Our intrepid editor recently met up with the new Porsche Macan in California. Read on for details of the close encounter…

Does Porsche really need another SUV?

Some would say it never needed one in the first place.

Putting the new Porsche Macan through its paces in California, on road and off

Purists, mostly, who think that the marque needs only the 911 and its race cars, and who don’t give a thought to the brand’s bottom line.

Which the Cayenne, the original Porsche SUV that debuted in 2002, has done a considerable amount to bolster.

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Cooler heads realize that without money-making models like the Cayenne, four-door Panamera (introduced in 2009) and lower-priced Boxster and Cayman, it wouldn’t be possible for Porsche to offer 16 different 911 variations.

Yes, we said 16, what with all the Carrera, Cabriolet and Turbo configurations to choose from.

Without its money-making SUVS, Porsche wouldn’t have as much cash to play with

Nor would eye-popping projects like the 918 Spyder or even the marque’s return to Le Mans be possible without loads of development money flooding in from Cayenne buyers.

All of which brings us to the new Porsche Macan.

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The name, which doesn’t pack a ton of immediate appeal, is derived from the Indonesian word for tiger.

Less an SUV than an SAV—that is, Sports Activity Vehicle—it occupies a growing niche in the super-sporty compact SUV market currently dominated by the BMW X6 and (in theory at least) the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, but possibly soon to be invaded by the likes of the Maserati Levante and Lamborghini Urus.

The Macan aims to take a bite out of the BMW X6 and co.’s action

Yes, the names make us wince as well.

And as regards the Land Rover Evoque, the Macan is just so much sportier we can’t class them together.

So what is the Macan exactly?

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Some would call it a Cayenne Jr., others a cross between the Cayenne and Panamera.

Porsche is just hoping to call it a hit.

And after testing it out in the chaste purlieus of Pasadena, the twisting turns of the Angeles Crest, and the flat-out tracks of Willow Springs, we’re pretty sure they’re on the money, so to speak.

The Macan is sure to be a huge hit with those who want a really sporty SUV

The Macan Turbo can do everything a sports car can, and almost everything an SUV can, a claim that few will ever be able to make.

Porsche says the ideal Macan buyer is the guy who already has a Boxster or Cayman in the garage, but uses a Volvo or something when he has more gear to haul.

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Why shouldn’t his second car also be a Porsche? And as fun to drive as a vehicle bearing that storied name should be?

From a marketing perspective, it makes a lot of sense.

With a cockpit inspired by the 911 and a steering wheel that owes a lot to the 918, it’s clear from the first look that the Macan will avoid the soccer mom stigma that adheres to the likes of the Audi Q5 and Q7 no matter how muscular they make ‘em.

The awesome Macan Turbo has a 400 hp engine and can do 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds

The Macan S is equipped with a 3.0-liter twin turbo engine good for 340 hp, while the Macan Turbo has a 3.6-liter twin turbo engine rated at 400 hp, and it can do 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

Nothing soccer-mom-ish there.

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The S starts at $49,900, while the Turbo takes off at $72,300—considerably less than the Cayenne.

The Turbo, with various bells and whistles added that can boost the price past $100K including sportier wheels, bits of carbon fiber and so on, still won’t win the hearts of 911 purists, but looks a lot better than the competition.

With all the options, bells and whistles the Turbo can top out at over $100,000

And if said 911 purists had the chance to throw one around the track at Willow Springs, we think they’d start to reconsider taking such a hard line.

Off road, the Macan surprised us with capability one usually ascribes only to the likes of Land Rover.

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A pleasant surprise it was and one that will no doubt be welcome by buyers who discover they can do a lot more with the car then they might have imagined.

If, for example, you have a cabin in the woods, the Macan can get you there with ease and provide a lot more fun en route than a bigger SUV, with a much smaller footprint into the bargain.

We expect to see a lot of Macans pulling up to the doors of country clubs

One or two kids, yes, if you insist; four or five, and you probably can’t afford a Porsche anyway.

We expect the Macan to be much more of a golf clubs in the back kind of thing, however, than little people; we can see it whisking up to lots of country club porte cocheres.

And all the heavy lifting, when required, is done by pushing certain buttons; the Macan does the work, not you.

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If you want to sweat and grunt your way up the mountain, buy a Jeep Wrangler.

This is a feat of brilliant German engineering, and no mistake—because the car won’t let you.

Make no mistake, it’s an impressive feat of German engineering

And at this price, we’d expect nothing less.

Speaking of which, this being DRIVEN, we say drop the coin and spring for the Turbo.

It takes straightaways like a rocket, corners like a pro, climbs mountains like a goat and gets everything else done with all the panache you’d expect of a Porsche.

We’ll see you at the club…

—JPS