911 with a fancy fanny pack
THE GOOD
  • Unmatched driving dynamics
  • Style and grace
  • More practical than a 911
THE BAD
  • Laborious steering at all times
  • Options add up quickly
  • No Android Auto

Whenever I see a baby seat strapped into the back seat of a Porsche 911, my heart swells and I applaud the hero parents who prioritize pleasure over practicality.

They’re a rare breed – a bunch of weirdos who I really identify with. My own weirdo parents drove me home from the hospital in the back of their little 911, instilling in me from Day One their passion for driving and fancy things.

Back then, there was no such thing as performance SUVs; you either had a sports car or a minivan – there was little in-between (though they did have an M5 for a little bit and dabbled with Alfa Romeos from time to time). But if there was ever an automaker that was qualified to make a vehicle for renegades like my parents, it would be Porsche, and today, that means no longer picking between driving joy and practicality. With vehicles like the 2021 Porsche Macan GTS, they can have both.

Powertrain: 10/10

The Macan GTS is the second from the top in the lineup, with the most beastly one being the Turbo. The GTS is powered by the same 2.9L twin-turbo V6 as that model but outputs 375 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, which gets to all four wheels with a rear bias via a snappy and seamless seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmission. It’s enough to sling the Macan GTS from zero to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds (4.7 seconds with the Sport Chrono package).

That’s more than enough for most people’s needs. When you mat the throttle there is some very obvious turbo lag and it takes a beat for everything to hook up, but once it does you’re rewarded with strong and seemingly unrelenting acceleration. The transmission is happy to drop one or three gears to deliver optimal torque at a moment’s notice. Having a rear-biased all-wheel drive system makes the small SUV feel composed in a corner so it’s not prone to understeer and a driver can instantly see the torque split via a screen in the gauge cluster.

Driving Feel: 9/10

Simply put, the Macan GTS makes any driver, regardless of skill or experience, feel like a hero. Hustle it more quickly than you’re used to through a tight corner and you feel like a pro, the Macan giving you the confidence to push it a little bit harder next time and the exhaust making you grin as you do it. Even on winter tires, the SUV sticks to the pavement and pushes through a corner with astounding composure and unmatched feedback to the driver.

The steering is precise, responsive, and has a wicked weight to it, which is great for those back roads, but simply overkill when trying to park or do a three-point turn. It requires a lot of effort and while it feels fantastic and rewarding at speed, every day will be arm day, even with the SUV in its most relaxed setting. The same is true of the suspension – it’s seemingly always on its stiffest setting, regardless of what driving mode you’re in. While it’s not bone-rattling stiff, it won’t give you that floating-on-a-cloud sensation that other luxury SUVs will. The payoff in how the SUV handles is worth it, though. There’s no automaker out there except for maybe Alfa Romeo that can instill such a strong sense of driving purity into its SUVs. The Macan GTS is essentially like a 911 with a designer fanny pack.

Practicality: 7/10

While the Macan isn’t as practical for family duties as, say, a Toyota Sienna, or even something larger like a Cayenne, it does have a ton more space than a 911. With 488 L of cargo capacity in the trunk and 1,503 L with the rear seats folded flat, there’s no need to wish for a magical shrinking stroller that can fit into a 911’s 132-L front trunk. The seats also split 40/20/40, so four people can still sit inside along with longer items like skis or snowboards.

The button to open the trunk is hidden on the base of the rear wiper, a smart move to limit design clutter but also to keep you from having to blindly squeeze the area around the licence plate looking for the trigger. I had to Google how to open the trunk, so it’s not obvious for someone unfamiliar with the Macan, but once you know how it’s brilliant, and you feel like you’re part of a special club.

The Macan has a button in the trunk that can raise and lower the SUV’s air suspension to make it easier to load stuff. It does make a noticeable difference, but if drivers need to lower the rear seats to make more room for cargo or flip them back into place, they will have to do so manually, and it requires a fair bit of effort because they’re quite heavy.

Inside, there’s a lack of cubbies to stash items like phones and keys, especially if you need the cupholders. It’s still more practical than a sports car, but it’s not the most practical SUV or family hauler out there.

Styling: 9/10

One of the coolest design features of the Macan is something many folks might not even notice: the clamshell hood that has cut-outs for the headlights. Not only is it beneficial for aerodynamics, but it also creates a more cohesive look. This is a tidy-looking and handsome SUV that emanates luxury and has some subtle features (like blacked-out quad tailpipes) that hint at its sportiness.

Inside, the cabin is meticulously crafted though quite serious, so it goes a long way to opt for Porsche’s colourful seatbelts or contrast stitching that adds a much-needed pop of colour and personality. The Macan hasn’t been updated yet to offer Porsche’s more streamlined dashboard with touch-capacitive buttons, so it still looks a bit cluttered.

Safety: 6/10

Unfortunately, there are very few active safety features included as standard in the Macan, which isn’t a good look these days. Pretty much the only stuff included are parking sensors, a government-mandated reverse camera, and lane-departure warning.

Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking.

Features: 6/10

The Macan is heavy on luxury touches like Alcantara faux suede and high-quality metal trim everywhere, but light on tech and features. Wireless Apple CarPlay is included but no Android Auto – and no wireless charger. It has two USB ports in the front and back, but only USB-C compatibility (annoying but nothing a new cable or adapter can’t fix). Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are standard but ventilated front seats and heated rear seats are optional, as are a panoramic sunroof and surround-view parking camera. While Porsche is always segment-leading with its driving dynamics, the Macan is falling behind in terms of features and technology.

User Friendliness: 8/10

Luckily, the features that are offered are easy to figure out. Other than hiding the button for the heated steering wheel inside the bottom spoke (again, something I needed Google to locate), everything is laid out logically. The infotainment system barely requires a learning curve to use, and besides not being able to enter numbers and letters into an address search on the same keyboard, the menus make sense and there’s not too much digging needed to get stuff done. I like the ability to customize the home screen and drag and drop widgets and radio presets, and the screen itself is responsive and the system is quick. Physical climate control buttons and toggles are also appreciated; I find them less distracting to use, but they also came in handy during a serious hiccup with the infotainment system.

So about that problem. I experienced a blue screen of death that wouldn’t go away even after a few power cycles. The blue infotainment screen made it impossible to access anything except the climate control, which meant the reverse camera was also disabled – a major safety concern and a bad look for a vehicle that had less than 4,000 km on the odometer. It ended up sorting itself out after I parked and did some shopping.

Comfort: 7/10

For the driver and front seat passenger, life is great. The seats are supportive and firm, providing plenty of comfort even for longer trips. Head- and shoulder room are also decent. For people in the back, the story is more grim. For a baby seat, it’s doable, but the doors don’t open very wide, so it might not be easy to install in the first place. There might not even be enough room for a toddler back there, and if there’s a taller person in front, there’s a good chance the seat back will get destroyed by little kicking feet. I was unable to enter, exit, or sit comfortably in the back seat with a six-footer sitting in front of me, so it’s definitely only going to work for occasional use.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Macan GTS is rated by Natural Resource Canada (NRCan) to return fuel economy of 13.5 L/100 km in the city, 10.5 on the highway, and 12.2 combined. During my week with the Macan GTS, I averaged 12.0 L/100 km, which should have been lower considering my 580 km of driving was predominantly on the highway and country back roads. Don’t forget that the Macan also requires the highest-octane fuel available and it’s always egging you on to drive like you’re in a rush.

Value: 7/10

Porsche buyers likely aren’t too concerned with value, but I think the brand skimps on a few features someone would be right to expect at the Macan GTS’s starting price of $79,200 before the $1,500 destination fee. Porsche notoriously charges extra for everything, and those additional costs add up quickly.

The Macan does feel like it’s worth the money, however, and it’s great that drivers have so many options to customize their Porsche. While all those dollars go towards the brand’s hallmarks of impeccable driving dynamics, a prestigious badge, obsessive build quality, and an impeccable powertrain, sometimes the lack of stuff like a wireless phone charger or ventilated seats feels cheap at this price point. As tested, this Macan GTS costs six figures, and while that sum can get you a lot more SUV normally, the Macan is a tiny SUV that doesn’t offer the modern conveniences expected at this price.

The Verdict

The 2021 Porsche Macan GTS is a fantastic pick for someone who wants a sports car but needs something more practical. If I look at it through this lens, then I’m more likely to forgive some of its shortcomings as an SUV and not get too caught up in how it compares to other crossovers in its price bracket, focusing instead on driving purity and enjoyment, which the Macan GTS aces.

In the end, I asked my mom whether she was ever upset that she had to trade in sports cars for minivans, and she said she actually enjoyed the change of pace. Now that they’re both retired empty-nesters, my parents would love another sports car, but it’s no secret that they would struggle to get in and out of one, so coming full circle, maybe a vehicle like the Macan GTS would still be a great solution – especially since they have their first grandchild on the way.

Whether it’s a young family with one kid or a driver who wants something sporty but only has room for one vehicle and needs the extra space, the Macan will still make you feel like a hero, even if you’re not proudly ferrying around your baby (or grandchild) in the back of a 911.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.9L   Model Tested 2021 Porsche Macan GTS
Engine Cylinders Twin-turbo V6   Base Price $79,200
Peak Horsepower 375 hp @ 5,200–6,700 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 383 lb-ft @ 1,750–5,000 rpm   Destination Fee $1,500
Fuel Economy 13.5 / 10.5 / 12.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $102,690
Cargo Space 488 L / 1,503 L  
Optional Equipment
$21,890 – Carmine Red, $3,560; GTS Leather Interior Package in Carmine Red, $5,470; Porsche Torque Vectoring Control, $1,700; Panoramic Roof System, $1,910; Roof Rails in Black, $460; Porsche Entry and Drive, $910; Automatically dimming interior and exterior mirrors, $480; Lane Change Assist, $790; Park Assist, $1,360; Tinted LED Main Headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light, $600; Sport Chrono Package, $1,560; BOSE Surround Sound System, $1,130; Adaptive Sport Seats, $1,960