Twelve years ago
Porsche drove its first SUV right over the hills and through the hearts of its loyalists. Purists cried foul, forums formed virtual lynch mobs and critics carefully balked. I too rebuffed the idea of a Porsche truck, barking some unrealistic proclamation that any owner of a Porsche SUV should first own one with two doors.

MORE CUVS: Breaking Down the Porsche Macan | 5 Best Performance CUVs | A Quick Spin in the Audi SQ5

Buyers responded with their wallets and bought the Cayenne as fast as they came. Hindsight would later prove us naysayers wrong. It was the manifest response to the pent-up demand households had for a Porsche (we’ve finally made it, hun!) but couldn’t cram their kids into a 911. Dads wanted a Porsche. Moms wanted practicality. The Cayenne sold like gangbusters.

This is all running through my head as I barrel along the Angeles Forest Highway. I’m dazzled by the performance of the Macan Turbo ($72,300+) I’m driving. I’m equally surprised at how much I expected it to impress.

First, crossovers are currently the fastest growing car segment in America. Second, we live in a day where “terrible” cars are far and few between — a bittersweet notion if you like a good motoring tragedy every now and then. Third, this is Porsche. Bluffs and high pairs are not the German maverick’s style in high-stakes motoring poker. Stuttgart much prefers the full house, aces high.

With each mile ticked on the odometer, my misgivings of a Porsche with more than two doors disappeared. The Macan crushed the roads (both on and off) set out before me. As chicanes and undulations vanished, I marveled at all the engineering between the gossamer-thin rubber that meets the road and the tidy steering wheel in my hands — one it shares with the $850,000 Porsche 918.

Depending on how much you read (or care) you might think of the Audi Q5 or SQ5 when you see the Porsche Macan. You’d be right in making the parallel; but, in the ever-globalization of platforms, the two are relatively distant siblings, sharing just 30 percent of their components. In a nutshell, Porsche kept the suspension, shed 300 pounds, tossed the Quattro for their own all-wheel-drive apparatus, which can direct 100 percent of power to any single wheel, then made available its toolbox of sweet add-ons like Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) which is as Lucasfilm-y as it sounds. PTV’s clever rear differential virtually eliminates understeer, making the Macan drive like a car should, which is rear-wheel-drive. Pile on Porsche’s flawless PDK dual-clutch transmission (standard), hit Sport Plus, and you’ll swear you’re witnessing the second coming of the performance catchall. There are two power options: in the Macan S, a potent 340 horsepower mill good for 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, and in the Macan Turbo, a 394 monster that delivers 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Here’s the catch: both engines are actually equipped with turbos, but only the latter gets you the badge.

HOW WE’D SPEC OURS

Porsche-Macan-Sidebar-Gear-Patrol

For the record, we’d spend our money on a Macan S and add on the torque vectoring (PTV), suspension management (PTM), and the Sport Chrono package, tick off “white” and the soaring Burmester sound system. The savings difference? We’d pick up a couple of new bikes, skis and a trip to Chamonix — twice over. Or, stash it for a vintage Porsche.

If you live in a place where weather is unpredictable or predictably bad, the Macan’s inclement and off-road performance will surprise, sure-footing its way through 99 percent of the off-road conditions anyone will likely encounter. Porsche proved this in an surprisingly technical off-road test involving 40 percent inclines and deeply rutted desert paths that would challenge any SUV’s articulation. Despite the absence of a low range or lofty ground clearance, the Macan relegated all the challenges to one-handed operations.

In other words, a cerebral German engineer has removed the drop of the other shoe. It’s difficult to find significant flaws, except cargo room — that gorgeous roof and belt line have to come at the expense of something — and again, price. The Macan Turbo you see in our photos is outfitted at a staggering $102,500. But c’mon, it’s a Porsche; you know that option list is deep. Agility, off-road mettle, performance and comfort.

Ultimately, the Macan is the latest facet in Porsche’s bulwark against impending competition. Porsche is no longer a one-car company, it’s an ecosystem. Stuttgart is happy to hand you the key to a Porsche at any point on your upward trajectory. Long gone are misgivings of a Porsche (enthusiasts may simply avert their eyes to the 911 GTR-S and the stuff-of-the-future 918). I was wrong, and I’m glad to admit it.

Macan S
Macan Turbo