How do you sell a Porsche SUV? Strap customers into one of the marqueís legendary sports cars and let them loose on a high-speed test track.
ďThis is like a Cedar Point roller-coaster!Ē thrilled a middle-aged mother of two Ė letís call her Momma Bear Ė as she crested 100 mph at the wheel of a 325-horsepower Cayman S.
Momma Bear and I were guests of the traveling Porsche World Roadshow at Fordís remote Romeo, Michigan proving grounds (proving that, for the right price, Ford will rent its top-secret facilities to the competition). This ingenious program allows Porschephiles and Porsche wannabes alike to test the German rocket-makerís latest adventure on the SUV frontier Ė the Macan Ė alongside its siblings. Ingenious, too, because it enables Momma Bearís husband (who somehow has money left in the bank to buy his dream car after putting two daughters through college) a chance to demonstrate to his wife that his purchase is not a fiery chariot to Hell.
Momma Bear was not only impressed, she was won over by the astounding, high-speed stability of the sports car in her hands. If Porsche can translate half the engineering of a Cayman to a Macan, then itís surely the best crossover in the land.
And, that, folks, is the secret to Porscheís record sales.
It has opened the once iconic, niche-sports car maker to a whole new demographic of buyers. The midsize Porsche Cayenne SUV and four-door Panamera sports sedan are already the best-selling Porsches ever made - and the little Macan promises to eclipse them both.
Slip into its leather-bolstered sports seats and that familiar Porsche cockpit surrounds you. The grippy leather steering wheel. A crisp round speedometer that counts aaaaall the way to 200 mph. The extended center console with more sport options than your microwave has buttons. The. . .
Ahem. Allow me a moment of sobriety.
The idea that a 4,600-pound Macan shares the DNA of a sports car requires suspension of belief. No matter how many 911 and 918 Spyder steroids you pump into the Macanís thick body, you cannot change the fundamental physics of a ute.
Close your eyes and you feel the SUVís body roll. Open your eyes, and ó arenít those front ďC-bladeĒ the same aero accents found on sister VWs? Now that you mention it, Iím not sure the big brick is much better looking than a VW Toureg. Heck, I know itís less attractive that the exquisite VW GTI hot hatch. Look past the Porsche logo on the hood and the two-ton Macanís nose porpoises under acceleration.
Weíre comparing this upholstered tank to a Cayman? Seriously? The g-loading, ground-hugging, apex-seeking cruise missile that deserves a place in Sports Car Hall of Fame? The Macan canít hold a candle to it. But . . .
The Macan is the best damn performing SUV on the planet.
Consider the numbers. A turbocharged, 400-horsepower 3.6-liter mill that will get you from 0-60 in a knee-knocking 4.6 seconds. Multilink front and rear suspension that lapped the Nurburgring in 8 minutes and 15 seconds. Try that in your Jeep Cherokee.
And thatís good enough for the thousands of Porsche faithful who can finally buy Stuttgartís finest ó and still put their family in the rear seat. Because the Cayman. Does. Not. Have. A. Backseat. The 911? Houdini couldnít get out of its rear trench. Tinker Bell would get leg cramps back there.
Finally. Porsches that Momma Bearís whole family can enjoy. Yes, yes, I hear my fellow Porschephiles huffing. Imposters! you say. Porscheís diluting the royal bloodline with this hideous marriage between crossovers and sports cars. I get it. I recently chatted up a Panamera couple Ė owners of his and hers Panameras, no less Ė who admitted they didnít know if they had a V6 or a V8 under the hood.
With its four-door vehicles fueling record profits, Porscheís race program is healthier than ever Ė even taking a shot at LeMans prototype glory this year for the first time in two decades. Isnít that what made Porsche a legend in the first place?
So thank your lucky lederhosen that Momma Bear is thrashing Porsches at Fordís proving grounds. In fact, Iím betting that her hubbie wonít be able to get her out of it once its home. Sheíll want to take it to everywhere. To work. To pick up the kids. To track days at Waterford.
And then her husband will have to buy another Porsche for himself. And Iím betting itíll be a Cayman.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.