Well, this Macan is lightened, but not because of carbon fibre or magnesium. It just has a smaller engine. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder one. In a Porsche. That’s like coming for a tiger and having to make do with a leopard.
Which is why we are in this place. The Borivali National Park. An anomaly of a jungle amid Mumbai’s concrete jungle. This metropolitan city, this city that never sleeps, this financial capital of India, this city where real estate is ridiculously priced, this city that keeps making repeated attempts at eating away at this 104 square kilometres of wild .But the wild has endured.
But it’s a wild that poses a lot of challenges. Challenges that need a specific mix of skills. Proper big cats like the lion and the tiger need massive territory, specific kind of game and minimal interference from civilisation. A bit like specialist sportscars and off-roaders. They excel at one thing, but are all at sea at others. And it’s only the leopard with its mix of compact size, power-to-weight ratio, the ability to climb trees and its ability to hunt down small, large, wild and urban game that can survive this peculiar environment surrounded by an urban jungle. And the subsequent man-animal conflict that arises out of living on the periphery of a forest surrounded by civilisation.
It’s this mix of talents like the leopard’s that has seen the crossover prosper. These vehicles somehow manage to have just that much bite to handle a curvy mountain road, an arrow-straight, high-speed express way, an unpaved dust-track, a few gentle rocks and some not-so-deep slush. In the decade or so that the properly sporty crossover – Porsche Cayenne, BMWX5 – has been around, it’s the Porsche Macan that has properly taken its evolution to the next level. The Macan perfectly embodies the leopard of Mumbai. It’s the right size unlike the very large tiger or lion. Just like the leopard isn’t fussy about what food it eats, the Macan doesn’t get too hung up over the nature or shape of its terrain.
Which brings me back to this Macan. With a severely down sized engine and usefully down sized price, it’s the embodiment of the Mumbai leopard. It makes the maximum out of the minimum. It makes 248 bhp out of something that displaces just two litres of cubic space.
On the road, it feels more like 300. I just couldn’t make out there’s a turbo in there. There’s absolutely no lag, no delay, no pondering, no reminiscing. Floor the throttle and the Macan springs forward like a leopard making that final leap at its prey. The best bit in all of this is that there’s a smooth, rhythmic, refined growl all through the rev range. The kind that’s not too loud. But enough to let you know it’s in the vicinity.
T he Macan handles impeccably. And being smaller than the Cayenne or other full-sized SUVs, clearly works to its advantage. Just like the leopard’ slighter weight and sharp claws help it climb up a tree with a heavy kill in its mouth in a way no other big cat can. It is this dexterity and lightness you enjoy the most in this Macan. In typical Porsche fashion, the Macan does a brilliant job with road dynamics. You’ll always sbe told that you have to compromise on comfort for handling, or handling for comfort, or both for steering feel. The Macan does all three effortlessly.
Just as effortless as it is for a leopard to hide in plain sight in the thick foliage in the National Park with its dappled coat. What really elevates the Macan performance with such meagre resources at its disposal is that PDK transmission. The doppel-whatever immensely German sounding name remains the best transmission in the business.
It’s proof that with a smart gearbox, there is replacement for displacement. Besides, this Macan comes with the option of Launch Control. And like all Porsches, activating it is as effortless as getting its claws out is for a leopard. Activate Sport Plus, switch off traction control, depress brakes and slam the throttle. You will hit a 100 in 6.7 seconds.
Considering the Macan Turbo can do it in 4.6, that’s not shabby at all. And unlike other launch control systems that will give you a million engine, clutch and transmission heating warnings after a couple of attempts, the Porsche patiently allows you to keep at it repeatedly. It’s the same patience the leopard displays as it waits for that opportune moment to make a strike that counts. This Macan is what you get after constant improvements and evolution of a breed. It handles much better than many specially- developed sportscars.
Ride much more comfortably than a lot of luxury cars and in the national park, in the lair of the leopard, the Macan drove through swamps, rocks and dust tracks. Of course, there’s one thing it couldn’t do that any leopard can effortlessly do, go into the deepest of thickets.
In fact, compared to other big shots of the Porsche SUV family, the Cayennes and the Macan Turbos, this little crossover with its humbler engine punches much above its weight. I have always been critical of the Cayenne GTS and Turbo, the Macan Turbo and other big cats of the Porsche SUV family of being splendid to drive but lacking in that last bit of drama.
But this 2.0-litre turbo has just the right amount of growl and bite to never make you miss the addition al performance of the more expensive Turbo or the torque-laden and pricier diesel in the real world.
This car makes you realise how simple it is to make a magnificent supercar or an all-conquering off-roader. These two extremes of the automobile are often the pinnacles, the torch bearers, top-of-their-foodchain flagships of the companies that make them. A statement of their prowess, their tech, their expertise. Just like the lion and the tiger are statements of magnificence and pride of a region’s wildlife.
But in all of this, it’s the small, shy, tenacious, middle-of-the-road leopard that thrives in a not-so-ideal world where the wild is forever under threat to be tamed and cleared. It could either give up and give in, or adapt, improvise and survive. Just like the Macan, which has proper doses of the wild, of cunning and of improvisation to survive a world that’s just not a simple straight road. Whether you are civilised or you are wild.
Engine: 1984cc, 4cyl, turbo petrol
Transmission: 7A, AWD
Fuel capacity: 65 litres
80-0kph: 23.8metre; 2.4 seconds
City efficiency: 5.3kpl
Highway efficiency: 7.5kpl
Approx range: 420km
Pros: Ride, handling, steering feel, gearbox, power delivery, pace
Cons: Tyre noise at high speed, standard equipment
Bottom line: Not terribly fuel-efficient, but doesn’t make you miss bigger, more powerful, more expensive engines one bit.