Porsche has officially made the rear light strip cool again.
Once a staple for the 911 alongside many mainstream cars in the 1980s, the horizontal crimson bar was a design trend that was likely influenced by cost more than aesthetics back in the day. Like the 996 which split the strip into two – effectively limiting it to an AWD-exclusive feature for generations to come – much of the automotive industry moved on to more fluid light clusters towards the turn of the century. But you can always count on designers to pull something out of the retro bag when new ideas run dry.
Porsche is already used to accusations of being unimaginative on the drawing board anyway, with the 911 often playing victim to the ultimately harmless hate. In its latest iteration – the 992 – the most newsworthy visual enhancement is probably the application of the light strip across the entire 911 range, regardless of powertrain. It’s a mighty sleek fixture that first went public in the second-generation Panamera. But the bulk of this design cue we’re bound to see on the road will probably present themselves on the derrieres of the face-lifted Porsche Macan.
Yes, the best-selling car in this corner of Stuttgart has been updated for 2019. And while the rest of its cosmetic updates remain minimal, it’s still an arguably better looking car from most vantage points thanks to the new four-point LEDs up front and revised bumpers that imbue the base 2.0-litre model pictured with a hint of aggression once reserved for GTS models. Porsche claims that the chassis beneath the new skin has been overhauled for better comfort and performance too. But does that even matter in a car with the same amount of cylinders and power under the hood as any German SUV typically marketed to affluent soccer moms?
On paper, the baby Cayenne in its base format makes the same 252bhp as an X3 xDrive30i – a natural rival that’s RM140k gentler on your bank account thanks to local assembly. Even though it packs 20Nm more than the Bimmer, the fully-imported Macan still trails in the century sprint by 0.2 seconds. To the unenlightened purist, these figures might tell a story of a sports car manufacturer’s desperation to reach out to the mainstream. But the plot takes a quick turn in Porsche’s favour once you get comfortable behind the three-spoked wheel.
The sense of occasion inside the Macan’s updated cabin is undeniable. We daresay it skirts the line drawn by thoroughly racier versions of its rivals like the BMW X3 M and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 in terms of luxury and sportiness in overall look and feel. Porsche has done an impeccable job of eliminating any perceptible gulf in class separating the most affordable product in its catalogue from higher-end nameplates like the 911 or Panamera. And it works out very nicely for buyers who long for the sensation of driving a Porsche without splurging on a track-ready thoroughbred.
That our tester is dressed up in nearly RM80k worth of options probably helps with the narrative. But none of the options have a direct influence on the turbocharged four-banger under the hood, which manages to deliver a few pops and crackles along the way for good measure. Sure, there’s still a slight strain should you floor the throttle on the open straight – the Sport Response button gives you a bit more kick to mitigate the hesitance for a short period. But engine response is polished for the most part, with the smooth-shifting seven-speed PDK completing a solid pairing in the Macan’s drive department.
On meandering B-roads, the Macan stays as level-headed as any Porsche would when rallied around the bends. This composure can be attributed to the optional air suspension with adjustable ride height, which always keeps the car’s centre of gravity in the sweet spot depending on how you’re driving it. That said, there’s only so much these RM13k dampers can do to counter the unsavoury effects of riding on 21-inch alloys, which are even pricier options at nearly RM23k for a set of four. It’s still a liveable setup despite the underlying firmness. Though we can’t help but wonder if the Macan might take off with a little less resistance on the standard 18-inchers.
We would have been more inclined to gauge the Macan’s off-road worthiness had it been fitted with smaller wheels that didn’t cost an arm and a leg – there’s 370Nm of twist going to all four wheels after all. Having driven the Cayenne through some punishing terrain in the outskirts of Oman, we certainly don’t doubt the Macan’s ability to hold its own off the beaten track. A bigger question mark floats over the willingness of owners to put half a million of their hard earned Ringgit in the dirt.
In the case of our test vehicle, the exact value is a cool RM535,581 before insurance, which includes a neat Bose sound system and 14-way electric seats wrapped in sumptuous red leather among other niceties. It’s a pretty long way from the Macan’s RM455,000 base price, but the extras certainly heighten the appeal of a car which practically allows you to integrate the joys of owning a Porsche into your daily grind. Four years of free scheduled maintenance should boost the feasibility of driving the Macan on a daily basis even further.
Unless the incoming Taycan gets massive EV tax breaks in major global markets, this one’s booked for a long stay on top of Porsche’s sales charts.
It works out very nicely for buyers who long for the sensation of driving a Porsche without splurging on a track-ready thoroughbred.
|More engaging to drive than its modest output suggests, updated cabin feels sublime||Optional 21-inch alloys ride a bit harsh, NVH reduction not the best in class|
RM535,581 (as tested, excluding insurance)