The latest addition to Porsche’s GTS canon is the updated Macan GTS. While on test in Portugal, we find it difficult not to view the model as the star of the brand’s SUV range… Words Shane O’Donoghue. Photography Porsche.
RETURN OF THE MAC
Porsche bringing along a sublime example of its awe-inspiring 904 Carrera GTS to park alongside the new-for-2020 Macan GTS at the model’s international media launch earlier this year may seem a little incongruous. What, you might wonder, has a dinky little mid-engined sports car from the swinging sixties got to do with this thoroughly modern hunk of high-performance SUV? The badge is the obvious link, but is the marketing connection as tenuous as it might first appear? If any other manufacturer pulled the same stunt, you’d be asking questions, but this is our beloved Porsche, is it not?
Following on from the 1963 904 Carrera GTS was the 1980 924 Carrera GTS, a lightweight version of the 924 Carrera GT, built in limited numbers. And while Porsche cites the 1993 928 GTS as the pioneer of its modern-day GTS recipe, the GTS formula that we now know and love was, arguably, first brought to market in 2007, taking the form of the first Cayenne GTS. It set the template for where we are today, with more power, a firmer chassis, a louder exhaust and lots of black detailing. The model was such a success that the GTS nameplate went on to find a home as part of the second-generation Cayenne range.
WE UNLEASHED THE BITURBO V6’S FURY, BURSTING PAST WITH A BELLOW FROM THE SPORTS EXHAUST
And before that, the badge arrived in the 997 line-up ahead of the launch of the Panamera GTS in 2011, as well as the Boxster and Cayman GTS in 2014. Finally, in 2015, the Macan joined the GTS party. Using a turbocharged three-litre V6, just as the Macan S did, the Macan GTS came with 20bhp and 15lb-ft torque increases, bringing the headline figures up to a juicy 355bhp and 369lb-ft. Now there’s a new Macan GTS and, while the 2020 super-SUV gets the model year updates already introduced to other Macans, it also gets a new engine.
It’s still a V6, but it’s a little smaller, registering 2.9-litres of displacement. Nonetheless, what it loses in capacity it makes up for with an extra turbocharger. That’s right — it’s basically the same hardware found under the bonnets of the Macan Turbo, Cayenne and Panamera.
As is the GTS way, Porsche has obviously looked at the Macan models either side of the newcomer and picked performance figures to sit neatly between them. The Macan S gets 349bhp and 354lb-ft of torque, while the Macan Turbo’s V6 makes up to 434bhp and 406lb-ft.
The new GTS? A useful 375bhp and 384lb-ft. The original Macan GTS managed the 0-62mph sprint in a rather senior five seconds dead, but Porsche has managed to drop that to an incredible 4.7 seconds for the latest model, which is 0.4 seconds slower than the mighty Macan Turbo. In short, the Macan GTS is more rapid in a straight line than anyone needs an SUV of this size to be!
We’re not going to bother mentioning this Porsche’s completely irrelevant top speeds, but at least you can make use of its ballistic acceleration day to day without breaking the speed limit. Even so, a few tenths of a second in the benchmark sprint is hardly a reason to choose the Macan GTS over the S. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the mechanical upgrades — Porsche strives to make the GTS badge stand for the sportiest to-drive street model in any given line-up. Indeed, the manufacturer bullishly states the “greatest strength” of the Macan GTS “lies in its handling”. For those of us who love driving, this is very, very good news. Saying that, Porsche didn’t need to do much with the Macan’s road holding abilities, did it? It’s already one of, if not the, best- handling SUVs on sale at any price from any car maker.
So, the GTS kicks off with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), the adaptive damping system that ties in with different driving modes to great effect, making the ride a little more comfortable for everyday use or, should you desire, firmer for the best body control. Regardless of which setting you choose, this mega-Macan’s body movements are well-damped — the GTS is hardly what you’d call a backbreaker when operating in its firmest driving mode.
THE GTS IS HARDLY WHAT YOU’D CALL A BACKBREAKER WHEN OPERATING IN ITS FIRMEST DRIVING MODE
If you don’t like the default damper setting accompanying each mode, you can dial-in changes with the damping button on the centre console. The springs are steel, but they’ve been stiffened up, while the anti-roll bars front and rear have been tweaked, too. Finally, and probably as effective as anything else, the ride height is reduced by fifteen millimetres. This improves the GTS’s stance, of course, but more importantly, it reduces the SUV’s centre of gravity. If you want to take things further, you can optionally specify height-adjustable air suspension and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus).
On top of all this, high-performance tyres in mixed profiles wrap around twenty-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels, each rim shielding enlarged brakes as standard. And, of course, the option to upgrade the GTS’s anchors to a Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) or full-on Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) setup is available for those with deep pockets and a particularly heavy right foot.
TRICKS AND TRACKS
The regular brakes are fantastic by any measure, with a perfectly weighted pedal and big, reassuring stopping power. In fact, on our test route in Portugal, we were ‘enjoying’ the new chassis on a particularly twisty section of mountain road when we rounded a tight corner to find one of those mini train things chugging along, towing a spindly trailer full of tourists at little more than walking pace. With traffic coming the other way, we had no option but to exercise the brakes. All of the brakes. There was no need to panic, though — the GTS hauled down to the train’s speed with space to spare and, thankfully, the tourists barely noticed us. They couldn’t have failed to pay attention, however, when a gap opened in the traffic and we unleashed the biturbo V6’s fury, bursting past with a bellow from the sports exhaust. You can reduce the volume of the system, of course, but who does that?!
The burbling at lower speeds and then the distinctly purposeful roar as the revs rise encourage you to tackle turns with enthusiasm. On this front, the Macan never disappoints. Its steering system is well-judged, proving never nervous on the motorway and wonderfully direct (and even quite communicative) when it comes to spirited cornering. You soon learn to really lean on the tyres, too, because the mechanical grip on offer — in the warm and dry of our test, in any case — is very high. This grip, allied to the lower centre of gravity, means you can really fling the GTS about with abandon. Throw it into a tight bend that quickly changes direction and the potent Porsche goes exactly where you point, with little obvious unnerving weight transfer. And yet, it’s far from a sterile driving experience, thanks to Porsche being a master at mixing outright ability with driver enjoyment. In other words, the GTS is fun, and will even slightly oversteer on the exit of sharper bends if you’re feeling confident.
After all, you’re unlikely to buy the Macan GTS if you’re a shrinking violet, are you? It’s the most distinctive model in the line-up, not least thanks to its standard Sport Design makeover, bringing with it unique side skirts, along with bespoke front and rear bumpers. The nose gets plenty of black detailing, giving this Macan a more menacing appearance extending to the darkened LED headlights. The same approach is found at the back, where the new-for- 2020 full-width LED light bar is also darkened, while the aerodynamic diffuser and the quad exhaust outlets, are, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed, black.
The default interior colour scheme is dark, too, though it’s relatively affordable to upgrade to something more interesting, with red or grey highlights. These extend to the stitching, seat belts and even the centrally positioned rev counter. Even so, the standard cabin is worth the upgrade from the Macan S, getting GTS-specific sports seats that feel as good as they look, and, as this is no stripped-out lightweight racer, they include eight-way electric adjustment. We found them supremely comfortable, even after a long day at the wheel, and the extra side bolstering was welcome along twisty pieces of road. Leather trims the three-spoke steering wheel as standard, but we’d be tempted to upgrade to the Alcantara option, not only because it’s lovely to hold (and look at), but it’s also in keeping with the rest of the cabin — the suede-like material swathes the centre panels of the seats, the door cards and the centre console armrest.
As ever, the Macan’s interior is a lovely place to spend time. The rear seats are perfectly acceptable and the boot is a decent size, but we suspect buyers of the GTS care rather more about the driving experience than the maximum amount of shopping carried in the back.
The dashboard, as is the Macan way, is a joy to behold and use. In the middle is a 10.9-inch high definition touchscreen controlling the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system. Online navigation with real-time traffic information via Here Cloud, mobile phone preparation, two audio interfaces and intelligent voice control are included. Other standard features are Porsche Connect Plus, which features an LTE telephone module with embedded SIM card and a SIM card reader, a Wi-Fi hotspot and numerous Porsche Connect services.
Naturally, there are many more cost-options to enhance all of this, but, honestly, we reckon it’s a good package as standard. After all, if you get too busy with the online configurator (I may have whiled away several hours of enforced COVID-19 lockdown in such a way — the things I do for you, dear reader), you’ll soon erode the price advantage the GTS has over the Macan Turbo. Without any options, the latter, at £68,530, is nearly ten grand more expensive than the new GTS. Meanwhile, the GTS is about £9,500 more than the Macan S.
That sounds a lot, admittedly, but once you start trying to option an S to GTS standard, you’ll see the newer model is great value, not least because you get the newer engine. Of course, some will look at the entry-level Macan at £46,913 and wonder whether anyone needs anything more. In truth, they don’t: the standard Macan drives like a big four-wheel-drive hot hatch, but its four-cylinder engine is nowhere near as impressive as the biturbo V6 in the GTS, in sound or performance. That’s a clincher for us, especially when time may be limited for such engines. We already know, for example, Porsche is working on an all-electric version of the next-generation Macan. It’ll be designed around the Taycan’s underpinnings and, so we’re told, will be sold alongside the petrol-fuelled Macan range during a “transitional” production phase. It’s not a stretch to suggest the only iteration of the high-performance SUV thereafter will be all-electric. At least you can bet there’ll still be a GTS model!
Above The new Macan GTS hits the sweet spot between practicality and performance, making it totally usable in the vast majority of driving environments. Facing page Punchy, force-fed 2.9-litre V6 delivers a satisfying bark and bags of torque. Above The Macan GTS offers Turbo-rivalling pace at a lower price point. Left 10.9-inch screen dominates the SUV’s dash, while a mix of leather and smooth Alcantara delivers the interior we’ve come to expect from GTS Porsches.
REVIVE AND THRIVE
The Macan (Type 95B) was born as a development project in 2010, before being announced by Porsche as a new model a year later. Based on the same platform as the Audi Q5, but with engine, transfer case, suspension and styling unique to Porsche, the sleek, compact SUV is produced alongside the Cayenne and Panamera at Porsche’s Leipzig plant. The production version of the first-generation Macan was launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2013, with sales starting in Europe a few months later. All of the first Macans were powered by V6 engines, ranging from three-litres in displacement to the Turbo’s 3.6-litres. The Macan GTS was revealed in autumn 2015 to fill the gap between Macan S and Turbo models. An entry-level four-cylinder, two-litre Macan was offered from 2016, unveiled at the same year’s New York International Auto Show. Three years later, the entire Macan line-up was treated to a much-needed revamp, including a chassis overhaul, redesigned front and rear ends and an updated interior, which saw the introduction of a near eleven-inch touchscreen for the model’s PCM system.