We take the new Porsche Macan T out for a test drive.
2023 Porsche Macan T Pros
- Exceptional handling, stability, and agility
- Just the right amount of power (personal opinion)
- Beautiful interior
- Surprising fuel economy
- Relatively affordable (for a Porsche)
2023 Porsche Macan T Cons
- Turbocharged four-cylinder might not be powerful enough for some
- Digital layout of the centre console is a magnet for fingermarks
- Cramped back seat
The new 2023 Porsche Macan T is the first-ever iteration of a Porsche T (for Touring) model in a four-door vehicle, and it adopts a proven recipe of dialing up the sportiness and fine-tuning the handling, but not the horsepower. The result, however, doesn’t provide the same kind of emotion as one experiences in a 911 T or a 718 T.
Which of course was to be expected, right? There’s no way the Macan could ever hope to achieve the perfect balance of agility and daily usability Porsche Touring performance coupes offer, right?
Well, yes. Exactly. And that’s perhaps part of the problem. Those who love Porsche T models might scoff at the Macan version while those interested in the Macan might not care about the specifics that come with a Porsche Touring trim. It’s a classic case of those who know won’t care and those who care won’t know.
Before jumping into the Macan T for the first time, I had to figure out where I stood on that line. I’m a huge fan of the 911 T, but I love the 718 T even more. I didn’t have high expectations prior to driving the Macan T, simply because I knew it wouldn’t offer the same feeling as the previous T models I drove. And yet, I needed to make sure I didn’t let that cloud my judgment. I had to forget about those two other T models. The comparison base here is other new Macan models. When approaching the vehicle from that angle, all of a sudden it makes a lot more sense.
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A popular turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Macan T
Before getting into that, let’s first take a look at what the new Macan T brings to the table. It is a brand-new model in the redesigned Macan lineup introduced this year and features the same base 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder as the entry-level model, with the same 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This turbo-four got a boost in performance in the refreshed Macan, adding 13 ponies and 22 pound-feet of torque over the previous iteration.
More than half of all Macan models sold are powered by this engine, which isn’t surprising considering that there’s a $13,000 gap (in Canada) between the four-cylinder and V6-powered Macan S. Cost is one thing, but we also can’t forget that many Macan buyers are first-time Porsche clients, and they may not share the need for speed of many long-time Porsche aficionados… or automotive journalists.
In other words, for many Macan buyers, the base engine is more than enough, and rightfully so. This is the quickest four-banger in the segment, at least in how it feels and reacts, and it’s also surprisingly efficient. This was definitely the right engine for a Touring version of the Macan. It’s considerably lighter than the V6, 58.8 kilos lighter to be exact. It reaches 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.4 seconds in the base Macan, while the 2023 Macan T does the same sprint in 6.2 seconds.
We see the big picture coming together here. There was a gap between the most popular version of the Macan and the significantly less accessible, maybe too-powerful-for-the-average-buyer Macan S. Porsche might have been worried they were losing buyers in the large grey area between both Macan trims, and all of a sudden, a Macan T made sense.
The 2023 Porsche Macan T comes standard with some goodies designed to make it handle better, as a Porsche Touring model should. It features a standard Porsche Active Suspension Management system, and the ride height is lowered by 15 mm. Porsche engineers fiddled with the anti-roll bars to make them more rigid, and they also reworked the chassis. Moreover, the Porsche Traction Management system features a T-exclusive rear-wheel driving bias.
As I opened the door of the Macan T for the first time a few minutes after taking possession of the key, I let out a soft sound somewhere between a “wow” and a moan. It’s the kind of sound Porsche fans make when they see the mix of a suede (faux) steering wheel and Porsche’s Soft-Tex inserts, in this case, pinstripes that flow from the backrest to the end of the seat. All of this is paired with a fake carbon fiber design that just brings the whole thing together and quite honestly, the result is simply stunning. Of course, that’s a matter of opinion.
What’s more tangible is the improved functionality of the larger centre display, and the more modern design of the centre console now featuring touch buttons for the various climate and performance settings. This new design and layout are found across the rejuvenated Macan lineup. The whole setup gets dirty with fingermarks real quick, but it gives the Macan’s interior the necessary flair and refinement to justify the Porsche small SUV’s higher price.
Outside, the Agate Grey accents found on the side blades, spoiler, front splitter, and mirrors help differentiate the T trim, as do the standard 20-inch wheels. Again, this is just my opinion, but I think the new generation of the Macan looks really good, better than the previous by a wide margin despite the subtlety of the changes.
These small visual elements and interior trims serve to differentiate the Macan T from the base model, but only an attentive eye will really notice the changes. The real test is out on the road.
On the road in the Porsche Macan T
First things first, the turbocharged engine still feels a little slow by Porsche standards, but it’s quick by small luxury SUV standards. As stated previously, it will be more than enough for the needs of most Macan buyers. As I headed out of Montreal and to the highway, I took a quick exit towards a little stretch of road I discovered recently just outside the city that provides a sequence of sharp turns and ends in a roundabout. This was the perfect setting for a quick first test of the Macan T’s handling prowess. I wasn’t disappointed.
I drove the new base Macan on two separate occasions over the last 12 months, the last time was back in April. I would be lying if I said the Macan T felt considerably more agile than other Macan models, but it certainly feels thoroughly planted and remarkably confident. It doesn’t feel like an SUV. It feels more like a performance hatchback and I have to admit I kept getting flashes of the Volkswagen Golf R in my head as I was driving the Macan T.
There’s no corner you can take on a public road that will remind you the Macan T is an SUV. There’s just no way to reach enough speed to throw it off its game. It’s that good. Better yet, the Macan T isn’t powerful enough to get you into real trouble in a straight line either.
10 years ago, I probably would have complained about the turbocharged four-cylinder’s lack of power. Over the years I’ve started to see things differently. Although fast can be a lot of fun in the right setting, when on my way to work or taking a weekend trip to the cottage, in other words in the kind of setting most will spend the vast majority of their time in a Macan, I’m much more interested in steering feel and agility.
Looking at in another way, I know I could get into trouble with a Macan GTS. With the Macan T, I never felt like flooring it. It had more than enough power coming out of corners, but it was the corner itself that provided the most rewarding experience.
Although I was right to not expect the same experience I enjoyed in the 911 T or 718 T, the Porsche Macan T is worthy of the Touring badge. It puts the focus back on a purer, more authentic form of driving enjoyment where handling is more important than speed, and where you don’t need a track to have a great experience.