April in Maine can reveal any number of meteorological scenarios. Frequently they involve a late snow that makes folks rue they prematurely unshod the winter tires from their cars.
So it made perfect sense for me to ring Porsche and request a Macan GTS with winter tires still affixed as part of a late March dash north from the New York auto show to the foodie haven of Portland.
It used to be that writing a story about driving a Porsche in frigid temperatures was the stuff of front-page, 96-point headlines. Dear me, who would drive their Porsche in the winter? That’s just bananas! But that was before SUVs entered the fray. Cayennes and Macans comprised 62 percent of U.S. sales from Stuttgart’s sports car brand last year.
Still, you don’t see many uncontrolled Porsche tests in the snow, because most auto journalists live in warmer climes to better lengthen their testing season. Also, most auto journalists don’t want to risk making the regrettable call informing Porsche PR that they clumsily stuffed a car into a snowbank. Nor does Porsche want to receive that call.
Just the same, Porsche threw me the keys to an $85,000 Carmine Red GTS, held a collective deep breath, and watched me snarl up the West Side Highway, with wife Lisa riding shotgun.
For the next 300-odd miles headed north, we searched for snow. Although the temps were sub-freezing, a recent thaw had left the ground gray and brown, not white. Our only company was the baritone thrum of the Michelin Green-X Latitude Alpins (265/45R20 up front, 295/40R20 in back, retailing for $1,194 per set at TireRack.com, last I checked). No snow? No problem. We zoomed along at 80-plus without worry.
For those of you in the Sun Belt, a quick word about why they are called winter tires, not snow tires. Although driving in snow is accounted for with a deeper tread design, winter tires are made of a compound that remains softer and more flexible in extremely cold temps. In other words, they grip the pavement pretty damn well when it’s cold enough to serve coffee with a fork, snow or no snow. (Summer tires, by contrast, harden as the temperature falls.)
Let’s take a look at the equipment attached to those winter tires: The Macan GTS base price is listed at $67,200 plus $1,050 destination. That gets you a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine with Variocam and direct injection, all of which generates 360 hp and 369 lb-ft. Notable standard features include a precise-shifting seven-speed PDK transmission, growly sport exhaust, and air suspension with active suspension management.
Porsche shoppers well know the options list quickly ramps up the asking price. Immediate pain points were leather seats with Alcantara inserts ($4,790), Carmine Red paint ($3,200), navigation assistance ($1,730, but without live traffic mapping), panorama roof ($1,670),Torque Vectoring Plus ($1,490), Porsche Connect Plus ($1,300), and a Sport Chrono package ($1,290).
Grand total: $85,000.
But back to our quest for snow. On our first morning in Maine, we awake to freezing temps and the chance of rain, which turns into blessed snow showers. Alas, while the airborne bounty sticks to grass and the Macan’s windshield, the pavement is still warm enough to remain wet, not icy. Curses, foiled again. With a maple-bacon Holy Donut stuffed in my craw, we aim further north seeking colder temperatures.
Our dash up to the artist colony of Rockland to view the Farnsworth Museum’s stunning collection of Andrew Wyeth preliminary studies and finished tempera landscapes lacked snow. For our return, we hug the narrow roads that follow the jagged inlets of Casco Bay. We sidetrack on Route 24 to the bitter tip of Bailey Island, where if you keep going past road’s end, you’re in the treacherous North Atlantic. There’s snow, but it’s not accumulating. The sky has darkened ominously, and it’s well before sunset. Lobster boats huddle in Mackerel Cove. They’ve had enough for the day. So have we.
Most of these winding two-lane back roads are strewn with blind, off-camber corners. The Maine Department of Transportation clearly has a sense of humor regarding tourists. I’ve already had a few moments where my enthusiasm for the Porsche’s acceleration and cornering met a harsh reception from the cold asphalt when it came time to hit the brakes. Even though the Michelins have good grip, they ain’t summer tires in August. We backtrack to the much straighter Highway 295, whereupon it begins to snow in earnest. It’s not quite a whiteout, but it’s ferocious for April. The road is sufficiently trafficked that only the landscape turns white. We quickly distance ourselves from a pack of wary explorers, a clean 80 mph prompting scarcely a concern from the Porsche chassis.
The next morning, not to be denied my sole reason for this review, we wander south from Portland to putter around blustery Cape Elisabeth. We amble down a private road (because in a bright red Porsche you can do these things and no one asks questions if you proffer a friendly wave). Suddenly we encounter a small field gleaming with a few patchy inches of virgin snow in residence. Lisa shoots me a look as if to say, “You’re not going in there, are you?” As I briskly turn the wheel to the right, she asks the question aloud, a combination of foreboding and wariness in her voice.
The answer to both the look and the question is yes. There’s no gate. There’s no sign. It’s just a field by the side of the road. Then again, this is a fallow meadow, rather more like tundra. And as we well know, wet grass is as slippery as poker players at a riverboat casino. This should present a challenge.
As the snow crunches and crumbles underfoot, the Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive groans as it accommodates the sudden lack of grip—winter tires be damned—as the snow gives way to iced grassland and sloshy, muddy underlayment. It would be my karmic penalty to get stuck, here on private property, off a private road. But the Macan has sufficient momentum and the Michelins are confident and capable enough to trundle through. We emerge back onto the road, our innocent looping tracks the lone evidence of our trespass; the Alpins spit off clumps of mud and powder for the next half mile. Thus ends our Maine encounter with driving on snow.
The Macan did have a couple bugaboos: The parking-distance sensors were as nervous as a Miss Universe dressing room, while the womp-womp lane departure warning alert was as overexuberant (and unwanted) as an adolescent lad intruding into said dressing room.
When driving in April along the Maine coastline, if you happen upon any coffee shop, gas station, or convenience store and you are fond of eavesdropping (as I am), the question you will often overhear grumbled between two sea dogs is, “Yah got yar boat in the wahttah yut?”
This appears to be a measurement of personal ruggedness. If your boat has shed its polyethylene shrink wrap cover and is in the ocean before the snow has finished melting, you are a proper Mainer. By April, the only appropriate answer to the above question is, “Ayyup.”
But perhaps not all boats are meant to be in the water quite so early, just as perhaps not all cars are meant to be on the road while snow still lands on this cragged coast.
As I refill the thirsty Macan (20.1 mpg average over the 1,000 miles of driving) at the Shell station in Damariscotta, a local approaches this unexpected slash of color. The Macan crouches with menace amid the slew of dented pickups.
“Nice car. What is it?”
“A Porsche Macan.”
“A Porsh? Hmmm.”
To my ears, the “Hmmm” felt not like a judgment of the California-plated Macan’s out-of-place nature in this coastal village nor of the soft-handed city slicker piloting it. Rather it seemed as though she were pondering whether it were a bit early for an $85,000 vehicle to be daring the elements–winter tires or no. Her tone was more along the lines of, “There’s still floating ice out there on the bay; you sure you want to put your Chris-Craft in the water just yet?”
The answer is a sure-footed yes.
We’ve previously tested a 2017 Porsche Macan GTS; the Motor Trend test data for that crossover is below.
|2017 Porsche Macan GTS (All-Season Tires)||2017 Porsche Macan GTS (Summer tires)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$89,070||$77,255|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/360-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6||3.0L/360-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,506 lb (56/44%)||4,501 lb (56/44%)|
|WHEELBASE||110.5 in||110.5 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.7 x 76.1 x 63.0 in||184.7 x 76.1 x 63.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec||4.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.4 sec @ 99.1 mph||13.2 sec @ 102.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||112 ft||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.90 g (avg)||0.94 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.0 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)||24.9 sec @ 0.76 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/23/19 mpg||17/23/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles||198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.01 lb/mile||1.01 lb/mile|