2023 Porsche Macan Review: The little SUV to buy when you love to drive

Pros: It drives like a Porsche; highly customizable; high-quality cabin

Cons: It’s priced like a Porsche; on the small side; below-average fuel economy

For those wanting a small SUV that doesn’t drive like a small SUV, the 2023 Porsche Macan is the best place to start if you’ve got the cash needed for its admittedly steep entry point. Actually, it doesn’t feel like an SUV at all apart from the constant cognitive dissonance of your forward vision being higher off the ground than every other sensation indicates you should be. All of those sensations say you should be in a Porsche sports car, which is pretty cool when you’re just driving the kid to school or going to Target.

That’s especially true once you start to select from the extensive selection of performance options, or just let Porsche do it for you by going with the new Macan T or range-topping Macan GTS. We’d ultimately recommend those most. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Macan S (we enjoyed every moment of our two weeks spent with one), but if you’re going with the best small SUV to drive, you might as well experience it at its most capable and enjoyable. That would be the T and GTS.

That said, if you’re really just looking for a luxurious, well-rounded compact SUV, the Macan may not be the best bet. It’s on the small side, returns below-average fuel economy and its standard feature content for the money is poor. If you’re not looking for driving verve, there are wiser choices.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

The Macan T is added to the model lineup. As we describe fully in our Macan T first drive review, it takes the base Macan four-cylinder engine and applies to it a choice selection of chassis-enhancing features from more performance-oriented models to create a smart choice for a driving enthusiast. We like it quite a bit. After more substantial lineup-wide changes last year, the only other update for 2023 comes by way of adaptive cruise control made standard.

What are the Macan interior and in-car technology like?

Just as we’d expect from Porsche, the Macan is customizable to your heart’s content. Aluminum, carbon fiber, wood and paint in a dizzying number of combinations are available. The interior ergonomics and driving position are also second to none. You sit reasonably low, yet forward visibility is superb. The sloping roofline really cuts into rearward visibility; an exterior design compromise. You can drop the perfect (optional GT Sport) steering wheel right into your lap, and it never obscures the gauges. It’s the perfect amount of thickness, is quite small in diameter and has clicky metal paddle shifters mounted on the back.

The gauges might be old-style Porsche at this point — newer models have multiple digital screens — but that doesn’t make them bad whatsoever. The lightning-quick tachometer is mounted in the center where it should be for a vehicle with a sports car badge on its hood, and the easy-to-read digital speedometer is nestled within it. 

After last year’s update, the Macan’s multitude of physical buttons have been replaced by a smaller number of touch-sensitive icons placed on piano black trim. Fewer buttons makes it easier to identify individual buttons at a glance, but their flush-mounting means you have to glance at them longer – even if they click when “pressed.” At least you don’t have to use the touchscreen to move the air vents as in the Panamera.

As for that touchscreen, it is responsive, appears modern and focuses on making the essentials easy to deal with. We particularly like the customizable home screen that lets you select what controls and information you want to see and where you want them placed. So even if the layout isn’t to your liking upon first getting into the car, know that you can in fact rearrange it. We also like that Porsche maintains a small rotary control knob better suited for wheeling through lists, be it in Porsche’s native system (we liked the ability to run through playlists using Bluetooth Audio) or in Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

How big is the Macan?

The Macan lives up to the description of “compact SUV” as it is indeed one of the smallest examples in its class. There are even some SUVs in the lower segment, such as the Mercedes GLB, that have more interior space. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t exactly call it cramped. We had an easier time installing a rear-facing child seat in its back seat than the otherwise larger BMW X3. It’s also reasonably spacious and comfy for adults back there despite a somewhat pinched roofline/entry. The seats are firm and supportive with a bit more contouring that you’re used to seeing in a compact SUV (it’s a Porsche after all, you can’t leave all the bolstering to those up front).

The Macan’s official cargo capacity number is 17.7 cubic-feet, but you can pretty much throw that out as it’s just not comparable to the estimates provided by other manufacturers. The space behind the back seat is far bigger than that figure suggests, which would be worse than most subcompact SUVs. Though still on the small end for the segment, we still managed to fit two large check-in suitcases, two roll-aboard suitcases and one overnight back there with some room to spare.

What are the Macan fuel economy and performance specs?

The base Macan and Macan T are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That is one of the healthiest outputs in the segment, which bears fruit in the form of a quick 0-60-mph sprint time of 6.0 seconds (or 5.8 seconds with the Sport Chrono package and its launch control system). Fuel economy comes in at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, which just isn’t great. Competitors are 3 mpg combined better or more.

The Macan S is powered by a 2.9-liter turbocharged V6 that produces 375 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. That blows most luxury compact SUV offerings out of the water, and hits 60 mph in 4.6 seconds (or 4.4 with launch control). Fuel economy doesn’t go down that much, but again, still isn’t great: 17/23/19.

The Macan GTS is now the top-of-the-line offering and gets an enhanced version of the 2.9-liter. It produces 434 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, and hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds with launch control. Fuel economy dips only slightly to 17/22/19.

What’s the Macan like to drive?

There will be those who buy the Macan just because the badge says Porsche and that’s good enough. Yet, if you genuinely want a small SUV that connects better with the driver than any other, Macan has to be at the top of your list – doesn’t matter what the badge says. Then again, even if it wore no badge at all, there’d be no mistaking it for anything other than a Porsche. The immediate, feelsome, just-right responses from the steering, throttle and brakes aren’t quite as quick and athletic as what you’d get in a 911 or 718, but the family DNA is unmistakable. It drives like a Porsche whether you’re hustling through a winding back road or trying to keep things interesting during yet another school drop-off.   

Of course, this being a Porsche, the model choice and options selections can fundamentally alter the way the Macan drives. Getting a four-cylinder in a Porsche SUV may initially seem a bit lame (especially as it’s basically an Audi engine), but it provides competitive thrust for the compact luxury SUV segment. It doesn’t wow you, but it’s also quick enough that you don’t stare at the steering wheel’s Porsche badge and go, “Really?” The PDK automated manual transmission it’s paired to enhances its performance considerably with its lightning-quick responses and gear changes (though there can be some odd delays and reactions when going between Reverse and Drive). The Macan T (pictured above) takes that base powertrain and enhances it with a connoisseurs’ selection of performance-oriented features that are either standard or optional on the Macan S and Macan GTS (and not on the base model). You can read more about them in our 2023 Macan T first drive review, but in short, it heightens the Macan’s Porscheness and doesn’t suffer for its engine apart from a lack of audible drama. We’d happily choose one over the Macan S to save some money and gas, while benefiting from the handling benefit of less weight over the front wheels.

Now, if you are seeking more thrilling acceleration, turning to the Macan GTS is the way to go. It too gets those connoisseur performance selections (and then some) plus the best-possible acceleration of the group. The only way to best it in a straight line is a BMW X3 M Competition (unless you go electric), but that suffers from a punishing ride you won’t have to deal with in the Macan.

What other Porsche Macan reviews can I read?

2023 Porsche Macan T First Drive Review

Full details about the latest addition to the Macan lineup, including its additional features and what it’s like to drive.

2022 Porsche Macan GTS First Drive Review

Find out about the extensive list of changes made last year for the Macan, including those specifically for the GTS that made it the new top-dog Macan.

2020 Porsche Macan Luggage Test: It’s more coupe-like than expected

Check this story out to see how much luggage you can put into the Macan and learn about its storage solutions.

What is the 2023 Macan price?

The Porsche Macan starts at a far higher price than other compact luxury SUVs. Like, $13,000 or $18,000 more. It also generally comes with less standard equipment, although the inclusion of adaptive cruise control is at least welcome for 2023. No, you’re paying for superior engineering and performance, which is a value proposition that’s harder to quantify than comparing a price and a list of equipment. Ditto the exclusivity of owning something with the Porsche badge.

It’s also important to note just how extensive the Macan’s customization possibilities are. From its vibrant color selections (including paint-to-sample option) to myriad performance enhancements, you can get closer to your “perfect car” with a Macan than you can with its competitors. That said, it comes with a cost. Not only are customization features like color seatbelts pricey, you also have to pay extra for things like memory seats, blind-spot warning and wireless charging be it in packages or a la carte items. There are obviously pros and cons to this approach.  

All prices for the 2023 Macan below include the $1,450 destination charge.

Macan base: $58,950
Macan T: $64,550
Macan S: $69,850
Macan GTS: $84,350

What are the Macan safety ratings and driver assistance features?

For 2023, the Macan thankfully now adds forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control to the already standard lane-departure system. These were glaring omissions for such an expensive vehicle. Blind-spot warning and lane-keeping assist are still optional, and the adaptive cruise control system does not offer lane-centering steering assistance.

The Macan has not been crash tested by a third party.

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