to think it compares to Audi’s new Q3 RS or Q5. And although it shares the Q5's platform, it doesn’t really compete in terms of engine size, power figures, specs or price.


Porsche has launched the Macan in three versions but each with a V6 biturbo: Macan S, Macan S Diesel and Macan Turbo. The S and S Diesel each have a three-litre engine making 250kW/460Nm and 190kW/580Nm respectively. The S claims a combined fuel consumption of nine litres/100km, reaches 100km in 5.4sec, emits 212g/km of CO2 and has a claimed top speed of 254km/h.

The S Diesel burns 6.3 litres/100km; emits 164g/km of CO2, reaches 100km/h in 6.3sec and goes on to 230km/h.

The range-topping Turbo has a 3.6-litre pushing out 294kW/550Nm, takes 4.8sec to 100km/h, makes 266km/h, emits 216g/km of CO2 and burns 9.2 litres/100km.

Yes, Porsche is expecting there to be some cross-traffic between the bigger Cayenne customers, but the automaker says the Macan will entice a new crowd and existing clients. The automaker also claimed that all ordered cars so far have been from completely new Porsche customers.

To convince us that the Macan really IS an SUV, Porsche had us drive to the Emirates' man-made Marjan Island and its unique obstacle course, about 10 minutes from our hotel.

The Macan is not the automaker’s finest work in terms of styling; its looks require an acquired taste. I’m also still trying to figure out why a German product has been given an Indonesian name. The Macan might not look like a tiger, but it sure has its tenacious spirit… that's good enough for me.


To convince us that the Macan really IS an SUV Porsche had us drive to the Emirate’s Marjan Island – man-made and filled with a unique obstacle course, about 10 minutes from our hotel base.

There was a five-metre tall, very narrow, shipping container with a metal ramp called the Iron Hill which we had to climb… a bit tricky for right-hand drivers who naturally want to veer to the right when you should be going left.

The rest of the course included a side slope, articulation ramps and a sand hill to demonstrate the car’s technologies, among them hill-descent control, torque vectoring and Porsche active suspension management - PASM.

Porsche said the aim of the exercises was to allow the Macan’s PASM to distribute the power precisely according to the terrain’s needs. As the surface threw bumps, dips and severe turns, the drivers were able to electronically control the shock-absorbers for maximum effect; control and comfort.

It’s nice to know that the compact SUV actually is capable of munching sand and rocks, if absolutely necessary.

Day 2 saw us driving up the Jebel al Jais - the UAE’s tallest mountain - and that was when things got interesting. As the Germans are, things are always done in an orderly fashion. So up we drove in two groups, in convoy, with a Porsche Panameraleading the charge of eager drivers.

At no time did I feel I was driving a bulky SUV; at times I had to remind myself that I was driving a Macan and not a nippy little sports car. Handling and driver engagement are a load of fun and Porsche has ticked the boxes here.

The road showcased the car’s agile handling and seamless power coming from the standard Porsche double-clutch gearbox, as well as the it’s constant flexibility by using the car’s traction management system. Not once did the car feel it would fault going in and out of the sharp corners and, when given the opportunity to give it horns on the straights, the Macan never disappointed either.

This from a car which has a 500-litre boot when the seats are up and 1000 when they're down.

Other than its looks, which still have not tickled my fancy, there are two other things that irked me…

One is that a beige interior just doesn’t suit the Macan for me. Black is fine, the burgundy option is stunning, but the beige just doesn’t go, especially when the car is white outside. The other issue I battled with was the black flanks. It’s supposed to make the car look sportier, says Porsche, but I think it makes the car look cheap.

That said, I'm yet to see it in carbon trim or any other body colour – which is optional. I still doubt I’d like it though. The flanks, along with the rear lights, are inspired by the 918 Spyder.

Much of the rest of the car’s looks are inspired by other Porsche sports-car traditions, such as the 911's sloping fender, the new overlapping seamless bonnet with no visual lines, and new rear vertical lights. The clamshell bonnet stretches down to the wheel arches and the entire body is aluminium.

The cabin is not much different to that of any other Porsche but the cockpit and steering-wheel have been designed to keep the driver focused on the road - such as the seat comfort and steering column-mounted shift paddles.

The pick of the bunch for me, of course,  was the Turbo model with 294kW just asking to be driven to hear that throaty V6 sound coming from the engine. And as if that were not enough there’s an optional sport chrono package which includes a sport chrono stopwatch, sportier driving engine management system and the addition of the ‘Sport Plus’ button to adjust the car’s set-up.

All three derivatives of the Macan will arrive in South Africa in May 2014.


Porsche Macan Diesel – R862 000
Porsche Macan S  - R 873 000
Porsche Macan Turbo – R1 239 000
Read more on:    porsche  |  launch  |  united arab emirates

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