2019 Porsche Macan first drive : Why mess with success?

Porsche would have to be crazy to shake up a product as successful as the Macan. Not only is it one of the best-driving SUVs available at any price point, it’s the brand’s best-selling model by a long shot. Year to date, the Macan is outselling the Boxster, Cayenne, Cayman and Panamerafamilies — combined.

The Macan receives a number of updates for 2019, including better onboard tech and a new turbocharged engine in S guise. But despite these changes, the best thing I can say about the refreshed Macan is that it feels exactly the same as before.

So, what’s new?

The Macan looks a little different now, most notably from the rear. Sure, if you squint you might notice the slightly reshaped headlamps, or the standard LED illumination found within, but it’s the posterior visage that truly separates the 2019 Macan from its forebear. A full-width taillamp treatment spans the hatchback, with more LED lights and optional clear lenses. And if you really need your Macan to scream its newness to the world, consider ordering it in one of 2019’s interesting new hues, including Chalk, Miami Blue or the Mamba Green pictured here.

Take a gander inside, and again, not much has changed. You’ll notice the larger 10.9-inch touchscreen atop the center stack, with reshaped air vents below. Below that, the console carries over unchanged, shod with a mess of pronounced buttons rather than the cleaner, flat-surface design of the new Panamera. The front seats are as comfy and supportive as ever, the rear seats still sort of cramped. Behind those, the cargo area boasts the same 17.7 cubic feet of space, or 53 with the back bench folded — both numbers falling on the smaller side of average for the class.

The new touchscreen houses Porsche’s latest Communication Management infotainment system — one of my favorite interfaces in the premium space. Bright, crisp fonts and colors make the screen easy to read and navigate, and responses to inputs are instantaneous. Navigation with online search, a Wi-Fi hotspot, voice commands and Apple CarPlay are all along for the ride as standard equipment. Android Auto remains a no-go for Porsche buyers.

A redesigned Porsche Connect phone app works with PCM to let you bring navigation data from your phone right into the car, and helps you with last-mile directions to a destination once you’ve exited the vehicle. Like other car-connection apps, Porsche’s system lets you monitor vehicle data like oil level and fuel range, and allows you to lock and unlock the car remotely.

There’s a new engine, too

Opt for the Macan S and you’ll get Porsche’s new 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, with 348 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine you’ll find in the larger Cayenne, and replaces the twin-turbo V6 from last year’s Macan. It doesn’t offer a huge bump in power, just 8 additional horsepower and 15 extra pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t make the Macan S any quicker, either, with Porsche estimating the same 0-60 mile-per-hour times as before: 5.1 seconds for the standard S, 4.9 if you get the Sport Chrono package.

The base Macan will continue to use a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine, though curiously, it loses 4 horsepower for the 2019 model year. Still, 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet is perfectly ample in this lightest, 4,099-pound Macan spec. It doesn’t have the robust aural quality of the larger V6, nor does it have the same off-the-line urgency — Porsche estimates a 6.3-second 0-60 time — but for most suburban schleppers, the 2.0-liter’s oomph should be sufficient.

Both engines come with Porsche’s quick-shifting, seven-speed PDK automatic transmission — one of the best dual-clutch units available anywhere. For 2019, the PDK has a few new tricks up its sleeve, including a “coasting” mode where the transmission essentially shifts into neutral when acceleration isn’t needed.

The Macan’s adaptive cruise control gets Porsche’s new Traffic Jam Assist function, which allows it to work in stop-and-go conditions. Furthermore, when driven in Sport and Sport Plus modes, the Macan S automatically deactivates the engine’s stop/start function. If you’re a stop/start hater like me, you’ll love this.

Power-hungry buyers, fear not — more muscular Macan models are on the way. The Macan Turbo will likely offer at least 400 horsepower, with a performance pack adding more boost. The Macan GTS, meanwhile, will almost certainly continue to be the sweet spot of the range, with all the handling chops of the Turbo, and slightly less power and weight. Porsche has yet to confirm when these variants will launch, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar we’ll see ’em sometime in 2019.

On the road

Along the narrow, hillside roads of Mallorca, the Macan never lets you forget that it and the 911 Carreraare born out of the same company. A lot of automakers make good, sporty SUVs these days, but not many can match the Macan’s excellent on-road poise.

It starts with great steering, nicely weighted and vastly communicative — an experience not dissimilar from other Porsche products. There’s an on-center lightness that’s great for cruising down the highway, but also more than enough heft — and more importantly, feedback — through turns, making you want to push the Macan harder and harder into each hairpin bend.

The chassis is similarly excellent. Porsche replaced several of the suspension’s steel components with new aluminum hardware, which not only makes the Macan’s underpinnings stronger, but ever so slightly lighter. Combined with the optional adaptive air suspension, the Macan can be as comfortable or as taut as you desire. It’s as plush and compliant over the cobbled, pockmarked streets of sleepy Spanish towns as it is firm and balanced on winding roads. And that’s on the Macan S’ largest set of rolling stock, by the way: 21-inch wheels wrapped in staggered, 265/40-series front and 295/35-series rear tires.

Behind those wheels sit slightly larger brakes — up front, anyway — and Porsche says it’s improved overall pedal feel with a more precise bite point. Without driving a 2019 model back to back with a 2018, I can’t say I notice any sort of huge improvement, but stopping power is nevertheless plentiful. Ceramic brakes are available if you want them, but after a day of driving the Macan S with the standard stoppers, I’d be hard pressed to find a reason to shell out for this likely costly upgrade.

Every Macan comes standard with all-wheel drive, which defaults to a rear bias under most driving conditions. Porsche’s torque vectoring system, PTV Plus, is optional, transferring power side to side to help with agility during cornering. Normal, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes are activated by a steering wheel-mounted dial, and just like in other Porsches, Macans equipped with the Sport Chrono pack get a Sport Response button — a push-to-pass function that puts the engine and transmission on full boil for 20 seconds of balls-out thrust.

As good as it ever was

The Macan was already a top-notch performer in the compact SUV space, and the 2019 model is a continuation of that excellence. Instead, it’s the other upgrades — namely the improved tech — that really work to keep the Macan competitive against the latest set of performance SUVs.

You’ll pay a little more for a Macan as we head into 2019: $49,900 for the base model and $58,600 for the S, hikes of $2,100 and $3,200, respectively. As before, that puts the Macan on the higher end of the price spectrum compared to rivals from Audi (Q5/SQ5), BMW (X3/M40i) and Mercedes-Benz(GLC300/GLC43), and that’s before you begin to peruse Porsche’s historically epic options catalog.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Macan from being outrageously successful thus far, and I don’t expect that to change with a couple thousand dollars added to the SUV’s bottom line. With a more robust suite of tech and the same top-notch performance, the 2019 Macan is as compelling as ever.

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