There’s something very removed about the driving experience in the Macan. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the car is so smooth and refined you just don’t get the usual Porsche ‘experience’.
Maybe that’s what buyers of an SUV are looking for – I was expecting something more similar to the 911. It’s faultless and powerful but not as engaging as I had hoped.
In ‘sport’ mode things improve dramatically, with extra burble and spit from the four tailpipes. The revs pick up and you suddenly find yourself hammering down a country lane at remarkable speeds.
O-60mph in 4.8 seconds has never felt so slick. The changes from the seven-speed auto gearbox are seamless – it’s a total flying machine. Strange then that the brakes aren’t as good as I anticipated…
It was years in the making but 12 years after the launch of the Cayenne comes the ‘mini me’ version – the Macan. Worth the wait? Hell yes!
This week we’re driving the most incredible SUV never to go off road. The 400bhp Macan is not to be taken lightly. It has all the qualities you would expect of a Porsche in one neat, pint-sized bundle.
The Macan has already stolen the crown of the beautiful Range Rover Evoque as the ‘must have’ 4×4 of 2015. It’s not as pretty but five minutes behind the steering wheel will convince you.
What don’t we like? The hefty price tag and those ridiculous air intakes in the front bumper. They could come from a Harrier jump jet.
Join us for daily reports of our week in the most awesome SUV ever – the Porsche Macan Turbo…
Whatever you think of the styling and the lacklustre drive, the X-Trail is a good car. It’s what you might call a safe bet – a car that will do everything you ask of it and then some.
You can spec it up to seven seats, add different layers of trim, or just settle back in the basic two-wheel drive model and feel good about spend your £23k bundle.
What it does lack is character. The old version was shaped like a brick but at least you wouldn’t lose it in a car park full of other SUVs.
Which also means potential buyers can look at models like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage and find little to choose between them. It might just come down to how it looks – and that’s where the X-Trail no longer has an edge…
Nissan’s 129bhp diesel engine sounds a little agricultural under acceleration – perhaps one of the pitfalls of using a more efficient 1.6 unit, rather than a 2.0.
At least the soundtrack fades when you get the X-Trail on a motorway and the cabin feels more refined than you might imagine.
Around town, the engine is sluggish and there is no sudden rush of acceleration like in most turbo vehicles. The power comes smoothly and with light steering, the X-Trail is easy to manoeuvre.
And because the Nissan is more economical than some key rivals, that will be more than enough to tempt cash conscious buyers in its direction…
While other SUVs are better and cheaper to drive, the X-Trail can boast a roomy cabin which is uber flexible. There is also the option of seven seats too.
Just don’t expect to squeeze two adults in the rear set – not unless they are members of the Chinese State Circus. Leg room is very tight.
In fact, you could argue that the X-Trail’s stablemate, the cheaper and slightly smaller Qashqai, does pretty much the same job and costs less.
And in this age of technology at our fingertips, where we can get perfectly good sat nav on a mobile phone, why do you have to spec the X-Trail up to a higher level just to get an in-car system?
Lashing down with wet snow here in the Cotswolds today – just the right weather for an SUV. Inside the X-Trail you just turn a transmission dial and the 4×4 cuts in to do everything for you. I know that because I’m given a visual update too.
That said, the X-Trail has the world’s tiniest media display screen on the dashboard! However, that might be tainted by the fact that last week’s Tesla has 19-inches of visual loveliness.
But the Nissan also features a information system in the instrument binnacle too, which gives you readings on just about everything. One is an info system for the 4×4, it shows how much power is being divided between front (normal setting) and rear wheels.
What’s amazing is how little power runs to the back wheels in slippery snow. It rarely seems to be above 20 per cent. Which then makes me wonder if we actually need 4×4 SUVs in the first place…
Whatever you think of SUVs the market for small, multi-purpose vehicles is on the increase. Lumbering giants that swallowed diesel at an alarming rate are history and they’re not coming back. Unless you’re a premiership footballer, of course.
Many of the X-Trails sold in this country won’t be 4x4s at all – buyers will opt for the two-wheel drive version that starts at about £23,000. And that means owners can expect more than 45mpg, with a modest 0-60mph of 11 seconds.
The Nissan isn’t class-leading at anything, especially compared to the Hyundai Santa Fe and new Honda CR-V, but it will tick the boxes for many people who want a ‘do everything’ vehicle.
It’s not that refined and there is little to excite keen drivers, However, what’s missing most for me is a little character. This is a car that says absolutely nothing at all about you, or it…
I know that somewhere on this dashboard is a button to turn that bleeping lane departure warning system off. I know it’s bloody there but I can’t find it. I refuse to reach for the manual because my policy is EVERYTHING in a car should be intuitive.
The constant pinging on a motorway when I change lanes is already detracting from what I should be writing about. The new-look, radically overhauled X-Trail. (and before you send an email about the benefits of lane departure warning, I was taught that you only indicate when another driver around you benefits. Otherwise, why bother?).
Well, I can tell you the latest X-Trail is sleek, rather than square. It’s going to appeal to a much broader range of people than the outgoing model – and buyers of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CR-V will now have another equally worthy option to ponder over.
The problem is, the new X-Trail now looks characterless too. At least the old, brick-shaped model was easy to spot. It had something about it – you could spot it in a car park of sleeker SUVs every time.
This beefed up Qashqai is nothing but grey. Not in a fifty shades-type way either. It just means that for the next seven days I’m going to blend in with everybody else, perfectly…
Now I don’t want to ramble on about Clarkson’s review of the BMW i8 too much but the final scenes of his drive to Whitby, where he decides whether to motor back home in the new BMW M3 or the i8, got me thinking.
What would I choose between the Tesla and the M3? I’m not going to scratch my chin here because I know the answer. The M3. It’s not because the Tesla isn’t a brilliant leap into the future – or the celebrity status it gives you everywhere – even in London.
No, it all comes down to issues over battery charging. If there were charging stations everywhere – even the random places I end up in as a journalist – then I’d buy into the idea tomorrow.
The Tesla looks slick, has the most amazing interior and futuristic dashboard lay out and so on but there simply are not enough charging points to make it work for me.
And with all that empty space under the bonnet, why not but another battery in and up the range to 500 miles – then everything would look very different.
I love the Tesla but I don’t love this country for not having the infrastructure to support it. Ask you local MP why when he comes electioneering at your door over the next two months…
If you watched Clarkson faffing around comedy style with an charge point for the BMW i8 on Top Gear then you might be put off electric cars for good. Then again, if you think TG is anything but light entertainment, please send you licence directly fee to us, here in Nigeria.
It’s true that using an electric charge point can be confusing the first time – but you just have to follow the instructions to avoid frustration and feeling like a tit. The slowest way to charge the Tesla is at home via a three-pin plug. It’s simple to do and can even be set up from an app on your iPhone. It took 22 hours to charge the Model S from 61 miles of range to full.
The second type of connector is for use at home too and costs about £95. It boosts the rate of charge to about 68 miles per hour and is what most buyers opt for. It’s no more complicated than charging your mobile phone.
Out and about? Well, you have to know where your charging points are, to be honest. They are dotted all over London and at service stations and supermarkets. But in this age of instant consumerism, if you live in a remote part of the country, you ain’t going to bother.
I found it kind of cool plugging in the Model S in Little Venice this week. Self righteous, moi? But charging is still the Tesla’s one enormous, Size 12, Achilles’ heel. So until there are plug in points everywhere (and I mean, everywhere), I’m not sure the great British public will buy into it. And there, my friends, is the rub…