In Porsche brand tradition, T stands for “Touring,” and the designation signifies a model that offers an ideal balance of features and crisp (but not excessive) performance right off the shelf. It focuses on the joy of driving. In that sense, the new 2023 Porsche Macan T is the Miata of the lineup. Hear me out.
Porsche lightly updated and shuffled its best-selling small crossover models for 2022. The Macan Turbo was bumped off entirely, and the GTS took the former flagship’s beefy engine (and its place at the top). That left a potential hole for a new model further down in the lineup. A hole for customers who smile more taking the long way home than they do pinning the throttle on a freeway onramp. For people like me who love to throw around the old saying, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.” Slow is a relative term in this case, but the Macan T still fits into that hole in the lineup perfectly.
Putting The Fun In Function
Dropping in above the standard Macan, the T picks up that car’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, and it shares all-wheel drive and a seven-speed PDK transmission with every other Macan. Pricing hasn’t been released yet, but the T will almost certainly cost somewhere between the $54,900 Macan and the $65,400 Macan S. For that amount, likely in the low $60k range, the Macan T comes with an impressive amount of standard equipment, making it a compelling value proposition.
So here’s what you get. The Sport Chrono package comes standard and adds good stuff like a steering wheel drive mode selector, Sport Plus and customizable drive modes, and launch control. Other performance upgrades relate mostly to improved handling: a more rear-biased Porsche Traction Management all-wheel-drive system, Porsche Active Suspension Management dampers, and a set of pretty dang sexy 20-inch wheels. A specially tuned air suspension with stiffer sway bars is optional, as is Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus; my test car was equipped with all of those goodies.
If you were to spec out a standard Macan with everything that comes on the T, the price climbs past the MSRP of a Macan S without options. If you choose the S instead, you’ll still have to spend thousands more to add on some of the best features that are on the T. Yes, the Macan S has significantly more power thanks to a bigger V6 engine, but the Macan T is about something different.
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Dressed To Impress
Like other T models, including the 718 and the previous-generation 911, several bespoke exterior details allow Porsche geeks to ID a Macan T from a distance. Agate Grey Metallic is painted on the trim inside the new front fascia, giving it a more aggressive, mouthy look. The recently refreshed Macan side blades, aero side mirrors, rear spoiler, and badges are also Agate Grey. Gloss black window trim, gloss black sport tailpipes, and dark titanium wheels complete the picture. Other standard features include dynamic LED headlights with two kinds of cornering lights, speed-dependent range control, and automatic high-beam assist.
Inside the cabin is sporty, yet rather dark. Macan T logos grace the tinted door sill trim. Black leather sport seats with silver stitching and matching silver stripe fabric seat inserts have heating and memory functions. Classic pinstripes look tasteful and give the interior a bit of attitude. I’m ready for patterns to make a comeback on auto upholstery, how about you?
The seats are supportive and comfortable, but I found my right elbow bumping into the side bolster during sharp right turns on curvy canyon roads. A minor quibble in the larger picture, but an annoyance nonetheless. Maybe larger, longer-limbed drivers than my 5-foot-6 self won’t run into that problem. The Macan T comes standard with a heated sport steering wheel with leather and silver stitching, but my test car has an optional sport steering wheel with a Race-Tex faux suede rim. It keeps your palms from feeling slick with sweat during extended bouts of spirited driving and feels pleasant under your fingers all the rest of the time, too.
The dash and center console have a clean and cohesive appearance. Like the rest of the recently updated Macan lineup, controls are straightforward and the touchscreen is responsive with virtually no lag. The sheer amount of buttons found in a lot of modern Porsche interiors can make the center console feel fussy, but new haptic controls take care of that. They offer positive feedback when pressed, but you might not have positive feedback when the smooth, glossy surface ultimately gets covered with fingerprints.
Sporty Sport Ute
While styling is a hallmark of historic T models, what really matters to the Macan T’s dynamic mission is that the turbo 4-cylinder engine takes 129 pounds off the front end compared to the twin-turbo V6 found in the S and GTS. Less weight on the front end translates to more responsive steering and handling. And Porsche engineers tuned the suspension, torque vectoring, and traction control specifically for the T. More on that in a minute.
In a crossover that weighs over 4,100 pounds, 261 horsepower isn’t impressive. And yet, the Macan T’s acceleration is adequately quick, and it’s the 295 lb-ft of torque that actually feels most prevalent. It pulls smoothly and continuously without obvious turbo lag. Throttle response coming off the line feels a touch lazy in normal driving mode, but either a heavier foot or switching to Sport perks it right up. The exhaust note on my test car was fairly subdued, but it was a European spec with a particulate filter that might’ve been muffling things. Production cars in the U.S. won’t have that, so they could snarl with a bit more exuberance.
Even with its modest power figures, the T pulls out of corners with plenty of grunt, especially if the engine is up in the revs. And if you insist on crunching numbers, Porsche says the Sport Chrono Package gives the Macan T the ability to hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, two-tenths quicker than the standard Macan.
So it’s not going to be winning drag races like the GTS might, but boy is it going to be hard to shake in the corners. The Macan T is one hell of a well-balanced machine. In Sport mode it attacks even the most cramped turn with remarkable tenacity and nary a hint of understeer. In a practical platform that makes sense for everyday life, what more could a driver ask for? The steering feels nicely weighted and it flies through esses with ease. The sticky 265/40R20 summer rubber no doubt plays a big part in its grip on the pavement.
The ride in normal mode is complacent enough around town while retaining a level of firmness befitting a performance-oriented SUV. Both Sport and Sport Plus modes are naturally a little bumpier, and stiff tire sidewalls transmit some boominess into the cabin over rough pavement. They’re liveable levels though, and reasonable tradeoffs for such impressive handling.
Braking from a brisk pace into a tight corner is uneventful in the best kind of way. Pedal pressure feels solid and linear, with the response exactly when you want it. They’re easy to modulate, too. Combined with the finely tuned suspension, the Macan T feels confident and composed, more like a refined sports car than a crossover.
Porsche’s seven-speed PDK is fantastic in the Macan T, as it is everywhere else in the company’s lineup. Shifts are almost instantaneous, and in Sport Plus it telepathically predicts the correct gear during aggressive driving. If I can’t row my own with a real stick, that’s the next best thing.
If you insist on attempting to outsmart the computer (good luck) using paddle shifters, feel free to tap them at any point. The console shifter doesn’t have to be nudged one way or the other to put it in manual mode first. It’s also a big plus in my book that Porsche sticks with the old-school mechanical shifter rather than an electronic setup so common today. There’s less ambiguity about what gear you’ve just selected.
Porsche is betting on the fact that it has customers who put a priority on backroads fun over straight-line speed, and I hope they’re right because the Macan T is a joyful sporty crossover to hustle up a twisty road. Like the humble Mazda Miata I mentioned earlier, Porsche’s newest “Touring” variant features just-right power levels, exceptional handling, and a communicative chassis that makes it an approachable challenge to drive fast and drive well.
Anyone with a thick wallet can buy the 434-hp Macan GTS and do zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds. But it takes real skill to drive through corners quickly and maintain momentum in a power-limited car. It also takes experience and a certain level of maturity to know that big power numbers aren’t everything. Looking through that lens, the Macan T is everything the true driver wants a practical Porsche crossover to be.
Gallery: 2023 Porsche Macan T
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