The all-new 2015 Porsche Macan luxury crossover SUV is still a rare sight in many places, having just debuted not too long ago. So you can imagine people’s surprise when a caravan of them rolled into town in October, for the first Porsche Performance Tour event held in and around Vancouver, BC.
The crossovers weren’t alone on the three-day tour, which offers a unique mix of sightseeing, fine dining, and of course, driving. Two other models joined the fun: the iconic Porsche 911 Carrera S and the mid-engine Boxster-with-a-roof Cayman, giving guests a variety of performance motoring experience.
Led by Porsche Canada driving instructors, Kees Nierop and Pierre Des Marais, each day offered what they called a highlight event. The first day was my personal favourite - offroading in the Macans on a special course situated in the scenic and wild Callaghan Valley near Whistler. This wasn’t a quick lap around a muddy field, but rather a full trek in the backcountry involving steep hills, giant puddles and serious rock covered terrain.
The Macan may represent Porsche’s introduction into the compact sport utility market, but the company seems to have gotten it right on the first try. Utilizing the expertise from decades of making track-ready cars and, more recently, the full-size Cayenne, the vehicle is described as “sports car meets SUV.” Just from its looks, that statement would be correct. The front end is aggressive with a big centre grille, large side air intakes in the bumper, foglights and smoked headlamps housing bi-xenon lights. The body is sculpted with muscular lines, but the roof slopes down gently towards the back like a coupe where there is a pair of sleek contoured taillights and dual exit exhaust pipes.
Glancing inside, there are all sorts of buttons and dials everywhere. This is especially true of the Macans equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package — which ours were — that adds an analog and digital stopwatch on top of the dashboard and the all-important “Sport” button in the long centre console. Engaging the Sport mode knocks 0.2 seconds off the already quick 5.4 seconds it normally takes the Macan S to get from 0-100 km/h, or the blazing 4.8 seconds for the Macan Turbo.
Both trims are actually powered by turbochargers: the S has Porsche’s new 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo engine producing 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. The one that wears a Turbo badge is a 3.6 litre bi-turbo producing 400 hp with 406 lb-ft torque. Regardless of the name, all Macans include all-wheel drive and the famed seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission as standard.
Nierop noted that most owners purchasing this newest addition to the German manufacturer’s stable probably wouldn’t be taking theirs to the nearest logging road. Still, there might be dirt road that needs traversing in order to reach a favourite fishing spot or cabin getaway. That’s when features like the Porsche Hill Control (PHC) system and Offroad mode come in handy. With PHC activated, driving down a decline causes the brakes to kick in, automatically slowing the vehicle down to a crawl. That frees up the driver to concentrate on steering the car carefully, letting the computer do the rest. Speed is adjustable in increments by tapping the gas or brake.
Turning on the Offroad function is kind of like the opposite of Sport mode. Rather than hunkering down the stance, the suspension is raised to provide 9.1 inches of ground clearance so you can go over or through pretty much anything. Other changes that make driving in rough terrain easier also occur, such as softening up the electric power steering and moderating ABS and torque distribution.
There were a couple of potholes, the size of small pits, that the Macan unbelievably made it over, leaving one of the wheels hovering in midair in the process. Nierop took the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the frame by opening and closing the rear door with ease with part of the car suspended.
The rest of the performance tour involved guests taking turns piloting the 911s and Caymans up Highway 99 all the way to Vernon, and then back down again with a stopover at Mission Raceway Park for a little track time in the two coupes.
If you missed this particular Porsche Cars Canada program, fret not: the brand also runs an annual winter performance driving experience called Camp4 where participants get to navigate the newest models around an ice track in Quebec.