At the press launch of the 2015 Porsche Macan, the automaker cited research showing how the luxury small-crossover segment has grown 185 percent since 2007, to some 1.3 millions units worldwide. Such entries as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque, Lexus RX, and Mercedes-Benz GLK have obviously resonated well with buyers. And the research projects that through 2024 the segment will grow another 3.4 percent annually.

In other words, there are a lot of high-priced, high-profit SUVs to be hocked over the next decade. Of course, Porsche didn't require any research to realize it needed in on this especially lucrative proposition. Enter the Macan.

Based on the Audi Q5, the two-row, five-seat Macan -- its name is derived from the Indonesian word for tiger -- starts at a "mere" $50,895, making it the second-least-expensive vehicle in the Porsche portfolio, at $300 dearer than a base 300-hp Cayenne. That price tag designates a Macan S, whose 340-hp, 339-lb-ft twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic, and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive are good for 0-60 mph in as little as 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 156 mph. Step up to the 400-hp, 406-lb-ft twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 Macan Turbo, which improves the previous stats to a manufacturer-estimated 4.4 seconds and 164 mph, respectively, and you'll shell out $73,295. Still, even at those eye-opening prices, Porsche plans to sell at least 50,000 Macans per year, with the flexibility to increase capacity if demand calls for it. All Macans will be built alongside the Cayenne and Panamera at the Leipzig factory where Porsche recently invested 500 million euro and added 1500 jobs. With diesel and plug-in hybrid variants in the pipeline (the 258-hp, 428-lb-ft turbo 3.0-liter diesel is confirmed for calendar year 2015), Macan capacity will be going nowhere but up.

One survey of the Macan's steel and aluminum façade, and it's easy to see the family resemblances to the Cayenne (front), and to some extent, the 911 (rear). Michael Mauer, vice president of style at Porsche, takes pride in his new crossover's coupelike profile (the slant of the rear window is severe, but still allows for 17.7 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats up) and accentuated rear shoulders that highlight the use of mixed-size tires (as wide as 265 mm front and 295 rear). There's even a 918-inspired profile "blade" that comes standard in black (S) or body color (Turbo), with a $1390 option to go with carbon fiber. Speaking of the 918, its steering wheel was used as the basis for the one in the Macan, whose interior treatment -- round gauges, 7-inch touch screen, and button-heavy center tunnel -- otherwise smacks of Cayenne and Panamera.

My drive began on Porsche's FIA-certified 2.3-mile road circuit that sits adjacent to the Leipzig factory. Every new Porsche that rolls out of the plant is taken on an evaluation run on this demanding track. First up: an S fitted with winter tires (summer tires are a no-cost option), $1360 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), $1490 Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), and $1290 Sport Chrono Package that includes launch control and a Sport Plus button. No surprise, the dynamics were excellent for a roughly 4100-pound, 63.4-inch-tall crossover. Despite the winter rubber limiting grip and producing more understeer than desired, the S proved predictable, fun, and plenty quick, its PTV Plus showing a grin-inducing propensity for rotating the rear under acceleration. Moreover, the brakes – front 13.8-inch discs with six-piston calipers, rear 13.0-inch discs with single-piston calipers – delivered ample stopping force, PTM effortlessly put down power, and the steering provided commendable linearity, albeit with minimal feel. Next up was the Turbo. It, too, was fitted with winter tires, PASM, PTV Plus, and Sport Chrono. Notable upgrades included the brawnier engine, larger 14.2-inch front/14.0-inch rear brakes (with red calipers instead of silver), and $2745 air suspension. Downgrade? An estimated 100 extra pounds of curb weight. While acceleration was noticeably better, improvement in handling seemed negligible at best. So unless stoplight drag racing is a priority, stick with the S.

Following the track portion, I sampled a Macan S with air suspension on the grounds' 3.7-mile off-road circuit. Though 99 percent of Macan owners will never venture along topography mimicking the course's 15 obstacles, which included a rocky climb, a side slant, and a steep ascent that Edmund Hillary would've struggled to navigate, it's reassuring for the one percent to know this "soft-roader" can tackle tough terrain at the touch of a button. When engaged, Off-Road mode optimizes throttle sensitivity, shift points, and torque split to overcome the hairiest of endeavors. And if you are part of the one percent, opt for the air suspension, which raises maximum ground clearance from the steel springs' 7.5 inches to 9.1, making the standard Hill Descent Control that much more fun to demonstrate.

Transitioning from off-road to the real world, the Macan wasted little time impressing with its luxury, refinement, and athleticism. Along country roads and the autobahn, the S and Turbo pampered drivers and passengers with a quiet, posh cabin; a supple yet sporty ride; and the power and poise to handle triple-digit blasts and meandering sweepers with equal ease. Throw in such options as $1600 Adaptive Cruise Control, $1380 Lane Keep Assist with Lane Change Assist, $1050 front/rear heated seats, $3140 Porsche Communication Management (PCM) with navigation (standard on Turbo), and $5690 Burmester High-End Surround System, and the Macan is a safe and sumptuous place to motor.

View 92 additional photos of the 2015 Porsche Macan and 2015 Porsche Macan Turbo on the second page of this review RIGHT HERE.

Matthias Müller, chairman of the board at Porsche, called the Macan "the right vehicle at the right time," adding that it would not only "win over completely new customers," but also "keep current customers happy." I'm inclined to agree. After all, based on the undeniable success of the Cayenne and polarizing Panamera, both initially doubted and ridiculed by Porsche purists and auto experts, there's no reason to question Müller's claims. With more than 162,000 vehicles sold worldwide in 2013, he's proven he can ring a register with the best of them.


2015 Porsche Macan S, Turbo
BASE PRICE $50,895-$73,295
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/340-hp/339-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC V-6; 3.6L/400-hp/406-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC V-6
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4100-4200 lb (mfr est)
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 184.3 x 76.1 x 63.4 in
0-60 MPH 4.4-5.2 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 18-19/25-28 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 177-187 / 120-135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.87-0.94 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. May 2014

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