The SUV Coupes are in fashion and, especially when it comes to their sporty variants with high-performance engines, they are an alternative to the sports sedans. The Porsche Macan GTS has cut in, looking like a classic SUV, but running like a 911 GTS. Here is a supertest with the Porsche Macan GTS versus Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and BMW X4 M40i.
What is it that we’ve got here? Two models – the Mercedes GLC Coupe and the BMW X4 are derived from the Mercedes GLC, the former BMW X3, respectively – and promise way sportier character than the classic SUVs they grow from.
The Porsche Macan is based on the platform of the former Audi Q5 generation, but the Porsche engineers succeeded in making a wonder metamorphosis, converting their most compact SUV in a kind of a high-ride 911. The GTS variant slots between the S model powered by the V6 turbo engine with 340 horsepower and the top-of-the range Turbo model, also with a V6 turbo engine, but with 400 horsepower. The Macan was, in 2016, the best-selling Porsche, with a figure three times bigger than that achieved by the iconic 911.
The GLC 43 AMG is a full fledged AMG after quitting on the AMG Performance models, being the cadet of the range after the arrival of the GLC 63. And finally, the X4 M40i belonging to the MPerformance division, without being a genuine M, but hiding the M2-sourced engine under the hood.
Body and interior
The interiors of the three models are impressive. The red top stitching of the leather/alcantara combo upholstery of the GLC 43 instantly catches the eye, and so do the center console with plenty of controls like the cockpit of an airliner and the dashboard watch included in the Sport Chrono package of the Macan or the M and the futuristic gear lever of the X4. The Mercedes subjectively makes the best artistic impression due to the superb combo between the matt wood, the leather/alcantara upholstery and the infinit customization possibilities. The Porsche mixes elegance with the brand’s typical sportiness in a classical unmistakable manner, with just as limitless customization possibilities. You can order six colors for the safety belts and about 20 wheels models.
The age of the X4 is sensed in the BMW (the new generation was already presented), whose interior is derived from that of the former X3. The assembling is irreproachable, but some of the materials are not as fine as in the rivals and that M-typical sport touch is missing. Still the BMW benefits from the best of ergonomics, as the iDrive infotainment system, updated with the latest software from the 5 and the 7 Series, has the best menu structure and is the easiest to operate.
Of the three, the Porsche goes classic, with controls for every command, as the approach is totally opposite to the Tesla concept, where the actual buttons have been reduced to minimum. The outcome is spectacular, but especially when you’ve got many options, as for the test car, things seem to get complicated. Yet, it is sometimes nice that you don’t need to search the menus and you can adjust the suspension or engage the engine sound system by the simple touch of a button. We must point out that the Macan GTS was the first Porsche model that got the PCM infotainment system with a touchscreen, online navigation and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
Mercedes benefits from the latest evolution of the Comand Online system, that got a menu recap. It features no touch control, only being engaged via the controller or via touchpad. But the menu browsing is not as intuitive as in the BMW.
The interior space is comparable inside the three models. Even though the rear space is not a top priority for the customers of such models, we still draw a few conclusions. Even though it features the longest wheelbase, the GLC Coupe does not supply the biggest kneeroom at the rear, though it seems that it does at the first glance, due to the rear seat cushion, which is 20 mm, 40 mm respectively shorter than that of the BMW and of the Porsche.
With the looks of a classic SUV with no coupe accents, the Porsche provides the best headroom at the front and at the rear, while the BMW sacrificed a few millimeters in terms of rear headroom compared to the Benz, in order to provide a more elegant side cut-out, in which the plunging rear window seamlessly drops to elongate to roof. At the Mercedes, the rear window drops more vertically and the roof does not descend so abruptly to the rear. The
Mercedes features a boot that is 50 liters bigger than those of the rivals with the rear seats up, but the power tailgate comes for extra 536 Euros (it comes as standard only with the Keyless-Go package), while for the rivals, it comes as standard equipment. We must also highlight that all three models provide at least 550 kg of payload and feature a minimum towing capacity of 2.4 tons, that if anybody would want to tow a camper van or a boat by them.
Dynamics and comfort
We’ve got almost perfect equality in terms of engines characteristics: a V6 (for the Porsche and the Mercedes) and an in-line six for the BMW, a 3.0-liter displacement, one or two turbos, a sporty soundtrack and plenty of power, with 360 HP (BMW and Porsche) and 367 CP (Mercedes).
The X4 takes the single-turbo engine from the M2, apart from the twin-turbo units of the M3/M4, being derived from the 306-horsepower engine of the X4 xDrive 35i, but using the forged crankshaft of the M3/M4. The intake and exhaust Double Vanos variable distribution and the air flap Valvetronic system are both there.
The Mercedes and the Porsche make use of two turbos, one for each cylinder line. In practice, the Mercedes engine responds as the most spontaneous of them and, in the Sport Plus mode, the throttle push breaks into an instant reaction. For this zippy responsse, the new 9-speed automatic gear box, adapted by AMG, also comes a long way, as, on the Sport, Sport Plus and Manual shifts even faster.
For the BMW, the one-turbo supercharging leads to somewhat of a lag and the X4 engine responds with a slight delay that is displayed not only on the getaway, but also when suddenly pressing the throttle pedal at 3,000 rpm.
Unexpectedly, the same lag shows up for the Porsche biturbo engine. Just the same as for the BMW, the Porsche biturbo V6 provides top dynamic performance, best of the test, but this only happens after a short turbo lag, despite the sensational PDK automatic gearbox, that shifts with the speed of light in the Sport Plus mode.
With so much power on hand, it ain’t easy to be efficient as well. The Porsche engine is the hungriest, with a measured fuel consumption of 14.6 l/100 km, closely followed by the Mercedes at 14.4 l/100 km. The figures are relatively high even for this sports class. Instead, the BMW proves its efficiency once again, only needing by 1 l/100 km less, considering the relatively similar dynamic performance, with the Macan GTS being just slightly faster.
An ardent fight is battled in the engine sounds area. At lower engine speed range, the BMW engine has a domestic sound, followed by, above 3,000 rpm, a baritone sound accompanied by bangs like in the endurance sports cars, when shifting to Sport+ mode. It is a fascinating sound, but it lacks that crescendo and drama that used to delight our ears at the latest aspirated engine M3.
The two-flap adjustable exhaust of the Mercedes is also standard like in the BMW. This provides a sharped sound, in a crescendo, together with the engine speed, and becomes more poignant in the Sport Plus mode, but also sensed in the Comfort mode.
If you buy a Macan GTS, you are privileged even compared to getting a Macan Turbo, because the thrilling engine sound system, that comes for 2,501 Euros, is standard here, only needing to pay extra for the sport baffler (804 Euros). And the Macan GTS lets out a fabulous sound, sharp and a bass-less compared to the AMG, that grows proportionally with the engine speed and impels you to rev it ever more.
The GLC 43 AMG comes standard with a pneumatic suspension for the AMG variants, while the tested Macan was equipped with the optionally provided pneumatic suspension (2,737 Euros) that allows, like in the GLC 43 AMG the ground clearance adjustment, while the X4 M40i is standardly fit with the adaptive suspension with classic springs.
For every-day use, the GLC 43 is just the right choice, because it provides an exceptional ride comfort, even when shod with the 20-inch wheels that the test car had. Yet, it is not as sharp as the X4 M40i and the Macan GTS, considering all the abridgements brought by AMG on the pneumatic suspension. in the Sport Plus mode, the suspension is a bit more permissive and generates a slight roll, and the steering is lighter than that of the BMW.
With an almost perfect mass distribution of 51/49%, a firm sports suspension and a steering on which the force in the steering wheel is higher in the Sport Plus mode, the BMW holds a surgical precision along the path and it feels as the most engaged and challenging when pushed to the limit.
If the BMW is extremely sporty, than the Porsche is fascinatingly sporty. An enigma still stands for me, and that is how the heaviest model of the test, with the least unbalanced mass distribution (57/43% front/reare) is the sharpest, a great contribution being supplied by the suspension lowered by 15 mm compared to that of the Macan S (the Porsche bears the highest ground clearance). In terms of driving, the Macan GTS feels lighter than its rivals and seems to have more power than the data sheet shows. And it is not just a feeling, because the Porsche features the best of figures in terms of accelerations. It subiectively seems that the Porsche is widely effortless when driving fast, going extremely neutral and comfortable and in the Sport Plus mode, the roll is next to zero.
This considering that the test car was not fitted with the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system, available for 1,.548 Euros. With the Sport Chrono package and in the Sport Plus mode, the Macan GTS is quite a beast. The steering of the Macan GTS is somewhat lighter than that of the BMW, but has an exceptional feedback. Even though it was shod with 21-inch wheels, the Porsche provided great ride comfort, close to that secured by the Mercedes. Just like in the Mercedes, the pneumatic suspension plays a major part in the comfort chapter.
Even though not the sportiest, the Mercedes features the lowest driving position, as the driver sits only 60 cm from the ground, by 8 and 10 cm respectively, than in the BMW and the Porsche.
Even though, in theory, they are all part of the very same segment, the price of the Porsche is from outer space, going 10,000 Euros higher than that of the rivals. Besides, when various optional boxes are ticked, the Porsche turns even more expensive at the compared price. Between the Mercedes and the BMW, the gaps are small. The BMW is more expensive in terms of starting price, with 1,000 Euros only, but the final prices ends up cheaper by 3,000 Euros and it includes the free-of-charge revision package for 5 years or 1000,000 km.
The SUV coupes have managed to defy the laws of physics in their sports variants, besides the quite heavy weights and high gravity centers. Besides, these models are nowadays more popular than the sporty certified models, with the Macan being the best-selling Porsche. The BMW and the Porsche emphasize sportiness, while the GLC 43 AMG plays the card of an allrounder, yet featuring the sportiest driving position and the sportiest of interiors.
Porsche Macan GTS
A fascinating machine that provides the best dynamic performance, an unexpectedly great driving comfort and an out-of-this-world sporty character. It is just as fascinatingly expensive, the fuel consumption is high and, despite the two turbos, it displays turbo lag.
Mercedes-GLC 43 AMG
The exceptional ride comfort is its main clock card, together with the extraordinary engine response and superb interior. It holds front-rank dynamic performance, but it lacks the sharpness of the Porsche and of the BMW. The fuel consumption is relatively high, but it is cheaper.
BMW X4 M40i
A driving machinery that generates plenty of driving pleasure, an impeccable ergonomics and the lowest price of the test. It comes with great dynamic performance, but in terms of comfort, it slightly falls behind the Mercedes and the Porsche and bears a tiny turbo lag.
Photo credit: Bogdan Paraschiv