Porsche's Macan can't be an off-road performer, can it? The truck is clearly optimized for on-road comfort, and we've already discussed it's ability to embarrass lesser sports cars on the track, and nobody has ever heard of a 'soft-roader' built for parking lot prowess making any inroads in the off-road world.
Well, Porsche's new Macan has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it a truly capable off-roader. The trending theme with this car is that it is surprising. It surprised the heck out of me on the race track at Willow Springs, and it continued to surprise, and if I'm honest impress, on Willow's off-road course. Porsche's engineers managed to make their small SUV capable on-road, off-road, and everywhere in between. I'm convinced there is witchcraft and trickery involved.
The Macans we were given to drive up the course were all equipped in the same fashion. We were all provided with a near-identical Macan S that was endowed with optional air suspension. The guys at Porsche said they were considering fitting the car with an all-terrain tire, but after some brief consideration were relatively certain that the car could handle the climb on its standard fitment tires without issue. Turns out they were right.
Willow Spring's Off-Road Course
The off-road course at Willow Springs is a relatively simple course that provides a winding two-track course up one of the nearby hills overlooking the three road courses they have at their disposal. There are essentially three sections to the climb.
1. The first section is a light incline with massive rutting. This tests the truck's ground clearance and angles of attack, as well as chassis stiffness, often getting wheels up in the air. You have to strategically place the Macan through this section, but ours handled it with aplomb.
2. The second section is a medium grade long straight uphill bit that requires only a little intestinal fortitude to traverse. The levels of grip and the car's ability to maintain traction are tested here, and requires a judicious throttle foot.
3. The third section, much steeper than the second, requires everything you've got to keep your eyes open and focused. Though shorter than section 2, section 3 has a higher vertical gain in a very short distance, and you cannot see the top from the driver's seat. Again, this is a point and shoot situation, requiring utmost trust in the ability of the Maca to traverse loose gravel. Continuing to surprise, the Porsche managed the hill without issue.
As impressive as the Macan was going UP the hill, it was doubly so going back down. After we'd gotten the trucks (can you call a Macan a truck?) turned around at the top and pointed back down, we were aiming at where we knew there was a trail, but simply couldn't see. From the driver's seat, we could only see blue sky, and had to trust that the steep two-tracker was still there. With the air suspension in its highest mode, and the off-road button engaged, we were able to dial in a set speed of 2 miles per hour and the Macan would maintain that speed without further input. We could crawl down the hill at 2 mph, and the Porsche kept it at exactly that speed until we either supplied brake or throttle.
It was a little bit eerie to have the Macan doing things that we didn't necessarily control, but boy did it make the hill descent simple and drama-free. You still had to place the Porsche where it needed to be in order to smoothly transition down the hill, but speed control was one less thing you had to pay attention to. Especially for someone who has literally never been off-road before, the tech made it easy for me to maintain my cool and just get to the business of keeping our Macan shiny side up.
The Off-Road Button Is To Four Wheeling As The Sport Button Is To Track Driving
As good as the Sport button is for the Macan's on-road and on-track manners, the off-road button makes things equally great for driving one off-road. With one press of that button, the car is instantly transformed into a pseudo rock-crawler. Angle of approach on air-suspended vehicles increases with right height to a respectable 19 degrees. The PSM stability management, and the PTV torque vectoring both increase their levels of activity to off-road levels in case of 'low traction events'. The electronic throttle adjusts its sensitivity in order to provide smoother inputs.
How To Equip Your Macan For Off-Road Excursions
If you are looking for the perfect Macan to take on a little light off-roading adventure, I would definitely opt for one similarly equipped to this. Get a Macan S, as the Turbo's extra power won't be a whole lot of help in low traction situations, and the S engine has more than enough power to keep you out of trouble. Definitely get the air-ride suspension, as it will help with additional ride height. Last of all, stay away from the bigger wheel options. Stick with the standard 17" wheels, or possibly an 18" option. Be sure to order a set of Porsche's stainless-steel skid plates ($1,410 from the Tequipment catalog) or have a set custom made by a local off-road shop. Once you've got the car, invest in a good set of all-terrain tires, as it is really the tire that makes a lot of the difference. If you're serious about embarrassing a few JEEP owners on the trails, BF Goodrich is coming out with a new replacement for their
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO called the T/A KO2 that is supposed to be amazing, and getting one in a 17 or 18 inch shouldn't be too difficult in the near future at Tire Rack.
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Our On-Track Review Of The Porsche Macan
Watch How Porsche Tests The New Macan On And Off-Road
How Does The Porsche Macan Compare To The Range Rover Evoque?
Is The Porsche Macan Big Enough For Everyday Practicality?
We Answer All Your Porsche Macan Questions