- Bold new compact crossover combines style and practicality with stunning impact
- 91mpg diesel, 110hp turbo petrol, innovative Airbump technology, cool design
- £13,000 – £18,000 (approx. TBC) | On sale in the UK October 2014
Our new car reviews help new car buyers research the latest models in plain English. We avoid jargon in our road tests to help you make an informed decision
- 560hp California T becomes first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40
- Much better looking, latest tech, sharper driving, still comfortable
- £154,490 | on sale now, UK deliveries September 2014
New trim variant combines sporty looks and fuel efficient engines; it’s a rival to BMW M3-like M Sport and Audi S4-like S line trims. Priced from £33,995, it’s on sale now
CJ Hubbard | May 2014
This is a strong contender for the best premium SUV currently on sale – and we aren’t just talking about the Porsche Macan in general, but this S Diesel model in particular.
Combing a gold-standard brand image with a thumping V6 turbodiesel that claims more than 46mpg, and then wrapping the entire lot up in what we think is one of the best-looking off-roader designs on the market – well, if that isn’t a recipe for success we’ll eat the steering wheel. Which just happens to be similar to that fitted in the Porsche 918 hypercar. The Macan is not messing around.
But more than this, the S Diesel also quite astonishingly accomplished to drive. Looking for a more practical Porsche but put off but the sheer bulk (and cost) of the Cayenne and Panamera? Even if you’re coming from a Cayman or Boxster, the Macan is unlikely to disappoint. Just be prepared to pay for the privilege…
What is the 2014 Porsche Macan S Diesel like to drive?
At a basic price of £43,300, the Macan S Diesel is already an expensive choice. That it costs the same as the turbo petrol S is interesting, but probably irrelevant; you’ll either want the petrol’s extra speed (0-62mph in 5.4 versus 6.3) or prefer the diesel’s greater economy (32.5mpg versus 46.3mpg). What is worth mentioning here is that the test car had a few options – the total showroom tally being an outstanding £63,660.
Still, only £1,789 of that was directly focused on improving the handling – the amount you’ll pay for air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) – and the Macan is fundamentally a very well sorted machine to drive. Porsche will even try to tell you it’s a sports car rather than an SUV, but that’s taking things a little too far. Not even the firmest suspension setting here could completely overcome the higher centre of gravity that causes the Macan to lean its way through corners at speed.
Having said that, the Macan retains enough compliance to be comfortable and composed over bumps in this setting. The steering is positive and precise, and its one of few SUVs we’ve ever driven that really goads you into pressing on. The whole thing feels alive at your fingertips, and the decidedly rear-biased power delivery of the four-wheel system gives you a proper shove out of the turns, in a manner that’s actually reminiscent of – whisper it – Porsche’s own 911. But then, the 911 did serve as the Macan’s development benchmark at the Nürburgring.
The seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox is smooth, and amongst the very best when it comes to paddleshift inputs, while the 258hp diesel engine’s refinement is first rate. There’s never a hint of dirge once warm, and the faint, turbinous boosting noises it makes when passing slower traffic swell with character. 458lb ft of torque at just 1,750rpm makes very light work of this, too.
Is the Porsche Macan S Diesel the best SUV on sale?
Of course, it’s hard to imagine Porsche failing to deliver a stunning drive on current form – and that’s before you learn that the firm spent €1 billion on the Macan’s engineering programme. So although it is based on fundamentally the same architecture as the Audi Q5 – and Audi will also sell you a more powerful 315hp diesel in SQ5 guise for similar money – the feeling you get from behind the wheel of the Macan is very different. There really are elements of Cayman DNA here for enthusiastic drivers to get their teeth into.
Beyond this, the Macan is also beautifully finished inside and out. The dashboard is dominated by a rev counter, in traditional Porsche fashion, while the rising centre console is a design cue that also separates this car from those of other brands. The open-spoked 918 steering wheel is also a delight, allowing you an even better view of the gorgeous metal paddleshifters. There’s enough space in the back for two adults to get relatively comfortable, while the boot’s nominal volume is a useful 500 litres – which expands to 1,500 litres with the rear seats folded. A powered tailgate is standard.
CO2 emissions of 159g/km mean you’ll pay £180 a year in road tax, more than reasonable considering the performance. Official fuel economy is 46.3mpg – and we know from experience with other Porsches that you might actually achieve this on a the motorway, thanks to a combination of efficiency measures that include stop-start and a coasting function that disconnects the drivetrain whenever you’re off the power, instantly saving fuel. Drive it more in the manner the chassis encourages, though, and don’t be shocked if you halve that figure.
The Macan does also have an “Off-road” button, which makes some changes to the way the electronic stability and traction control systems work. But it’s no Range Rover, and we can’t see too many people taking one further than the occasional muddy field doubling as an event’s parking lot.
MR Verdict: Porsche Macan S Diesel
The Porsche Macan S Diesel is very, very good. Expensive – yes, but that’s not the same as saying it doesn’t deliver value for money. The combination of image and accomplishment here is simply unrivalled at the compact end of the SUV market. Sometimes if you want the best, you have to pay for it, and this is an excellent example.
If you can afford the entry price, perhaps you aren’t worried about running costs – and the petrol alternatives certainly deliver an even greater performance hit than the Macan S Diesel. But the torque-rich response of the diesel means it can do relaxed as well as rapid, and you will also travel further between fuel stops. It’s one hell of an all-rounder. And a proper Porsche.
- Audi SQ5
- BMW X4
- Infiniti QX50
- Range Rover Evoque
- Nissan Qashqai
Porsche Macan S Diesel specification
Engine 3.0 turbodiesel
Drivetrain front engine, four-wheel drive, seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic with paddleshifters
Price from £43,300
Power 258hp @ 4,000-4,250rpm
Torque 428lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
0-62mph 6.3 seconds
Top speed 142mph
- 195hp diesel version of good-looking GTC Astra ‘coupe’
- Offers twin-turbo performance without the OTT turbo roar of a full-fat VXR
- Priced from £24,175 | On sale now
Richard Aucock | May 2014
The Vauxhall Astra VXR is a bit of an animal. Which is how it should be. So too was the 1980s Astra GTE, and that’s what made it so distinctly appealing alongside the Ford Escort XR3i and Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s taken Vauxhall a few goes to discover the dose of sophistication that modern buyers demand with the VXR, but the latest one is a very well engineered machine.
But still, with 280hp, an absolute ballistic missile.
For some (many?), it’s a bit too much. One for the enthusiasts only, really. So, for those who want some of its performance potency in a slightly more daily-use package – and who’d like to benefit from the extra fuel efficiency that’s made the Volkswagen Golf GTD such a hit – Vauxhall now has another special GTC variant: the Bi-Turbo.
As the name indicates, it has two turbocharger, and 195hp. Heavens, even the latest Golf GTI only has 220hp in base guise, and its 258lb ft of torque is also dwarfed by the Astra’s 295lb ft.
Vauxhall’s not given it the full on VXR visual makeover but there’s enough bespoke stuff here to mark it out: twin exhausts, Corvette Stingray-style black edge to the rear spoiler, more heavily sculpted front bumper. Add in the already striking GTC shape and you potentially have something rather unexpectedly special.
What is the 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo like to drive?
Vauxhall fits its expensive HiPerStrut front suspension to all Astra GTC. This is proper engineering: it gives the car a well-honed feel because it allows lots of drive to be channelled through the front wheels without the steering throwing a hissy fit.
It’s particularly impressive with the Bi-Turbo.
The engine is nice too. Vauxhall’s 2.0-litre CDTi motors are typically clattery things, but the dual turbos has taken the edge off that racket here. More impressively, it delivers its pulling power with expensive sophistication, driving near-immediately to the throttle from 1,000rpm round to the redline without hesitation or rumble. In use, it feels high-quality, even if the rather baulky and loose six-speed gearbox slightly spoils the sensation.
The flipside to the grumbly gearbox is the sensation of power coming instantly as you change gear. There’s no sense of waiting for the turbo to speed up again and this linearity feels very satisfying, particularly when you’re pedalling hard. It also responds with accuracy to tiny throttle inputs, something that complements the surprising sensitivity of the steering to small, measured inputs.
Is the 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo a better VXR?
The Vauxhall Astra VXR is a 280hp monster. Its 2.0-litre turbo engine has never been subtle and, with that 295lb ft of torque from 2,400-4,500rpm to play with, it can seem demonic (not through an excess of torque steer, we hasten to add – that HiPerStrut again). The Bi-Turbo isn’t as fast or as fearsome as this, but still delivers usefully hot pace – and does so in a more precisely engineered way.
Some who remember woolly old performance Vauxhalls won’t believe this but the sense of precision quality (yes, we said precision) you get from the Bi-Turbo is very pleasing. It’s not Focus-like (or, perhaps, not how the Focus used to be) in its feedback-laden detail. But drivers will still draw pleasure from it, in a similar way they do from an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.
It also doesn’t have the slight Asbo appearance of a VXR (or the sounds effects of one in action). You decide if that’s a good thing or not: we’re big fans of the VXR here…
MR VERDICT: 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo
The classy performance diesel hot hatch of choice is the Volkswagen Golf GTD. But we reckon the Astra GTC Bi-Turbo is just as appealing, mainly through the interesting and very pleasing power delivery of its more-powerful oil-burning motor. A car enthusiast will find a little bit intriguing, and certainly something that shouldn’t bore them.
We know from experience that the Astra VXR is an incredibly fast hot hatch – a level above things like Golf GTIs and Ford Focus STs. But for some, it’s too much of a hotshot. The Bi-Turbo may thus be just the thing for them – and 50mpg potential in daily running rather than half that adds not a little further bit of appeal too…
- Volkswagen Golf GTD
- SEAT Leon FR
- BMW 220d
- Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 CDI
- Audi A3
Specification: 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Drivetrain: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Prices from: £24,175
Torque: 295lb ft
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 139mph
CJ Hubbard | May 2014
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