It is almost as if Porsche concluded the Macan had had it too easy for too long. Save the larger Cayenne SUV, it outsells all other Porsches combined and instead of the numbers gracefully declining over the years, Macan sales started ridiculously strongly in 2014 and have continued getting stronger every year.
But now Porsche has decided this second generation Macan is going to have to do without diesel, still the most popular source of power in its class. Which should put it on its mettle.
The reason for Porsche’s decision to stop selling diesel cars depends on whom you talk to. The official line is that diesel isn’t very Porsche anyway and sales are in decline. But the fact that Porsche sourced its diesels from the VW Group, the people who brought you the Dieselgate saga, probably had something to do with it.
Stepping into diesel’s oil-stained shoes, then, is this 2.0-litre petrol Macan, complete with a raft of subtle but significant mechanical and cosmetic upgrades to keep it fresh until a genuinely all new car appears early in the next decade.
All the usual Macans, like the S, GTS and Turbo will follow this base model, but for now it can be told by its new bumpers, headlamps, rear diffuser and, most notably, the new wraparound tail-lights.
A greater effort has been made inside where you’ll find the old dash has been ripped out and replaced by glossy black screens that look fabulous until your children find irresistible the temptation to prod and push at them, smearing sticky finger residue over their once shiny surfaces.
My perhaps more serious concern was that a 2.0-litre engine developing very little more power than it does in a Golf GTI would be somewhat smothered by the mass of this near 1,800kg beast.
In fact the truth is rather different: the Macan is not quick, slower indeed than was the old diesel model, but the engine is quick to respond, smooth and sounds happier the harder you make it work.
Well matched to the equally snappy twin-clutch gearbox, it makes absolutely the most of its meagre resources. A while back I drove a prototype in convoy with its gutsier 3.0-litre V6 brethren, and I don’t recall any sense of having drawn a short straw.
There’s something else going on here, too. The truth is that all performance SUVs have poorly matched performance and chassis capabilities, to whit they’re usually terribly good on the straights and pretty rubbish on the brakes and in the corners.
But thanks to its pint-sized powertrain, this cheapest Macan is going to carry up to 100kg less mass on its nose than the more powerful versions to come, so its more modest performance fits far better with the enhanced handling brought by such a dramatic weight loss.
You don’t have to brake half an hour before each corner – not just because you’ve accrued less speed, but because you don’t need to shed so much either.
The Macan was always the best handling car of its type and with revised steering and suspension I’d be amazed if, once the range is fully fleshed out, this entry-level model does not remain the best of the best.
But it’s not a diesel. I did 30mpg in a day’s driving on a route where I might have expected something closer to 40mpg from a diesel engine. It doesn’t feel effortless any more, either. It loves to work, but whether you’ll love working it is another matter.
Even so given that it sits on the same platform as the previous Audi Q5, it is remarkable how well the Macan still stacks up, even one with such a diminutive engine.
Others are closing the fun gap – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in particular – but if you don’t need a diesel, the Macan is today what it has been from its launch: the most desirable mid-sized SUV there is.
*Lease price from list price shown in the article is correct as of 17/01/2019 and are based on 9months initial payment upfront. Prices exclude VAT and are subject to change. Ts and Cs and Arrangement Fees apply.
TESTED 1,984cc turbocharged straight four petrol, seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox, four-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE from £46,344/now
POWER/TORQUE 242bhp @ 5,000rpm/273lb ft @ 1,600rpm
TOP SPEED 140mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 6.7sec
FUEL ECONOMY 34.9mpg/29.7mpg (EU Combined/Urban)
CO2 EMISSIONS 291g/km
VED £830 first year, £450 next five years, then £140
VERDICT The second generation Macan is lightly refreshed rather than entirely transformed. This base model is neither fast nor a substitute for the deleted diesel model, but is likeable and capable nonetheless
TELEGRAPH RATING Four stars out of five