AOL Cars RTOTY 2014: Porsche Macan Turbo
It wouldn't be Road Test of the Year without a Porsche, and sure enough we've brought one along. However it isn't the ground-hugging 911 you may have been expecting, but the brand's latest 4x4, the Macan Turbo. Porsche claims it drives like a sports car, and if acquits itself well in Wales that surely won't be a lie. James Batchelor decides.
There wasn't an ounce of snow. Or a droplet of water. Just fine, unbroken days of sunshine. Quite often on these types of trips to Wales, the weather forecast says one thing but the country decides to do something quite different.
So when Porsche said it couldn't honour the loan of a box-fresh 911 GT3 – because the UK press office's car still had its engine in Stuttgart – and instead offered a Macan Turbo, I didn't really mind. There had to be one day out of the planned three where we would take comfort in the safe environs of Porsche's four-wheel-drive system.
But that never happened – something much better did. For all of that dry weather showed off the Macan's greatest party trick: it actually drives like a sports car.
I know, I know. That last sentence sounds as though I've swallowed the artificial-sounding press pack, but I haven't. The Macan takes performance SUVs to another level in ability. But more of that later.
It was good to get back behind the wheel of the Macan. I'd been on the UK launch of the car at Goodwood Motor Circuit in May – and, what with there being no off-road course and 2.3 miles of West Sussex Tarmac to use instead, it's clear to see that Porsche thinks of the Macan as a high-riding sports car and not a mud-plugging rock crawler.
After laps and laps at Goodwood, I came away impressed. Who wouldn't? But I had my doubts as I pulled shut the driver's door and got reacquainted with an interior lavished in leather just a few shades lighter than butterscotch. Surely on twisty Welsh roads the aura would be lost?
How wrong I was. If anything, the Macan got better in a more natural environment. All that press pack puff of it being a proper sports car-cum-SUV is true as soon as you point the angular bonnet down a twisting and bending escarpment. Quite apart from the gargantuan power figures the 3.6-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 musters – 396bhp if you're wondering – it rides, handles and steers with such magnificent confidence that it writes a new rule book for what SUVs can achieve.
The Turbo is designed for the type of buyer who can no longer run a 911 as an everyday car. It's the more sensible Macan S and Macan Diesel S that will appeal to the majority – not this hot-headed version.
Those cars' more reasonable asking price of £43k and easier-to-digest fuel consumption figures would sway most buyers' cheque books. But as we pulled into a lay-by to take a breather before taking on a mountain road, it's the Turbo that steals the heart.
Model: Porsche Macan Turbo
Price: £67,423 (as tested)
Engine: 3.6-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 396bhp, 550Nm
Max speed: 165mph
MPG (combined): 31.7
Read the fifth installment on the Volkswagen Golf R here.