by Ian Wright
When we reviewed the 2022 Porsche Macan compact crossover, we described it as "more of a super-hot hatchback than a family hauler." We stand by this if you opt for the aggressive 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 Macan S or the even more fearsome 434-horsepower Macan GTS. However, opting for a lower trim model with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine can be a considered choice as, for the 2023 model year, Porsche is slipping a new trim level. The Porsche Macan T uses the same 261-hp four-cylinder engine as the base model but leans in heavily on improving its corner-carving ability, making it an ideal rival for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Jaguar F-Pace in lower guises. The Macan T won't be available for a while but Porsche brought a pre-production European-spec model to the US and handed us the key.
Typically first drives are organized affairs by the automakers, but in this case, Porsche dropped the car off and let us loose to test the car as we see fit. As the T in Macan T stands for "Touring," we decided to go on a road trip out to Bombay Beach, an abandoned resort by the Salton Sea in Southern California. We chose that as it's a strange and desolate place being taken over by artists, but also because there is access to the beach and the Macan T has an "Off Road" button as well as Sport modes we could exploit on twisty mountain roads.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The exterior upgrades are low-key but impactful for the Macan T. The front trim and rear spoiler are painted with Agate Grey, as are the new 3D-styled side blades. The front end is changed with 3D elements added to the air intakes, and the heated and folding side mirrors are branded as SportDesign. The 20-inch dark titanium wheels with monochrome badges were a highlight of understated style for us and went well with the tinted tail and LED headlights on our Jet Black Metallic painted tester. The lower exterior trim package on our car is colored black, and the overall effect here is sharp but low-key. Of course, you can change that with more vibrant paint options.
The Macan T slips into the range between the base model and the step-up in cylinders and power to the Macan S. We commented in our 2022 Porsche Macan review that the base model needed some options to become attractive enough as a daily driver to justify the $54,900 cost. Well, the Macan T adds those options as well as chassis and technical additions. The turbo-four still produces 261 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque through a slick seven-speed PDK dual-clutch. It has great power delivery, however, and the 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds doesn't tell the whole story. Full torque comes on tap at 1,800 rpm, while peak horsepower arrives at 5,000 rpm. As a result, the engine is a joy to hit a back road with, and even if you drift out of the generous power band, the power comes back quickly. It's also well-behaved around town and can easily switch between relaxed cruising to hustling back streets or getting out into unyielding traffic. On the freeway, it's happy to cruise below, on, or above the speed limit and never feels stressed.
Instead of power, the Macan T amps things up with the suspension and all-wheel-drive system. All-wheel drive is standard but has an increased rear bias. The suspension upgrades come courtesy of an active suspension that replaces the steel-spring set up on the base model. The 19-inch wheels are replaced with 20-inch units and finished in Dark Titanium. Also included is Porsche's Sport Chrono Package meaning the addition of Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes on top of Launch Control and Sport Response mode for a 20-second power boost. As with any Porsche, the telltale sign of the Sport Chrono Package is the addition of a dash-mounted stopwatch.
To enjoy the Macan in a sporty trim level on a back road, you have to adjust expectations based on any other Porsche you may have driven. Rather than a sports car, think of it as a hot hatch. Then you'll be in the right mindset because that's essentially what the Macan T is. The six-cylinder-powered cars are ferocious little compacts, but the four-cylinder lacks the drama, the acceleration, and the top speed of the S and GTS. That's expected, but the four-cylinder is still a quick, enjoyable, and more economical engine that fits in with the idea of a hot hatch. It's why the Golf GTI and Golf R use this engine in varying states of tune.
We took it out for a few back road blasts but found its sweet spot on our road trip out to Bombay Beach in Normal mode but with the chassis in Sport mode. With chassis lean taken out but still absorbing bumps and lumps, it's fun to carve through long winding roads at a quick, metered pace where you're just enjoying driving, and a passenger can enjoy riding shotgun.
The steering is lighter than most Porsche aficionados would appreciate with less feedback than the brand's sports cars, even when made heavier in the Sport modes. However, the lightweight engine up front and tuning of the AWD system translates into more eagerness to turn in and change direction over how we remember the Macan S, which adds to the fun factor. If you manage the throttle well and maintain momentum, it will be hard to shake off on a tight road - the tighter, the better, in fact.
As well as asphalt prowess, the Macan T also has some low-grip chops accessible through the Off Road button. When pressing it, our air-suspension-equipped model rose in ride height a few inches, and the AWD system became more inclined to split torque more equally from front to rear. While it would be foolish to take the Macan too far off the beaten path, we were confident enough to follow the tracks riding alongside the water at Bombay Beach with the summer tires equipped. It may have been over-confidence, but the Macan T didn't let us down when it became softer and sandy under the tires. More realistically, we can safely conclude that with a set of all-weather or winter tires, there's no reason to fear adverse weather conditions as equipped.
Inside the Macan T, there's no mistaking the fact it's a Porsche and will be perfectly at home on a twisting road. The Macan T interior trim package is a mixture of leather and striped Sport-Tex materials, but our test model was upgraded with the suede-like Race-Tex material on the steering wheel and for the headliner. The sports seats are eight-way adjustable and comfortable for spending hours on the road. Three-zone climate control is standard, but with legroom in the back at a premium, only kids will want to take advantage of the third zone. The 10.9-inch infotainment screen and gauge cluster carry over but add features via the Sport Chrono Package.
We became a fan of the Macan T over our long weekend, soaking up amazing roads and scenery in Southern California, and loved discovering a whole new dimension to the baby Porsche on the beach. It's a much more laid-back car than the S or GTS trimmed versions but no less accomplished as a practical daily driver and corner carver. Without the bombastic twin-turbo V6, the chassis becomes even more critical to performance, and it shines through. To us, the Macan T is a close to perfect little daily driver for work and errands, but it can stretch its legs in the evenings as something precise yet fun to drive, then at the weekend it's perfect for a couple to get out and explore the world with. Whether the value proposition makes sense, that's, something we'll have to wait and see about. Currently, Porsche says it will be in the low $60,000 region. The base model is currently $54,900, and the V6-powered Macan S comes in at $65,400. If it comes close to $60k, then it will be a winner. If it's any higher, and unless fuel economy is a dealbreaker, the Macan S is going to tempt a lot of people to pony up the cash for over 100 hp of extra power.
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