The Porsche Macan S is a sporty and versatile sport utility vehicle, with instantaneous throttle response and razor-sharp steering
Desirable starter Porsche Macan S The facelifted Porsche Macan has a redesigned front bumper with wider side air intakes and LED headlights, and its tail lamps stretch across the width of the car. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Some three months ago, a woman colleague said to me: "I really like the Macan. Are secondhand ones worth buying?"

I replied: "Well, the Macan is a starter Porsche. Look at it as your starter boyfriend. You can try it out."

The conversation sums up the crux of the Macan's success.

Until it came along in 2014, the two most affordable Porsche models - the Boxster and Cayman - were two-door lifestyle cars.

The Macan became Porsche's entry-level, four-door car, with all the practicality of a sport utility vehicle (SUV). It soon became a hit, with more than 350,000 units sold worldwide since 2014, including more than 1,300 in Singapore.

Some five years on, the facelifted Macan is set to repeat that success.

Changes include a redesigned front bumper with wider side air intakes and LED headlights. The tail lamps now stretch across the full width of the car. Inside, a 10.9-inch infotainment touchscreen - bigger than its predecessor's 7.2-inch screen - takes centre stage.

Underneath the bonnet, a 3-litre engine that powers the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne now also services the Macan. Output is 14hp and 20Nm higher than its predecessor's, allowing the car to hit 100kmh in 5.1 seconds (5.2 seconds previously).

Most drivers will not be able to feel these fractional gains on the move, but they will be able to instantly tell that the car retains the sporty traits of its predecessor. Throttle response is instantaneous, steering is razor-sharp and its agility is unrivalled - for an SUV.

The test-drive car has an alcantara-wrapped steering wheel found in the 911. There is a small rotary dial latched to the wheel for the driver to toggle between drive modes.

Pressing a button in the middle of the dial unleashes maximum output for 20 seconds. There is even a countdown timer to tell you how much boost time you have remaining. The instant boost feature is nifty for overtaking. It was so fun that I activated it even when I am not overtaking, just to feel the kick.

The Macan S also has an adaptive damper system with three modes: comfort, sport and sport plus.

In the comfort mode, the car is a leisurely city cruiser. But in sport or sport plus modes, it minimises the Achilles heel of SUVs - body roll around bends.

Adaptive dampers and different drive modes allow drivers to mix and match. For example, after trial and error, I settled largely for my dampers in comfort setting and powertrain in sport plus mode. The combination gives performance without sacrificing ride comfort.

The Macan S is, by far, the sportiest and most versatile mid-size SUV on the market. But it is not flawless.

One, there is keyless entry, but no keyless start. To fire up the engine, you still need to insert the key and crank. Two, the touchscreen and temperature displays are difficult to view under sunlight.

Over a two-day, 142km drive, the car recorded 14.3 litres/100km of fuel consumption, about 50 per cent higher than the stated 9.6 litres/100km.

For potential buyers, the key question is: Where does the Macan stand? It does not have a long list of rivals. Its closest are the new Range Rover Evoque, due to arrive in the second half of this year; and Audi SQ5, priced just above $300,000 with the certificate of entitlement, which it shares some mechanical parts with.

With Category B COE at around $37,000, there is not a big price gap between the Macan S and SQ5. That makes the Macan S - if only by virtue of its brand - more attractive.

But there is another perspective. Besides the 3-litre version, there is a 2-litre Macan ($250,088), which has all the looks and practicality of the larger-engined sibling but with a slight performance deficit (252hp and 6.5-second century sprint).

With this, the Macan entrenches its position as a starter Porsche. And a pretty desirable one too.