2020 Porsche Macan Turbo First Drive Review: Absolutely Stellar

Is this a parallel universe’s best hot-hatch? Just maybe

If there's a parallel universe out there where the crossover was never invented, it's probably a better universe. But in this one, crossovers are for better or worse a thing, and not surprisingly some of them are actually very good. Like the 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo, for example.

Crossovers can be thought of as either neutered, far less capable SUVs or as taller, heavier, not much more capable hatchbacks. Either way, the recipe isn't great, but for some reason people can't buy enough of them. Fortunately, the engineers at Porsche are wizards at taking a less-than-stellar recipe and making it work beautifully.

The Macan, at least, is a "compact" crossover, which means it does away with a truly cavernous body for one that merely holds quite a lot of people and stuff. For 2020, the Macan Turbo sees a range of updates, including the arrival of Porsche's Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) technology, which reduces wear (and brake dust!) while preserving braking force and actually slightly improving brake fade thanks to some spooky physics at play on the surface of the disc.

Under the hood, the 2020 Macan Turbo gets an upgraded version of the 2.9-liter V-6 engine found in the previous model, now rated at 434 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. (A Performance pack was available that offered 440 horses; we'd expect something similar to be offered again soon.) This enables a zero-to-60-mph sprint time of just 4.3 seconds, which can be shaved a further 0.2 second to 4.1 with the addition of the Sport Chrono package. In either guise, those figures mark a 0.3-second improvement compared to the previous Macan Turbo. Top speed for the 2020 Macan Turbo? A cool 167 mph. The rest of the powertrain is familiar Porsche fare: a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission sends power to all four wheels via Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive.

Externally, the Macan Turbo enjoys the visual upgrades visited upon the lower tiers of the Macan range last year. A full LED light bar across the rear changes the visual signature at night, and a Turbo-specific double-wing fixed roof spoiler nods to those in the know. The front end is also modified for the Turbo, with three large air intakes and standard LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Lighting System (PDLS). The exterior is capped by Sport Design side skirts and side mirrors, plus a Sport exhaust system and 20-inch wheels as standard equipment.

As a result of all of this power, aero, and braking equipment, plus Porsche's legendary suspension tuning know-how, the Macan Turbo is the crossover to put the lie to the thought that its breed is boring. Despite its 4,234-pound curb weight, when driven hard, the Macan Turbo dips into corners with minimal body roll or nose dive, the steering returning consistent, precise results, though it's not particularly laden with feedback. Romp on the throttle coming out of a turn and you'll be whooshed toward the next apex with force, but not so much as to make the drive intimidating or truly rocket-like, contrary to many Porsche products labeled "Turbo." Ultimately, the Macan Turbo drives a lot like a good hot hatchback when asked to—even though most owners will rarely ask it to.

Because this is one of those darn crossovers and despite its Porsche Turbo-ness, the Macan is more likely to be used as a family-mover, comfy commuter, and foul(ish) weather runabout. Accordingly, it's what's in the cabin that really counts. Fortunately, Porsche didn't skimp there, either. The interior design is true to the brand, with nods to heritage features like the left-side ignition executed and rendered in thoroughly modern fashion. But the interior of the Macan is so tidy and sensible, it's almost like Porsche took a page from—dare we say it—fellow VW Group-er Audi. The feeling of solidity, the high level of fit and finish, and the prime materials selections combine to give the Macan Turbo a sense of luxury and occasion belying its compact exterior dimensions.

The huge central screen—though not as big as some—measures 10.9 inches on the diagonal and features full HD resolution. It's the command center for the Porsche Communication Management (PCM), Porsche's name for its infotainment system, which includes navigation, online traffic information, and mobile-phone integration. Porsche Connect Plus is also standard in the Turbo, bringing with it an LTE data module (with an integrated SIM card and a slot for an external SIM), a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a range of services.

Still present is the large array of buttons flanking the gear selector in the center console. While some technologists might bemoan their continued presence, there's a lot to be said for the user experience of a physical button in a fixed place—just a week or two with the car is enough to memorize the location of each for eyes-up on-the-fly adjustments to the car's suspension settings, exhaust loudness, and more. For the actual drive settings (Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus) you'll need to use the steering-wheel-mounted circular toggle wheel, just like you'll find in the marque's sports cars.

There are even four seats that will fit reasonably full-size adults; a fifth perch is available in the middle of the back, but it's best saved for a pinch. The front row is spacious and fully adjustable; nearly anyone can enjoy their seating position up front. The second row is more compact, with a tight entry/exit thanks to encroachment by the rear wheel well and a snug foot area; nevertheless, even a six-foot-and-change passenger will find a few hours in the back seat manageable if not quite ideal.

Cargo space? Yeah, it has some—18 cubic feet with the rear seats configured for passengers or 53 with the second row laid flat. Is that a lot? It's not bad—it's right on par with or slightly ahead of (theoretically) competitive vehicles like the BMW X4 M (19/51 cubic feet) and the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 Coupe (18/49). Less important, but more impressive, the Macan Turbo can also tow braked trailers weighing up to 4,409 pounds, and unbraked trailers up to 1,653. Max payload is a solid 1,378 pounds.

All of which is to say the Macan Turbo is not only a perfectly fine Porsche deserving of the name, but also a handsomely made and fine family conveyance. Is it as perfect as the hatchback that surely takes its place in that crossover-free parallel universe? No, probably not. But from the driver's seat of the 2020 Macan Turbo, you might feel like you've found a reality halfway between here and there.

2020 Porsche Macan Turbo Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $84,950
ENGINE 2.9L twin-turbo 24-valve DOHC V-6; 434 hp @ 5,700-6,600 rpm, 405 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,500 rpm.
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 18/23 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 185 x 82.6 x 64 in
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
WEIGHT 4,244 lb
0-60 MPH 4.1-4.3 sec (mfr)
TOP SPEED 167 mph (mfr)
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