The Turbo badge has evolved to mean something different over the decades.
It all started with the original 911 Turbo, the whale-tailed widowmaker. Porsche’s iconic sports car has mellowed since those early days, with the 911 Turbo becoming the hyper-quick and hyper-powered grand touring headliner of the lineup, especially in current, 640-horsepower Turbo S guise. “Turbo” doesn’t even have to mean turbochargers anymore: every 911 outside of the GT models uses ’em, and the Taycan Turbo doesn’t even use internal combustion, let alone a snail or two.
“Turbo” is now a trim, the top trim really, one blending ample power with continent-crushing capabilities. Here in that mold is the 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo. After taking a year off, Porsche’s smaller Turbo-badged crossover is back with more power, more tech, and that same four-season sports car practicality.
A smaller heart runs harder
Porsche has consigned the old Turbo’s 3.6-liter V6 engine to the dustbin of history. In its place is a smaller, 2.9-liter engine, again arranging its sextet of pistons in a vee. Power is up, with the downsized engine packing 34 more ponies than before, for 434 hp in total. Max torque remains essentially unchanged, at 405 lb-ft of twist. All this power heads to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, just like before. We’re talking incremental improvements then, and that’s reflected in the performance figures. The dash to 60 mph is down to just 4.1 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono pack, and top speed is up to 167 mph.
The V6 is Herculean, imbuing the Macan with the feeling of barely-contained muscle. A flex of the toe is enough to pass on the highway. Even launched gingerly from a street light, the Macan will hit surface road limits by the other end of the intersection. It doesn’t seem turbocharged, instead ladling on power at any engine speed with minimal wait. When left to its own devices the PDK is a fine conductor: it slips between ratios smoothly in Comfort mode, and gives the rifle-shot crack under full-bore upshifts in Sport.
SEE ALSO: 2019 BMW X4 M Review: Good On Track, Better Off It
Nudge the notchy shifter to the left for manual mode, and the Macan will hold onto gears until you either make use of the steering wheel-mounted paddles or the sequential mode of the shifter. I found a bit of a delay in the first-second shift here, though less of one when using the shifter. Other changes were much quicker.
My biggest issue with the Macan Turbo’s six-pot is the sound. It’s at its best on start-up and in the mid-range under load, with a deep growl spilling out of the four black-trimmed exhausts. At ambling speeds—say, maneuvering an underground car park—it’s busier, more industrial, and just a little droning.
Keeping it all under control
All that power is fun, but the major appeal of the old Macan Turbo was its status as one of the best-handling crossovers on the market. I’m glad to report the facelifted Turbo not only maintains that title, but increases the little ute’s breadth of abilities.
Peer behind those massive (optional) 21-inch and you can’t miss the big ol’ dinner plate brake discs. Porsche coats these 15.4-inch stoppers with a layer of tungsten carbide: the German manufacturer says it improves wear as well as braking distances. More importantly, the coated brakes are easier to modulate than they initially were when Porsche launched them on the Cayenne last year. The brake pedal is, in long-standing German tradition, quite firm, but easy to modulate and full of positive feedback. Carbon ceramics are naturally optional, but unless you’re tracking your Macan on the regular, or simply want bragging rights, I don’t know why you’d drop the cash for them.
True to its badge, the Macan drives like a sports car, shrinking around you and keeping you in the conversation between rubber and road. The smaller-diameter GT Sports wheel is direct in a way most sport sedans wish they could be, a paragon of precision. When pushed it will settle into light understeer, but realistically you won’t come close to its limits on public roads. An optional torque vectoring system—not equipped here—can gift it even more responsiveness.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Porsche Macan S Review
What impresses more than the Macan’s sporting prowess—something it already had in spades—is its newfound sense of calm. The standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) offers three tailored driving modes: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. Comfort strikes a great balance for everyday driving, smothering bumps in the pavement while maintaining a flat stance. Click the steering wheel-mounted dial over to Sport and body control tightens, and further still in Sport Plus. Yet even in the latter mode the Macan is far from punishing, including through Toronto’s numerous construction zones. The Macan is in control, and feels lighter than its quoted 4,288 lb (1,945 kg) curb weight suggests.
A glow-up on the inside too
I’m not going to talk much about the Macan’s exterior. Porsche gave it a slight update, and I think it makes one of the better-looking models in the segment even more appealing. The full-width taillights have a wonderful three-dimensional quality to them, and my tester’s optional Carmine Red, while super-pricey, looks ace. If you didn’t like it before, the changes won’t sway you.
Getting into the Macan requires a bit of a leap. Not because it’s tall, but because the seats are heavily bolstered. Once in they hug you in place, though those of larger builds might find it hard to get comfortable. I’m 5’10” and around 170 lb, and the Macan had me second-guessing eating any chips during my week with it.
The biggest change is the infotainment screen, which grows to 10.9 inches. It’s crisp and clean, and features one of the few native nav systems I actually enjoy using. Apple CarPlay is here, and it’s wireless—sorry Android users, you’re still shut out in Porscheland. During our time together, the Macan occasionally decided to not continue playing my music from Spotify. I couldn’t figure out why, and every time it felt like I had to do something different to get it working again. Beyond that, CarPlay worked without issue.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S First Drive Review
New screen aside, the center console is the same gaggle of buttons as before. It can be pretty jarring coming from other cars, but it’s relatively straight-forward, and they fall easily to hand. Muscle memory made selecting the sport exhaust pretty simple during driving, for example.
The Macan is snug, even for the compact class. While technically a five-seater, you’ll want to stick to just two folks in the back if they’re any older than elementary school age. Storage space is also merely adequate at 17.6 cu-ft, though you can fold the rear seats down to swallow bigger loads.
Precision comes at a price
All this Teutonic tech doesn’t come cheap. Bone stock, the Macan Turbo rings up at $85,950 (Canadian: $95,700), including destination. Of course, you’re unlikely to find one without a teacher’s marking spree-worth of checks in the options list, and my tester is no different. The accompanying build sheet has it totalling a considerable $119,260 Canadian; the equivalent US build runs to $105,700. The spendy paint and 21-inch wheels contribute to a quarter of the additional cost all on their own, but Porsche also asks for more for things like Sport Chrono, full-leather seats, and the Premium Plus Package ($5,380 US, $4,630 CAD). The latter includes Lane Keep and Change Assists, auto-dimming mirrors, vented front seats, a panoramic roof, and Porsche Entry & Drive.
Dynamic cruise control is also present on my tester. With a dedicated stalk protruding from behind the wheel, it works well, and now includes a steering assist at speeds below 37 mph (60 km/h) to handle stop-and-go traffic.
That’s… a lot of money. You can pick up any one of the Macan’s competitors—BMW X3 M, Mercedes GLC 63 S, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio—for less than its starting price, even with most of their options lists ticked. Only the Merc comes close. Each of them also boasts over slightly over 500 hp.
Saving cash and buying a lower-trim Macan is also tempting. Opt for an S or GTS and the straight-line difference is negligible. The options list allows for nearly everything you’d find on the Turbo, too. Food for thought.
Verdict: 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo
It might be a seriously pricey bit of kit for its size, but it’s hard not to fall for the Macan Turbo. It brings so much of the Porsche sports car experience to the high-rider club, without sacrificing (much) of the ability inherent in the shape. Others in the class have bigger headline numbers, or offer more extrovert attitudes, but they can’t match the Macan’s blend of abilities.