There was a time after the 2014 launch of the Porsche Macan when the four-cylinder version was a special order only. You could have one if you really wanted one, but the six-cylinder cars were what Porsche really wanted to sell and what you would want anyway.
But times change. Fuel prices have gone up and most forms of car taxation have been revised upwards. Less really needs to be more.
The four-cylinder base Macan was taken off the secret menu a long time ago and has since established itself a commercially successful part of the range, particularly since the Macan was revised in 2018. Now it has been joined by a second four-pot option, the Macan T, in the first time that the T badge has been used on anything other than a sports car. In Porsche’s lexicon, T means Touring and is given to cars that offer the best possible driving experience without adding lots of extra power.
To that end, the Macan T features a series of chassis tweaks but no extra grunt for the longitudinally mounted 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, which retains outputs of 261bhp and 295lb ft from the base Macan (although the Sport Chrono pack is standard here, shaving 0.2sec off the 0-62mph time).
Those dynamic changes include lowering the steel springs by 15mm, and adding PASM adaptive dampers (air springs are optional). The front anti-roll bars are stiffer and the four-wheel drive and traction control systems have been retuned for greater rearward bias. Your £5000 premium over the standard Macan also includes a series of styling changes inside and out, among them 20in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and some contrasting grey details for the bumpers.
The Macan T is designed to bridge the gap between the Macan and the Porsche Macan S, yet it still unsurprisingly feels much more like the former than the latter. The one thing it could probably actually do with is a bit more poke. Given that it’s getting on for two tonnes, that’s one big thing lacking here.
The engine is from the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which probably isn’t what a Porsche owner wants to hear. It’s a good engine, no doubt, refined and responsive enough and a good match for the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, yet the engine is hardly raucous in the hatchback and it certainly isn’t in this larger, heavier SUV. It’s an impossibility, but Porsche should try the Honda Civic Type R’s engine if it really wanted to go down the strong and characterful hot-hatch engine route…
It has been a while since I drove a four-cylinder Macan, admittedly, yet my test route didn’t reveal a substantial difference between the standard car and the T, and it’s all largely as I remember it. The steering in particular retains lots of feel and feedback, while the ride-and-handling balance is well judged for a car of this type to involve you in the drive rather than excite you by it. There’s never the eureka moment you get when driving one of the six-cylinder Macans fitted with air springs that just hold the road so well and remove any notion that SUVs can’t handle.
Whisper it, but this seemingly ever-young and ever-popular car is also starting to feel a little old. That’s because it is: the ‘second-generation’ Macan of 2018 was really only a substantial refresh of the 2014 original, and this shared architecture wasn’t fresh out of the box then, either. The cabin architecture and design in particular feel quite staid, T or not with T, and Android Auto inexplicably remains absent.
I understand the theory behind the positioning of the Macan T and why Porsche wants to add more sparkle to the Macan that remains the cheapest four-door or five-door Porsche to buy, run, own and tax. Yet this car doesn’t do enough to stand alone as a model in its own right, especially with no power upgrade to more easily distinguish it.
The T costs just £1000 less than the V6-powered Macan S, a night-and-day upgrade in terms of power, performance and the way that it involves and excites you as a driver. It would be far better offered as an optional package on the base Macan, bundling together some of the desirable bits that would else be options, like BMW does with M Sport trim. But then does the T badge really hold much allure to Macan buyers?
As it is, the inevitable ‘just pay the extra grand and buy the Macan S’ statements will be fired the way of the Macan T, and fairly so.