Porsche’s all-new SUV Macan, which means tiger in Indonesian, impresses with its drive and styling, writes Shapur Kotwal

Meet the Porsche Macan, the German sportscar maker’s all-new, Q5-sized SUV that’s headed to India later this year. It may be a size down on the massively popular Porsche Cayenne, but as our ‘passenger’ experience revealed, the Macan is a true Porsche under the skin. One that has the potential to be the company’s chart-topper.

At first glance, it’s difficult to tell the Porsche Macan apart from the Cayenne; Porsche clearly appreciates the benefits of having a recognisable profile for its cars (just look at how the 911 has evolved). But look closer at the Macan (which means tiger in Indonesian) and the differences soon become apparent. This SUV has a more compact and sporty profile — more crouching tiger, less hulking gorilla. The nose has a series of sharper and more aggressive slashes, the roofline drops down towards the back and the rear windscreen is more severely raked. It’s also seriously low-slung for an SUV and its oversized wheels and planted stance make it look quite different.

The real challenge for Porsche, however, was under the bodywork. The Porsche Macan is built on Audi’s MLB platform, the same as used on the Audi Q5, and Porsche had to make some serious modifications to it. Audi’s engines are generally hung over the front axle and so most of the weight falls ahead of the front wheels; not ideal. This was remedied to some extent. Porsche also had to modify the wheel wells to take larger wheels and brakes, Audi’s Quattro four-wheel-drive system was replaced by a new, predominantly rear-wheel-drive setup (power is sent to the front wheels via a set of clutches aft of the gearbox) and Porsche says some two-thirds of the Audi’s components have been ‘replaced or modified’. The Macan also comes with optional air suspension for a sportier drive, and Porsche’s slightly superior PDK twin-clutch gearboxes are used too.

One thing’s for sure — this car feels nothing like a Q5, even from the passenger seat. Lower slung, massively grippier and blessed with an aggressive power-to-weight ratio, the Macan is seriously quick. With 394bhp from its 3.6-litre petrol V6, the Porsche Macan Turbo is easily the quickest of the range.

It pulls strongly from 2,500rpm all the way to its 6,800rpm redline with a flat-six-like snarl, and you are shoved back firmly in your seat. This car feels like it can easily match the incredible claimed 0-100kph time of 4.6 seconds. What comes as an even bigger surprise is that the 335bhp Macan S (also turbocharged but not to the same extent) feels almost as fast in most situations.

It’s the 254bhp Porsche Macan diesel that’s likely to be the mainstay in India, and here too performance is more than adequate. There’s definitely more zing here than the 245bhp Audi Q5 diesel we have in India, and Porsche’s gearbox seems to be much quicker than the hesitant Audi unit.

The interiors are impressive. The long central console with its array of buttons gives you a cockpit-like feel, the low steering wheel and dashboard height make it feel particularly sporty, and the big front seats also hold you really well. Build quality is also right up there with Mercedes; the door-shut is just fantastic. The rear seat is also supportive and comfortable, but legroom and headroom back here are tight, and this may not go down so well in the Indian market.

The Macan will clearly be the sportiest SUV in its segment. Fast, plenty of fun and reasonably practical, it should be in the Indian market by mid-2014. Prices could start at around Rs. 70 lakh for the Macan diesel and go as high up as Rs. 90 lakh for the fully-loaded Macan Turbo. It may not win at the size-for-price game, but if you are looking for a sporty and fun-to-drive SUV, this should be it.