Nestled between the base Macan and the rootin’ tootin’ GTS you’ll find the sweet spot of Porsche’s compact SUV range: the Macan S. The S splits the difference between the aforementioned bookends in terms of price and performance, and by doing so, strikes a really nice middle ground that makes it an absolute peach to drive.
Like other Macans, the S heads into 2022 with a couple of nice updates, most of which are found inside. The reworked center console uses a flat, backlit design similar to what’s in the Cayenne and Panamera, and definitely goes a long way toward making the Macan look fresh. Sitting above that is a 10.9-inch touchscreen running Porsche’s Communication Management infotainment system, but sadly the Macan’s older, mostly analog gauge cluster remains. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess.)
A quick word about PCM: The 2022 Macan doesn’t have Porsche’s latest system, like you’ll find in the 911 and Taycan. Instead, the Macan uses slightly older software, though this infotainment interface continues to earn high marks for its crisp displays and quick responses to taps and swipes. The biggest issues with the last-gen PCM tech are its somewhat complicated menu structure and lack of Android Auto. But at least wireless Apple CarPlay is included. Switch to iPhone, I guess.
The Macan S has a few more standard amenities than the base car, like eight-way power front seats, heated seats, four USB-C ports (two per row) and a 10-speaker sound system. Still, I’d be remiss not to mention that all the good stuff will cost you extra, including many driver-assistance technologies. Sure, parking assist and lane-departure warning are standard, but things like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring really ought to be on the list, too.
Thankfully, what the Macan lacks in driver aids it more than makes up for with driver involvement. The S is powered by the same 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 as the Macan GTS, but it’s detuned slightly to produce 375 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. The low-end thrust comes on strong from just 1,850 rpm, allowing this all-wheel-drive SUV to accelerate to 60 mph in as little as 4.4 seconds. That’s with the Sport Chrono option checked, FYI, which also unlocks different driving modes and Porsche’s awesome push-to-pass Sport Response button on the steering wheel.
Like the GTS, the Macan S has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it’s perfectly matched with the V6 engine. Left to its own devices, the DCT shifts quickly and smoothly, and it’s super responsive to inputs from the steering wheel-mounted paddles, should you feel like taking matters into your own hands (literally). The all-wheel-drive system has a strong rear bias, and optional torque-vectoring tech makes for better power delivery while cornering.
Great steering is a hallmark of all Porsche products, and the Macan’s well-weighted, small-diameter wheel is a joy to use through tight switchbacks. Even at slower speeds in the city, you can dart through traffic with ease, the steering offering tons of communication about what’s happening at road level in real time. The S comes standard with 20-inch wheels, and a bunch of new designs are available, but the car tested here rides on 21s, shod in super-duper sticky summer tires for maximum grip.
Fitted with options like an adaptive air suspension ($1,390) and torque-vectoring ($1,500), the Macan S is far closer to the GTS than the base model in terms of on-road performance. Pitch, dive and roll are practically nonexistent, yet the adaptive dampers are happy to provide a supple ride quality when you’re just slogging down the freeway. The Macan S feels more like a tall hot hatch than a compact SUV, and it’s the sort of sporty crossover I’d love to drive everyday.
The Macan is plenty functional, too, with 17.6 cubic feet of space behind the back bench, or 52.9 cubic feet if you fold the rear seats flat. It’s also rated to tow just over 4,400 pounds, which is enough for a couple of jet-skis or, say, a lightweight trailer and a spec Miata race car.
At $66,750 (including $1,350 for destination), the 2022 Macan S undercuts the more expensive GTS by $14,500, and considering the biggest differences are a small decrease in power and a slightly softer suspension tune, it seems like the smarter buy, to me. Just don’t go too crazy with the options, you guys — the test car pictured here is loaded to the gills and costs an absolutely absurd $103,600. You can get a really nicely equipped Macan S for tens of thousands less than that, though I highly recommend springing for a cool color like Papaya Metallic ($700). The world has too many silver and black SUVs.
It’s also worth noting that companies like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer performance SUVs that stack up nicely against the Macan S on paper, and for a bit less money, too. But when the tires hit the pavement, the Macan continues to lead the pack — no small SUV drives quite as nicely as this one. And of the three new Macan models on offer, the S offers the best balance of power, poise and price.