First drive of the 2023 Porsche Macan T

MONROVIA, Calif. — The base four-cylinder Porsche Macan might be easy to find at dealerships because lots of people buy them, but it’s extremely difficult to find a car reviewer like yours who has actually driven one. You see, when the 2.0-litre turbo was introduced, there was hardly the usual fanfare associated with a new Porsche variant – no first-drive events that we can recall, and none of our editors has flown one since. Until now. The 2023 Porsche Macan T finally shines a light on the base engine by showing that it’s good for more than significantly lowering the entry point of the Macan and the entire Porsche brand.

Immediately, it’s clear that the 2.0-liter turbo inline-four (vs. the 718’s 2.0-liter turbo four), which produces 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, offers competitive thrust. for the luxury compact SUV segment. It doesn’t wow you, but it’s also fast enough that you don’t look at the Porsche badge on the steering wheel and say “Really?” That said, the 0-60 sprint is clocked at 5.8 seconds, which is actually a tick slower than the Audi Q5 which uses a less powerful version of roughly the same engine.

Of course, the Audi lacks the Macan’s exceptional PDK transmission, which shifts with precision, and usually upshifts and downshifts when you would. If you really want a taste of the old school, using the paddle shifters is a tactile treat and prompts quick reactions from the PDK.

In the end, what stands out most about this engine is that it doesn’t stand out at all. It’s very quiet, as if Porsche engineers were just as reluctant to shine the spotlight on the 2.0-litre as Porsche enthusiasts are. A sports exhaust can be added, and even though our tester didn’t have one, it’s easy to recommend ticking that particular option box even though it costs $2,930. The Macan T could use a little (or a lot) of the audible drama those louder pipes would provide, as it seems to be the missing piece to what is otherwise an exciting little SUV that offers a lot more fun than the segment norm and absolutely feels like driving a real Porsche.

Like other Porsche T models, the 2023 Macan T takes that base engine and pairs it with a connoisseur choice of performance-oriented features that would otherwise be options or only available on higher trim levels such as the GTS. The “PASM” adaptive damping system is standard (as on the V6-powered Macan S), along with the Sport Chrono pack which adds a Sport Plus mode, launch control, dashboard clock and a steering wheel equipped with mode selector and Sport Response boost button. Compared to the base 2.0-litre Macan, Porsche’s all-wheel drive and traction management systems have a greater rearward power distribution.

Optional upgrades, which were fitted to our test car, include an adaptive air suspension with reinforced T-specific anti-roll bars, Macan GTS-inspired tuning and a 10-millimeter ride height drop. The brake-based Torque Vectoring Plus system is also optional, specially designed for the T.

The fact that such a substantial feature as air suspension is optional makes it even more difficult to determine the advantage of the Macan T over lesser versions (remember, we still haven’t driven this base Macan). However, I can at least say that the Macan T looks like the last Macan I drove: the GTS. It may not have all the thrust or pop, but everything feels taut, precise and connected to your body. From your fingertips to the seat of your pants, you constantly feel engaged with the car in a way you simply don’t get from other SUVs. In fact, it doesn’t feel like an SUV at all, other than the constant cognitive dissonance of your forward vision being higher off the ground than any other sensation indicates you should be.

Like the GTS, the Macan T offers the kind of exceptional ride balance and handling we’ve come to expect from Porsche’s air suspension. Although the ride in Normal mode is firmer than class standard (say, an Audi Q5), it’s never harsh or tiring, even on imperfect pavement. You feel the road without punishment. It doesn’t even beat you in its firmest setting, which you often have to ignore in Porsche’s sports cars, because it not only bounces you around like there’s a seismic event in progress, but can also disrupt the chassis by bumps in the middle of turns. Just as the Macan GTS ignored such imperfect pavement when we loaded one up Pike’s Peak in 2016, the Macan T also benefits from the greater suspension travel offered by a larger vehicle, as well as the capability of the air suspension. to skillfully balance increased control and retained composure.

On our San Gabriel Mountain Road trip (and downhill…and another trip up and down) we also noticed the rear end twisting in the corners, no doubt the result of the rear-biased all-wheel drive and Torque Vectoring Plus system. This makes the Macan feel rear-wheel drive. The missing 129 pounds atop the front wheels compared to the V6 Macans probably contributes to that effort – indeed, the Macan T’s small four-cylinder actually gives it an edge. Theoretically. Without back-to-back training, it’s hard to determine how sharper the nose is or how nimble it generally feels (if at all), but removing that much weight has to count for something.

Visually, the Macan T gets standard 20-inch wheels finished in “dark titanium”. These are optional on the other Macan variants, but the Agate Gray Metallic trim found on the grille, mirrors, side blades, roof spoiler and rear badging is unique to the Macan T. Tinted LED taillights are a Porsche Exclusive custom option. The interior receives exclusive striped fabric upholstery accented by contrasting silver stitching that extends to the headrests and steering wheel.

Our test car came with the optional Race-Tex leatherette steering wheel and carbon fiber trim, which I would gladly do without. There were also a bunch of other options on our test car, none of which have anything to do with extra performance and are optional on other Macans. By our estimate, the tester had over $22,000 worth of options on top of an estimated base price “in the low $60,000 range” (official pricing will be announced at a later date).

However, if you’re just looking at a base Macan T with no options, you’re looking at something that costs about the same as adding PASM, the Sport Chrono package, and other extra features to a base Macan that starts at $56,250. In this scenario, however, you would do without the T’s special design cues and the rear-facing Porsche traction management system, nor would you have access to the T’s upgraded versions of the air suspension and of Torque Vectoring Plus. Plus, a base Macan T should cost a few thousand less than a base Macan S. In other words, the T represents good value (very relatively speaking) if you want a performance-oriented Macan but don’t want a more guzzling engine.

And indeed, this is where the Macan T comes into its own. It’s a smart extension of the range, especially in light of growing concerns over fuel economy. Even if your head said the base four-cylinder was a good call, your heart said a Volkswagen Group 2.0-liter turbo just seemed wrong for something with a Porsche badge. And you wouldn’t be wrong, as the engine is pretty characterless. But, with the Macan T’s various upgrades, the base engine seems easier to overlook, because the rest of the dynamic package is so obviously in line with what you’d expect from a Porsche. Of course, you have to tick the right options boxes, in particular the air suspension… which is also what you expect from a Porsche.

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