ROAD TEST: Porsche Macan remains the benchmark sporty SUV
PORSCHE'S perennial 911 may get all the love from the motoring fans but it's the Macan and Cayenne that make a mint for Germany's premier performance car brand.
Both SUVs share a significant percentage of their structure, mechanical components and electronics with VW and Audi models. The Porsche badge, costing very little to make, adds major dollars to the price - which is why Porsche is VW's most profitable brand.
In fairness, the mid-size Macan is more than just a badge-engineered Audi Q5 with a fat mark-up. Porsche does its own calibration on engine, gearbox, steering and suspension, fits screamer turbo engines for high-end versions and adds the stuff you see and touch, such as sheetmetal, controls and cabin decor.
The result, as you would expect from Porsche, is an SUV that goes, handles, steers and stops better than any other.
Macan prices start at $81,400 for the 185kW 2.0-litre turbo four, with a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox and all-wheel drive.
We're testing the Macan S, priced at $97,500 and extensively updated for 2019.
Its direct injection 3.0-litre twin scroll turbo V6 produces 10kW more power and 20Nm more torque than its twin-turbo predecessor.
Now with 260kW/480Nm on tap, the Macan S reaches 100km/h in 5.1 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than the previous model) en route to a top speed of 254km/h.
The reflexes of the dual-clutch auto - already the quickest in the game - are further sharpened in Sport mode.
Sports Chrono (a $2790 option) features a steering wheel-mounted mode switch from the 911, including a Sport Response button that primes the engine for 20 seconds to give you immediate, ballistic response to the accelerator.
Replacing the steel front suspension with aluminium components improves rigidity, control, steering precision and ride comfort.
Lighter, more direct mechanical linkages sharpen brake pedal feel and responsiveness, while larger discs and six-piston front calipers ensure the Macan S stops from high speed with Porsche's characteristic eyeball-popping power.
Stronger engine mounts improve turn-in agility and accuracy - when accelerating hard out of a corner, reduced engine movement also helps the Macan maintain a tight line rather than wanting to run wide.
Porsche's objective with these intricate engineering changes is to keep the Macan ahead of an ever-hungrier pack of rivals. When launched in 2014, no other SUV could touch it as a genuinely sporty drive.
Today, however, Alfa Romeo's Stelvio is a credible competitor, as is Jaguar's F-Pace, while the BMW X3M/X4M twins are due shortly. The new Mercedes GLC looks like a pretty handy tool, especially in AMG GLC 63 guise.
None, though, can match Porsche's trade-in values, which are best on the market. According to Redbook, a Macan typically retains 50-60 per cent of its new price after five years.
The original Macan S had quite a raw, aggressive character. This one is more mannered and luxurious - it still carries a big stick but it does so with greater stealth.
It's quieter and the ride is more settled and absorbent, even on the test car's optional 21-inch alloys.
A superb GT-style driver's seat, wrapped in leather, looks after you all day. Rear seat and boot space remain on the tight side of class averages.
The cabin is relatively unchanged, save for a larger infotainment touchscreen, improved smartphone integration and voice control. LED lights at both ends are now standard.
Porsche resists driver assist safety tech, possibly in the mistaken belief that Porsche owners are better drivers than everybody else. Autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise are optional, as is blind spot monitoring.
The second generation Macan S doesn't feel or sound quite as mean and toey as the original but it's just as ruthlessly effective on the road.
Its new V6 makes the same dreary noises as any other heavy-breathing turbo but when you select Sport or Sport Plus and pop the question, the answer is, well, best not repeated in front of the kiddies.
This thing flies, even if your perception of acceleration is less intense - until you look at the speedo and wonder how you got there so fast.
The update adds a little weight and fuel consumption has increased. Handling, though, remains the No. 1 reason you would buy it.
Without the benefit of a same-day comparison test against its rivals, I would still back the Porsche to show them its tail-lights when the going gets earnest.
So it does what a Porsche should do. That said, Alfa's Stelvio Ti has a greater rear-wheel drive bias, plus quicker, more involving steering, and is just as capable and enjoyable to drive at sane speeds.
I want … no, make that need … a Porsche badge with a serious engine behind it and this is the cheapest way to get it.
If I didn't have to carry the darling children around, I'd buy a Cayman coupe. The Porsche badge is worth paying extra for. Just look at the trade-in values.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti from $78,900
Runs a 206kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo/eight-speed automatic. The 0-100km/h sprint takes 5.7 seconds. The Macan is more polished and potent but the Stelvio is a great drive too. You save nearly $20,000.
Jaguar F-Pace 35T S from $107,823
I haven't driven this but on paper it's a direct rival. I have tested other Jags with the 280kW/450Nm supercharged 3.0-litre V6 and it's a beast. 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds. Eight-speed automatic. Loaded with gear.
Before the Macan, there was no such thing as a genuine sports SUV - rivals lurk but this update remains the benchmark for SUV handling. Market-leading trade-in values put Porsche prices into perspective.
Porsche Macan S
Price: $97,500 (pricey)
Warranty/servicing: 3 years, $2500 for 3 years
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 260kW/480Nm
Safety: Not rated, 8 airbags, surround view camera, lane departure warning