Bulletproof

The term bulletproof is one that has often been applied in the car-world; whether it be Honda or Toyota reliability, Audi cabin quality or  Mercedes-Benz engineering there have been a few things that car buyers have been able to put faith in when making their new purchase. Something else they’ve also always been able to rely on has been the fact that their new purchase will shed money the second they drive off of the forecourt; bar a few rare supercars and other collectors there are few vehicles whose residuals represent any sort of decent investment.

This is NOT an example of a bulletproof car, well reliability-wise anyway

But as those first few stereotypes have become less gospel truth, so have residual values for certain vehicles become significantly more attractive in recent years, to the extent that these cars are nearly impossible to find at a decent price after even 5 years on the used market. I guess it’s a combination of premium manufacturers pushing for high residual values to ensure that monthly repayments stay low, plus the fact that these same manufacturers are branching out into new niches/segments and so the relative cheapness of these models creates huge demand.

If you’re a little muddled then just take the example of the original MINI (above), essentially a BMW wrapped in a chic retro body dripping with Britishness; even an early base ‘One’ model changes hands for well over £2k, which for a 13 year old supermini is totally unheard of, and remember those cars were only around £12k when brand new! Higher up the motoring strata and cars obviously lose a fair bit more than £10k over that period of time, but percentage-wise there are still plenty of impressive figures despite high sales figures. Of particular interest to me are cars like the new-shape Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q5 and in fact those two vehicles have among the most impressive residuals of any vehicles on the market.

A brand new Porsche Cayenne diesel would set even the cheapest buyer back £47k, and I would be prepared to bet that the average example leaves the factory with prices not much short of £60k (at the very least), so it’s a bit of an unpleasant surprise that even 3 year old cars with similarly non-base spec are passing hands for around £45k, and that’s outside the dealer network! Q5’s are hardly a bargain either; a brand new one can be had for just about £31k and automatic diesel cars start at around £34k. 5 years on those base diesel automatics are still commanding prices of £20k-a totally unwarranted sum in my opinion considering those cars won’t even have leather, but nevertheless the appeal of VAG products is insanely strong at the moment, moreso than even BMW.

It was only really a matter of time then before some bright spark in Germany decided that a product that combined these two models could become a goldmine amongst buyers wanting a sporty crossover that was relatively affordable and easier to park. The resulting vehicle is the Macan; loosely based on the Q5 but with large helpings of Cayenne DNA to help it meet Porsche’s claims of being the sportscar of it’s class. As the Macan was launched back in November I did cover it in a fairly detailed post but I thought I’d revisit it now as the first test drives and reviews begin to filter through.

By far the overwhelming reaction I have seen by both reviewers and website-commenters alike has been positive; in stark contrast to feedback to the earlier Cayenne models, Porsche seemed to have managed to win over most critics even before the car has gone on general release.  The fact the Macan looks a lot more palatable is probably a major factor here, as although I was not initially keen on the inflated estate car-esque styling it does seem to have found a sweet spot in terms of size and being both practical and sporting. The gaping front mouth still takes a little getting used to, but the rest of the car is well designed and the back end especially is eye-catching and manages to remain a lot more distinctive than the Cayenne’s and indeed the Panamera’s.

buttons buttons buttons!

Hardly any interior images of the Macan had been released when I wrote my last post but it seems that Porsche have stuck to their tried and tested formula of a stylish if button heavy dashboard with a high focus on the driver.  Although some of their cars share a lot with Audi models, Porsche has abstained from using a MMI type central controller for their infotainment systems. Instead there is a large central touchscreen and legions of buttons up alongside the gear selector (a proper stick as opposed a knob or sci-fi joystick) which control drivetrain functions. I can only judge by pictures which I’ve seen but Porsche’s approach seems to be just as workable as any solutions offered in rival cars; the Cayenne, Panamera and even the Boxster/Cayman and 911 models have all received decent feedback on their very similar interiors, and the Macan adds a nice steering wheel too! Of course in a car like the Macan practicality is important too, and actually I was surprised to hear that it performs admirably here too; the squat shape of the rear wouldn’t seem to offer the best load lugging abilities but with a boot volume of 500L it is on par with rivals and larger than the original BMW X5’s. Rear space is reasonable too, and whilst there is undeniably less room than in the Cayenne’s back seats it still seems likely that the average buyer won’t stress over a few inches of legroom.

Yet for all the importance of looks, usability and cabin tach, Porsche have always maintained that their highest priority is how their cars perform on the road. As a school-run friendly crossover it was always here that the Macan was going to be most harshly critiqued…I mean yes the Cayenne and cars of it’s ilk are known for their gravity-defying handling and performance but the sheer size of those cars (and their engines) means that expectations are always in check before taking a seat behind the wheel. With the Macan Porsche stated that they wanted it to be the sportscar of it’s class, and although that statement might be trickily worded it is a brief that they have been successful in matching. Being based on the Q5 was no bad starting point for Porsche as the Audi is incredibly car-like and built for high performance engines, but they decided to gut the platform and use a lot of unique parts to ensure that the Macan knocked it’s competition out of the ball park. Handling is apparently incredibly tight and when combined with a firm but not uncomfortable ride it makes for a vehicle that is indeed incredibly close to sports cars…maybe something more akin to a sporting estate admittedly but still better than it’s bigger brother can manage. That ride managed either by steel springs or an expensive air suspension that comes together with the rest of the vehicle to make it seem just right, as many reviewers have put it.

Macans go round corners well…even the brown ones

What really impresses with the Macan though seems to be it’s engine choices; at the moment just 3 V6 engines are available but they seem to all propel the still large Porsche along at an alarming rate. Both petrol and diesel ‘S’ versions are 3L and start at the same price, the former offering more power and quicker acceleration but falling down in terms of torque and of course fuel consumption. In the UK and Europe the diesel will undoubtedly be the biggest seller, and whilst with a starting price of £43k (before options) it is by no means cheap, it still offers badge-snobs with a family an even cheaper way into Porsche ownership. Crowning the range is the 3.6L Turbo model with 400bhp and capable of reaching 60mph 4.6 seconds, a pretty damn quick figure for a crossover but possibly not quite as impressive when you consider that a Cayenne Turbo takes only 0.1 of a second more. Admittedly the Cayenne costs over £20k more but as a technical feat it surely manages to eclipse the newer car-not that that little fact will stop it selling like hotcakes.

Under the Macan’s unique clamshell bonnet lay a myriad of choices…well 3 at the moment

By the end of the year 2 more intriguing engines should be joining the Macan’s line-up and arguably these could be the most important, as not only are they the first 4 cylinder engines to feature in modern Porsches, but they will also give the range a much lower entry point and therefore have the potential to outsell the rest of it’s lineup put together (a feat early Cayennes achieved). Both diesel and petrol versions will be available, most likely borrowed from elsewhere in the VAG lineup (possibly the Golf GTI/GTD); around 200-250bhp would still prove more than adequate and should better the 43mpg that the Maacan Diesel S currently achieves. I doubt that even with downsized engines any Macan will dip in price below £38k, but nevertheless it will allow Porsche to offer cheaper lease prices and drive more sales.

mmmm…practicality

With all 50,000 examples of the Macan’s first production year already spoken for it seems pretty certain that it’s residuals will manage to topple it’s Audi and Porsche cousins in the residual stakes…yes this Porsche is definitely going to be bulletproof in that department and with any luck maybe reliability too. At the moment I am sort of wishing that it was a term that I could apply to myself though, as after 2 job rejections on Monday I am feeling a little disheartened about my job search and life in general to be honest. I am yet to hear back from the Marks and Spencer scheme so maybe my luck will change, but if it does not it’s going to require me to really work hard on forging a career.

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