Test Drive: 2020 Porsche Macan S

Behind the wheel of a crossover that draws inspiration from the beloved 911

Porsche’s 2020 Macan S may have caught us off guard, but after a few hundred miles behind the wheel over the course of a long weekend, we can confidently say it’s one of the highest-quality crossovers on sale right now and one of German carmaker’s most interesting vehicles. Arriving at the former conclusion wasn’t much of a surprise, but the latter certainly was. After all, Porsche makes plenty of interesting vehicles (most with two doors, carbon bucket seats and aerodynamic accessories), but they’ve also continued to improve upon their four-door vehicles since the Cayenne arrived in 2003 and the Panamera in 2010. It seems everything they learned building these models and from shifting the 911 from a pure sports car to a grand touring sports car is baked into the 2020 Macan S.

On the crumbling surface streets and worn-down freeways of LA, the Macan S offers welcome insulation—thanks in part to the 20-inch wheels wrapped in tires with some actual sidewall. Many vehicles these days need 21- or 22-inch (or even larger) wheels filling out their fenders to attain some visual appeal and this goes doubly for crossovers. It’s testament to the quality of the exterior design of the Macan that Porsche also offers a 19-inch wheel for it, a wheel that would also look good shod in an aggressive off-road tire. It may seem odd to want off-road tires on a Macan, but even with the all-seasons tires our test vehicle came with, this is a crossover with legitimate dirt capabilities. The Macan is deserving of its “Off-Road” button found to the lower left of the gear selector.

The car’s paved road-holding ability is incredibly impressive—some of the best we have experienced in a crossover. It remains planted through corners, even during those “Whoops, I didn’t realize I was doing that” moments. Both the four-wheel-drive system and the suspension have been re-tuned for the 2020 model. The Macan now uses aluminum front axle spring-forks instead of steel, improving rigidity and reducing unsprung mass. This results in a more precise steering experience and even better ride comfort—something appreciated on the highway with serious crosswinds blowing for the duration of our drive in the high desert.

The revised front fascia may have more 911 styling flourishes than the first generation Macan, but the car retains Cayenne-like versatility beyond the pavement—perhaps boasting even more, given its manageable size. Though we clear obstacles and place wheels without too much trouble, we certainly would welcome a forward-facing camera during our off-road excursions, especially paired with the updated infotainment system.

We’ve come to expect impeccable infotainment from Porsche in recent years, as they went from clunky to crisp in what seemed like a flash, and the 10.9-inch touchscreen in the Macan’s dashboard running the sharp Porsche Communication Management (PCM) software doesn’t disappoint. It’s bright, colorful and intuitive. The tactile feel of the screen itself is on par with the latest premium smartphones and (just like on those phones) you can easily rearrange home-screen widgets. In order to make room for the new screen, the center stack was also redesigned, moving the vents under the screen instead of to the sides of it. Although they’re much smaller, they still crank out plenty of much-needed heat up in the mountains as well as AC during the drive back through the Mojave desert.

Among the welcome updates are the revised controls, and the car can be equipped with the trick rotating mode-selector with the Sport Response button at the center, giving you 20 seconds of heightened power and transmission response. Both are part of the optional Sports Chrono Package that also adds an analog clock on the dashboard.

Also not standard, but worth paying extra for, is the sportier GT steering wheel, which is based on that of the 911. With all the information coming from the road to your hands (and the reworked 348hp twin-turbo V6), you’re going to be inspired to mix it up a bit. That slightly smaller, sportier wheel will pay dividends.

If anyone was going to create joy in a crossover, it was going to be Porsche. And the brand’s deputy chairman Lutz Meschke has said that with the arrival of a fully electric Macan in 2021, internal-combustion engine models will be slowly phased out with timetables varying by market. At present, Porsche’s sole EV offering is the positively reviewed (but steeply priced) Taycan. It’s hard to imagine the carmaker’s best-selling model being solely offered as an EV. That said, considering how cleverly Porsche has approached the 2020 Macan S, it’s completely plausible to imagine that future iterations of the Macan will retain the adventurous personality we find in it.

Images by Andrew Maness