What we’re driving: Porsche Macan S 2019
What it costs: From $97,500
Why we’re driving it: Despite the growth of electric cars, including city-smart SUVs, Porsche is not backing away from petrol power with its latest Macan.
The mid-life update for Australia’s favourite Porsche rolls into showrooms this weekend – ironically, just as he German marque confirmed it would add an electric Macan to the line-up around 2022.
For now, the Macan S retains a V6 powerplant, while a four-cylinder turbo engine opens the action from $81,400.
There's no sign of a diesel engine since Porsche has dropped diesels from everything it makes, hardly surprising when it’s plugging so much effort into its electric future.
On the outside
Playful new colours, bright greens and blues, point to the 2019 update, but it's more than just a facelift.
“A lot of thought that has gone into it," explains Paul Watson, technical chief of Porsche Cars Australia. “We’ve changed the character to make it a bit more playful, so it’s (truly) the next generation of the Macan."
Headlights are a big giveaway: bolder and brighter, with Porsche’s new daytime signature of four individual points of light as LEDs take over the after-dark duties.
Overall body shape stays the same but the detailing is different, particularly around the air intakes in the nose – which have automatic vents that open for cooling and close to cut fuel-draining wind drag – and the cut of the the all LED tail lights which fill a new panel stretched across the rear door.
The wheels are dressed in new designs; the standard size is 20-inch alloys with an optional 21-inch for increased plant and pose.
Unlike its class rivals, the rear tyres on the Macan are slightly wider than the fronts, something drawn from the 911 and Boxster sports cars for a sportier response.
Under the bonnet
The all-new V6 is slightly bigger in capacity and much changed in approach. There's only one turbocharger but it's tightly packaged to improve response and fuel economy, with all sorts of high-tech wizardry.
The Macan also picks up the latest in emission-control technology, with a 'particulate filter' to trap the black soot that sometimes comes out of the exhaust on start-up.
Transmission is still the trusty seven-speed DSG, but modified to suit the new engine and how it channels that punch to the all-wheel drive system.
There's also a ‘Dirt’ mode to adjust the settings for the anti-skid brakes, all-wheel drive operation and the shifting of the gearbox.
Porsche claims the new mechanical package is quieter than before and it has also incorporated a number of noise-suppression improvements.
On the inside
As always, the cabin change is all about technology. The infotainment screen has grown from 7.9 to 10.2 inches, with a light-beam to sense which functions the driver or passenger is likely to request from the touch screen.
It’s not quite gesture control, something tried by not yet perfected by BMW, but it makes it easier to use the system while on the go, although the button-free centre console fitted to the Cayenne and upcoming 911 is yet to make it into the Macan.
Eight airbags offer a safety cocoon but auto-safety braking is a noticeable omission, although it can be optioned with a system that also allows the car to move away automatically in stop-start traffic.
On the road
The Macan has always been the dynamic benchmark in its class, even against the latest BMW X4 coupe, and nothing has changed.
It has great cornering grip and balance, encouraging the driver to do more than roll along for the ride, even on tight-and-twisty roads, and is nowhere near as ponderous as many of the luxury plodders, thanks in part to taut brakes and good steering feedback.
Engine noise can be a bit coarse at times from the new V6, but there's no questioning the performance.
I drove the Macan S with fat 21-inch wheels and noticed slightly intrusive road roar on coarse bitumen surfaces, while the ride quality verged on harsh; stepping back to the standard 20-inch wheels makes things much more relaxing.
There are really few surprises here. The Macan remains the sportiest ride in its class, with visual and technical pump plus overall refinements to keep it up-to-date and competitive, and delivering the quality expected at this price point. For people who like to drive, the 2019 Porsche Macan is still the best choice among the compact SUVs.