The 2023 Porsche Macan T Has No Business Handling This Well
I have a thesis. It hasn’t been disproven yet, and it goes like this: If you value agility and liveliness over outright power, choose the model with fewer cylinders. That reduction in weight over the front axle alone will liven up the steering and handling better than almost any modification you can give it. Porsche certainly understands that and it’s why the 2023 Porsche Macan T exists.
Way back in 2018—a time when perhaps before you were born—I had the opportunity to drive both the turbocharged V6 Macan S and the turbocharged four-cylinder base Macan back to back. I walked away thinking the four-banger base was certifiably the more interesting of the two, just because it responded with surprising alertness despite being down on both power and cylinders. This, I thought, was the car that was clearly more fun.
Four years after that drive, the automaker has granted us the T—the Macan Touring, if you will. Fitted with upgrades specifically meant to enhance driving responsiveness, and available exclusively with the four-cylinder and not the V6, it might very well be the best-handling SUV I’ve ever driven. We’re clearly on the same wavelength, Porsche and I. God, I love being right.
2023 Porsche Macan T Review Specs
- Base price (as tested): $64,550 ($72,170)
- Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 7-speed PDK | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 261 @ 5,000 to 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,800 to 4,500 rpm
- 0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds
- Top speed: 144 mph
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo capacity: 17.2 cubic feet (rear seats up) | 53 cubic feet (rear seats down)
- Curb weight: 4,187 pounds
- EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city | 25 highway | 21 combined
- Quick take: The Macan T could very well be the best-handling compact SUV currently for sale. You just have to be ready to pony up for it.
- Score: 9/10
As Porsche’s compact SUV, the first and only generation of the Macan’s been around since 2014. Debuting with a V6, the four-cylinder base version was launched in 2016 and everything underwent a refresh in 2019. It, alongside the larger Cayenne, is consistently Porsche’s best-selling vehicle, with the four-cylinder version being the most popular Macan. As with the Porsche 911 Carrera T, the Macan T is priced to sit above the base and below the more powerful, V6-powered S.
I’ve always liked the design of the Macan, but on this version, with the bottom half of the front bumper taken up almost entirely by black trim, it looked a little bit like a frog peeking up from a pond. Things definitely get better around the back, though, with the single-bar taillight stretched across the rear hatch. T-specific features include Agate Grey-painted details, glossy black tailpipes and window surrounds, and 20-inch wheels from the Macan S. The test car came in a shade of frankly awesome Papaya Metallic exterior paint.
Delightfully, that orange outside matched the contract stitching and seat belts inside. Passengers settle into bolstered, eight-way leather seats that—after 570 miles driven over the course of a week, taking around 21 hours total (the car kept count for me)—remained always comfortable and supportive. Combined with the skinny GT sport steering wheel, sitting in the T felt eerily similar to the 911 T I’d end up driving later on in the week. It was neat to see how Porsche managed to recreate that sports car-feeling in a five-seater SUV. The tri-gauge driver cluster features two analog dials and a digital one, and the 10.9-inch infotainment screen now employs the up-to-date infotainment system that made navigating its menus a breeze. Finally, as part of last year’s mild update, the barrage of center console buttons is now gone, replaced by a swath of black plastic beneath which hides haptic sensors. I thought this would be a pain to use, but it actually turned out to be just fine to live with.
That mild update from last year also means the turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder Macan now makes 261 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque that’s sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed PDK. The T benefits from the Sport Chrono Package, the Porsche Traction Management system that’s been tuned for rear bias, and PASM as standard, which lowers the ride height by 10mm. An optional feature, which the test car was equipped with, is the air suspension. When you get that, you also get T-specific stiffened anti-roll bars that further cut down on body roll. Lastly, there’s also the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus for even sharper handling.
Driving the Porsche Macan T
In general, it’s easy to see why people like Macans. They’re extremely comfortable luxury cars that err on the side of sporty. Everything you touch has a nice heft to it and clunks or clicks in a way that declares quality. I didn’t feel as though the four-cylinder had particularly much character, but there was just the right amount of power to get moving. For diving in and out of corners, the torque was a friend.
Yet, for the first time in a long time, I found myself driving a sporty car where its engine and transmission weren’t the main act. The 2.0-liter is there to carry you at the fun speeds to the fun roads, and the PDK transmission does its usual whip-crack-like shifts, but the handling and suspension are the headliners. They make the T nigh unflappable in the curves. Toss it into a hairpin and there’s absolutely no roll in the slightest. Instead, the car presses down on the inside front tire but keeps its vertical composure, and the first time it happened, I experienced the bewildering sensation of a tall car that no longer felt tall.
I’ve driven big cars that could shrink their footprint around me plenty; I’d never driven a car that felt like it brought down the height of its very floor. That had to have come from the combined wizardry of PASM, those anti-roll bars, and the additional torque vectoring system. In fact, the only giveaway that I was driving an SUV at all on those twisty roads was my heightened seating position. Furthermore, I’d always thought PASM and its resulting lower ride height made 911s and 718s unnecessarily uncomfortable. But it felt great on the T, perhaps because the higher-riding SUV already had more give in its suspension.
The steering maintains a healthy resistance at all speeds, communicates clearly what’s going on with the front tires, and provides you with the information necessary to wheel on with confidence. Sigh on the progressive brakes for the tiniest nip in speed ahead of a blind turn, and guide the T through with the kind of conviction you mostly feel in a sports car. All the while, the chorus in the back of your mind ringing out: “There’s no way an SUV should be able to handle like this. No way…”
So, on a back road, the T is, in a word, good.
It’s good at the around-town highway stuff, too. The air suspension soaks up bumps in the pavement so they don’t upset you, and the car is relaxed and easy enough to drive without a second thought. The only difference here is you’ll seek out “shortcuts” through the mountains on your way home from work.
The Highs and Lows
Besides the stellar driving characteristics, the T also proved extremely practical, swallowing up all of our luggage for a week with no problem, and had totally usable rear seats. Finally, thanks to the optional surround-view, eye-in-the-sky camera, parking the T was a breeze as well. I am equally impressed by a fast lap time as I am a tidy parallel park job, but these modern camera and radar systems ensure everyone’s a pro. It’s a very good thing.
Perhaps it was due to user error that I couldn’t find the setting for them (though I doubt it), but it seemed like the car didn’t have blind-spot monitoring—a strange thing to omit on a model-year 2023 luxury SUV. I don’t even need the kind Kias and Hyundais have that scream at you if you put your blinker on and someone’s in your blind spot. But some visual indication of an obstacle would have been nice. And while I appreciate the blacked-out exterior window surrounds, they quickly became scummy with fingerprints after a couple of days.
Porsche Macan T Features, Options, and Competition
Standard Macan Ts come with eight-way leather seats, PASM, the Sport Chrono Package, and the Porsche Traction Management system and start at $64,550. (Compare that with the base Macan that starts at $58,950.) Going through the test car’s window sticker, it was clear whoever specced it hit “yes” on all the performance options. There was the adaptive air suspension ($1,390), the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system ($1,500), as well as the Papaya Metallic paint ($700), the leather package with contrast stitching ($1,840), a Bose surround sound system ($990), and the Surround View cameras ($1,200). Total vehicle MSRP came to $72,170.
Just for fun, I went on Porsche’s configurator to see if I could “build” myself a T out of a base Macan since the two already share the same engine and transmission. Checking off options for PASM and the Sport Chrono Package, I rang up a car that cost $62,920 MSRP—a similarly optioned base Macan that’s about $1,600 cheaper than a standard T. (For the record, air suspension and PTV+ were available as well, I just didn’t select those.) I’m sure the T has more included features that I didn’t add—I didn’t see an option for the Porsche Traction Management system, for example—but do with this information what you will.
There’s no shortage of five-seater, compact luxury SUVs, but competitors from Genesis, Lexus, and Acura tend to lean toward the comfort side rather than the sporty side. Thus, the T can count the BMW X3 xDrive30i (starting MSRP of $48,395) and the Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4MATIC (starting MSRP of $46,900) as close competitors. All three have all-wheel drive and four-cylinder engines. And while you could fall back on calling the T a base Macan with a very nice handling package, the fact remains that it’s still significantly more expensive than the competition. Moving up a Mercedes or BMW model and you start getting into respective AMG and M territory, which come with more cylinders and more power. The Macan T does not fit neatly into any category, but I can promise you this: It’ll out-handle both the GLC and the X3.
Perhaps because it’s slightly higher on power and down a gear or two, but the T returns slightly worse fuel economy than its competitors.
However, over the course of my week-long loan, I averaged 22.5 mpg from mixed city, highway, and, uh, enthusiastic driving. When I first picked up the car, the estimated range read close to 450 miles. With gas still hovering around $6 a gallon in California, the T wasn’t cheap to fill up but I still felt like I squeezed decent mileage out of it.
Value and Verdict
Look, I know the T is pricey. It’s mighty expensive for a four-cylinder, which means buyers who judge automotive value entirely on cylinders-per-dollar need not get involved. But the Macan T works because it knows better than that and has deliberately prioritized front-end lightness over outright speed and spec-sheet point-scoring.
If it were me, I’d have it optioned exactly as the test car came, down to the Papaya paint. Never have I driven an SUV that could handle the way this one could. Other sporty SUVs get slapped with the “This is pretty good*” conclusion, with the asterisk part of that statement being, “… for an SUV.”
The T isn’t like that. It’s a solidly fun car to drive, mostly because it’s quite shocking at how adept it is on roads that’d usually deter an SUV. Nobody will buy one of these things by accident; it exists for a very specific reason for a very specific buyer, and it’s priced accordingly. But for those that want a little more chutzpah out of their family and stuff haulers, the 2023 Porsche Macan T awaits.
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