The Porsche Macan has been the choice of compact SUV buyers that like to drive since its inception and every model in the range steers more like a large hot hatch than it has a right to. None of them are slow, either. But what if you need the family carrying capacity of the Macan and you really like driving and having superfluous performance on tap? Money no object, the logical answer seems to be, go for the recently revised Macan Turbo. But hold your chequebooks, a moment, as Porsche has just launched the new Macan GTS, and it is openly referring to it as the sportiest option in the range.
In the Metal:
While Porsche likes to trace the GTS badge lineage back to the lithe 904 Carrera GTS of 1963, that has little to do with a modestly proportioned five-door, five-seat SUV such as the Macan. Today, the Porsche's GTS cars are given a characteristic visual makeover to set them apart from the rest of the range.
On the outside, it gets a Sport Design package that includes new front and rear bumpers and distinctive side skirts, featuring plenty of moody black paint. The same darkened theme extends to the LED headlight surrounds and the distinctive rear LED light bar. The rear diffuser and (standard) sports exhaust outlets are also black.
The Macan GTS gets a Satin-Gloss Black finish for its 20-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels, which fill the arches more convincingly thanks to a lower ride height (more of which below). Red-painted brake callipers can be seen behind those wheels if the standard steel brakes are retained. As ever, buyers can upgrade to Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB - signified by white callipers) or Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB - yellow callipers) for ultimate stopping ability and resistance to fade.
Inside, the Macan GTS gets a useful upgrade with tactile Alcantara on the seats, armrests and door panels. You pay more to have it on the three-spoke steering wheel, while Porsche offers buyers the option to upgrade to either Carmine Red or Crayon themes, which brings with it contrast stitching and GTS logos on the seats, coloured seatbelts and even a bold colour for the large centrally mounted rev counter. The model-specific GTS sports seats are electrically adjustable and feature more bolstering on the sides than any other Macan seats.
Otherwise, it's business as usual for the cabin, which comes with a 10.9-inch touchscreen for the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment system that's easy to use and crammed with the latest in connectivity functions thanks to an embedded SIM card.
So, what leads Porsche to claim that this is the sportiest Macan of the lot? The answer, it seems, is in a suite of relatively small changes to the chassis and powertrain adding up to a greater whole. The GTS now takes the twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine of the Macan Turbo as its starting point. Sure, at 380hp and 520Nm of torque, it's down a little on the Turbo's maximums (440hp and 550Nm), but it's up on the previous 3.0-litre Macan GTS by 20hp and 20Nm. And anyway, an SUV that can dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.7 seconds on its way to a 261km/h top speed is 'fast enough' by any measure.
You don't buy this car just for its outright performance, but you might buy it for how it sounds; it's notably more boisterous when the sport exhaust is set to its loudest than without, giving the V6 a distinctive bellow, whether you're ambling around or testing Porsche's performance claims. In the Comfort driving mode, it quietens down significantly, so the Macan GTS is perfectly refined on a longer drive, when you don't want the V6's aural assault.
Helping with that duality of purpose is standard adaptive damping (Porsche Active Suspension Management according to its maker - PASM). Nonetheless, the Macan GTS sits 15mm lower than other cars in the range on its standard steel springs, giving it a lower centre of gravity that can only enhance the Macan's already exalted dynamic ability. Our test car was additionally fitted with the optional air springs with variable ride height, which add more sophistication. For the GTS, they allow the car to sit 10mm lower than in other Macans with air springs.
With this setup, there is a notable firmness to the Macan's ride quality, but it's never uncouth or uncontrolled. Over challenging roads, the suspension retains excellent control of the big wheels without sending unexpected shudders or shocks into the cabin when traversing rougher surfaces. It marries that cross-country ability with seriously strong body control when pushing on through tighter curves. There is very little lean.
Not only that, but the high-spec tyres generate a lot of grip in the dry. Particularly impressive is how much you can depend on the front tyres to dig in and turn the car into a quickly-taken tight corner. As on all Macans, the GTS gets Porsche Traction Management (PTM), or all-wheel drive to you and me. It is an active system that continuously alters the split between the front and rear axles. Most of the time, the Macan GTS feels neutral and balanced, though it's pleasingly possible to trim and adjust the car's line and attitude in a long corner via the throttle pedal. Push hard and you'll be rewarded with the sensation of a rear-drive car on the exit of bends, too. Especially if you pay for the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) system.
One option that is a must is the Sport Chrono package, as, among other things, it brings with it the driving mode rotary selector for the steering wheel. Thankfully, solid metal gearchange paddles are standard, operating a seven-speed PDK (dual-clutch) automatic gearbox. This transmission does a perfectly good job left to its own devices for the most part, even automatically blipping the throttle on down-shifts, but it's fun to take control using the paddles when the road turns interesting.
What you get for your Money:
At a starting price of €105,941, the Macan GTS is a sizeable €25k or so more than the entry-level Macan. We'd argue that the V6 performance and sound are worth that alone, never mind all the extra equipment and unique GTS appearance. Look at it another way: it's also about €19,000 less than the Macan Turbo, which isn't any quicker on the public road in reality and nor is it any more appealing to our eyes. Saying all that, alternative high-performance SUVs from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Jaguar all undercut the Macan GTS, so it won't be bought by those seeking ultimate value-for-money.
Let's face it: buyers that consider the Porsche Macan instead of the default mainstream SUV alternatives have already identified themselves as a certain type of driver, the type that probably cares about how their car drives, even if it is an SUV. So, if you've decided that you're going to buy a Macan, and you have the wherewithal to consider the more expensive variants, may we suggest that you spend your hard-earned on the GTS, with any leftover cash on a few choice options?