Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK, Porsche Macan, Front view 33 Photos Zoom

Porsche Macan vs. Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK: The newcomer takes on the establishment

The Macan is the first Porsche to be line up alongside the mid-sized SUVs – and as a diesel it is even reasonably priced. It seeks to prove that the word sport in the title 'sport utility vehicle' is not necessarily unfounded. However, it must also hold its ground against the Audi Q5 3.0 TDI and the Mercedes GLK 350 CDI in everyday driving. Will the challenger come out on top?

If it is simply about which is the sportiest SUV in its class, then the following measurement values alone should suffice in order to make a decision: swerving rapidly, the Porsche Macan weaves through the traffic cones at 141 km/h – more than 13 km/h faster than the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK. it is practically already tearing out of the park with the others still toiling on the previous section of track. However, if their claims extend beyond driving fun, both the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes GLK will have something to say about it – especially when it comes to everyday practicality and cost.

Thus all three are to compete against one another in the form of their diesel models. Never fear, around 260 bhp and 600 Nm provide a solid basis for forward thrust – but without placing undue strain on the fuel budget. For let's not deceive ourselves: if two-tonne weights are to moved at pace, then there must be sufficient heat in the boiler. In the case of a Porsche Macan Turbo, an average of almost 14 litres of Super Plus flow through the intake system; the diesel version test hear makes do with around nine litres of fuel – and this with 30 Nm more torque.

We'll get right to the prudential part of the argument and focus on the boot space in the Porsche Macan. For this is certainly a point of concern for a Porsche – when it's an SUV as is the case here. And one that bears the word utility – i.e. usefulness – in the title.

Mercedes GLK: consistently practical

If you have several small items of luggage to stow, then the Porsche Macan gobbles up practically the same quantity as the Q5 and the GLK. However, when faced with bulky items, the vehicle's ability to transport items takes on a character more typical of the brand: neither those shifting goods in their free time nor amateur craftsmen will be happy with the narrow boot cross-section in the Porsche – they will have to opt for the Mercedes. Its maximum load capacity holds exactly what the boxy exterior promises.

The GLK is consistently geared towards everyday driving; it offers a generous feeling of spaciousness, comfortable access including with the seat in upright position, multiple storage compartments and practical details such as a folding luggage basket that fits into the compartment beneath the loading floor, as well as work gloves. This will please all of those who like to take a hands-on approach. And the Audi? Its longer wheel base compared to that of the Mercedes provides the decisive few additional millimetres space. The extra space is put to good use in terms of versatility, especially in the form of the optional sliding rear seat.

If you climb out of the Q5 and into the Porsche Macan you will be left doubting that both share the same platform. The Porsche seems more like a spin-off of the Q3, given how snugly its Cockpit nestles around the driver. This is down first and foremost to the wide central panel, over which the host of buttons and knobs are distributed. In the bodywork assessment it has very little to offer, in particular the uneven gap dimensions and the driver door that doesn't quite fit perfectly detract from the sense of quality. Just like the high level of wind noise, all of this stands in contrast to the expectations raised by the enormously high base price. Here the customer does not benefit from the collaboration with Audi.

Porsche Macan with six-cylinder diesel engine

This is not the story when it comes to the drive system: the powerful and refined six-cylinder diesel engine is the fruit of the collaboration, as is the associated dual clutch transmission. However, the overall gear ratio and the tuning have been altered. This is most evident during start-up: The aggressively closing clutch in conjunction with the Race Start function as part of the Sport Chrono plus package (1,071 Euros) gives the Porsche Macan the crucial edge over the first few metres; with each gear shift this advantages increases further as the vehicle accelerates. Disadvantage: it sometimes jolts noticeably. As a special feature, the Porsche offers a 'Sailing' function; here the gear is disengaged as soon as you are on a gentle slope – but only re-engages hesitantly at high speeds.

However, the real torque hammer comes from Mercedes: From just 1,600 rpm, its three-litre engine produces a burly 620 Nm of torque, heaving the two-tonne beast forward with a marked sense of nonchalance. In spite of its apparent aerodynamic disadvantages resulting from the angular bodywork, at high motorway speeds it leaves its competitors, the Porsche Macan and Audi Q5, in its tracks. Granted, when combined with the gentle automatic transmission this doesn't result in record-breaking driving performance. However, the drive system feels unbelievably competently – not least because it sees no need to nervously gear down with just the slightest modulation o fthe accelerator pedal.

The GLK relaxes into itself, does not feign agility like the Q5, which you would hardly presume it would have anyway, on account of the sheer weight, but is in reality the most pleasant companion on long journeys. This is also thanks to its chassis, which is the best at hiding uneven road surfaces – except when fully loaded. Here the spring travel reaches its limit as soon as rough bumps are encountered in quick succession. This costs it points, as does the lack of lateral support in the standard seats.

And the Porsche Macan? It steps up with all of the extras that a driving dynamics specialist could dream of. What is most astonishing is the pneumatic suspension: it manages a barely conceivable balancing act between respectable travel comfort, enormous capacity and a direct connection with the road. Here you will scarcely believe that the key features of the chassis originate from the Q5, given how composed it seems in the comparison.

However, when it comes to the all-wheel drive Porsche goes its own way, installing a multiple-disc clutch in place of the Torsen differential and simulating rear-wheel drive with an activated front axle, which can be easily monitored in the power distribution display in the cockpit – the ideal conditions for spontaneous cornering. In actual fact the Porsche Macan remains neutral for an astonishingly long time before it gently pushes over its front wheel and the ESP must intervene.

Porsche Macan: dynamics extras for 6,259 Euros

As we have come to expect from Porsche, in corners the rear wheels stick to an imaginary line with a huge level of mechanical grip. And as such the Porsche Macan can shake off chasers in tight corners – at least when cleverly configured. For alongside pneumatic suspension, the version driven here also features electronically controlled drive torque distribution at the rear axle, referred to as PTV Plus, and the optional 20-inch tyres. Together these amount to an additional cost of 6,259 Euros – only those not currently recoiling in horror can belong to Porsche's core clientèle.

The Audi cannot compete with this array of dynamics-oriented features, although it displays a high degree of competence when cornering in its own right. Yet when compared with the Mercedes the recorded driving dynamics times reveal that it is more about a feeling than cold hard facts: the GLK is just a little slower in the slalom.

Would the Porsche Macan be so far ahead of its two rivals without the host of optional extras? We don't know, but hope to soon be able to put a test car with a standard chassis to the test. What is clear is that the Macan writes its own 'Drive Properties' section – and thereby clinches the features assessment. The Q5 and GLK follow closely behind.

This lead is not likely to survive the cost section. Customer-friendly costing has never been one of Porsche's strengths. As always in auto motor and sport,all extras relevant to the scoring are added to the base price: in the case of the Porsche Macan this adds around 9,000 Euros – thus landing it in third place. The Audi on the other hand just slips past the Mercedes over the last few metres: the Q5 is somewhat quieter and slightly cheaper with regard to fuel costs.

One question remains unanswered: does the Porsche Macan really feel like a Porsche? Counter-question: how could it? You are shifting too much weight, are sitting too high and, in spite of the best efforts of the engineers, the unconditional and distortion free response that makes a Porsche so unique is lacking. That said, the Macan is still the first mid-sized SUV that justifies the use of the word sport in the name.



Hans-Dieter Seufert


8 February 2015
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