There was a time when the mere mention of a Porsche crossover SUV would enrage driving enthusiasts everywhere, but the midsize Cayenne is so good -- and so profitable -- that even the diehards have grudgingly accepted it. Now the all-new 2015 Porsche Macan looks to build on its big brother's success. Based on the Audi Q5, the Macan is Porsche's first foray into the fast-growing compact-luxury-crossover segment. Naturally, the Macan gets the full Porsche treatment, including a sport-suspension setup, a pair of twin-turbocharged V6 engines and styling that's all its own. But is it worth the hefty premium Porsche charges? We headed to the national press launch in Pasadena, California, to sort it all out.

Big on Performance, Less So on Practicality

There are initially two Macan models on offer, though a turbodiesel model and perhaps even an entry-level 4-cylinder version may join them later. For now, the base model is the Macan S, which is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 rated at 340 horsepower. Porsche projects a seriously swift jump of 5.2 seconds from zero to 60 miles per hour in standard form, while the Sport Chrono package with its launch-control feature drops the estimate to 5 seconds flat. If that doesn't seem special enough, the Macan Turbo steps up to a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out a cool 400 hp, yielding a 4.6-second blitzkrieg to 60 mph (4.4 seconds with Sport Chrono).

All Macans are equipped with all-wheel drive and Porsche's nearly perfect PDK dual-clutch 7-speed automated manual transmission, which works just like a regular automatic but is smoother and much, much quicker. Fuel economy is estimated to be the same for both engines: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. That's about par for the course among vehicles of this type.

Of the many Audi Q5 variants, only the low-volume, 354-hp SQ5 can keep up with the base Macan, while the Turbo leaves everything in the dust. The Q5 offers a healthy 29 cu ft. of cargo space behind its rear seats, while the Macan drops to just 17.7 cu ft. due to its lower roofline and streamlined bodywork. Also, the Q5's higher-mounted rear bench provides additional thigh support and legroom. The Macan is less of a reinvented Q5 than a 4-door alternative to the Cayman or 911. Compared to those pure sports cars, the Macan is massively versatile, yet it retains the capability and composure that sets all Porsches apart.

Track-Ready Handling

In order to wear the hallowed Porsche crest, every model must be able to hold its own on a racetrack -- even a high-riding luxury crossover. So it was unsurprising that we found ourselves behind the wheel of a Macan on the highly technical Streets of Willow road course in the California desert, trying to keep up with the bright-blue 911 Turbo S leading the pack. Did we succeed? Yes -- because the 911 driver's job was to teach us, not beat us.

There's no doubt that the Macan feels more at home on a track than almost any crossover we've driven thus far. Body roll is never excessive, and grip is tenacious with the optional staggered-width summer tires if a bit modest with the standard all-season rubber. Notably, the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) system, which squeezes the inside rear brake as necessary to maintain the intended cornering line, significantly reduces understeer (i.e., the tendency to plow wide of your target) compared to regular Macans.

Luxury Aplenty -- At a Price

From the driver's seat, the Macan looks and feels like a sport coupe, not a crossover. Its elevated, button-rich center console evokes the layouts in other contemporary Porsches, while its lowered roofline and classic gauges immediately put you in a Porsche frame of mind. As nice as the Q5's interior materials are, the Macan's are notably nicer, particularly when the optional leather/synthetic-suede upholstery is specified. The snug and supportive sport seats only add to the exclusive ambience.

There's always a but with a Porsche, and the details may be hazardous to your wallet. Whereas the Q5 can be had for under $40,000, the Macan S starts at a heady $50,895, and get this: The Turbo is more than a $20,000 upsell, checking in at $73,295. If you keep adding options, you'll be approaching six figures in no time. Porsche always gives you a lot of car for your money, but that's the thing: You have to bring a lot of money in the first place if you want to join this exclusive club.

AutoTrader Says

The 2015 Porsche Macan earns its stripes as a true Porsche. It's a must-drive in this segment.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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