The Macan is Porsche's compact SUV, unveiled at the LA Auto Show in November, 2013. The 2015 Macan was three years in development under the internal nickname “Cajun” -- for Cayenne Junior -- and many assumed “Cajun” was the legitimate market name. Porsche says “Macan” is derived from the Indonesian word for tiger, though it's also very close to the Indonesian word for “meal” or “eat” (makan).

Whatever the name's origin, the Macan debuts in an automotive landscape far different from the one that greeted its larger sibling. In 2002 few were clamoring for a Porsche SUV. Porsche executives seemed uncomfortable acknowledging their new Cayenne shared its platform with the pedestrian VW Touareg, or the forthcoming Audi Q7. Today they'll tell you the Macan is built on the Audi Q5's foundation before anyone even asks. Customers have been asking for a Porsche in the burgeoning cluster of smaller, luxury-brand SUVs, according to the execs, and there is a substantial reserve of pre-launch orders. Pundits speculate how long before the Macan becomes Porsche's worldwide best-seller.

So after the common floor pan, 110.5-inch wheelbase and basic suspension configuration, what distinguishes the Macan from a Q5? Everything, Porsche says: engines, transmission, suspension tuning, design, interior.

At 184.3 inches long, the Macan is actually 1.7 inches longer than the Q5 and 1.4 inches wider. Its exterior dimensions are nearly identical to a BMW X3's, on the same wheelbase, and a bit larger than a Mercedes GLK's (2 inches in wheelbase, 6 in length). The Porsche is a foot longer than a Range Rover Evoque; it comes closer in dimensions to more ordinary small SUVs like the VW Tiguan or Ford Escape. The Macan weighs more than all but the Q5.

Compared to the Cayenne, the Macan is 5.7 inches shorter overall, on a 3.5-inch shorter wheelbase, and almost as wide. Its minimum curb weight is 286 pounds lighter than the lightest Cayenne. Its passengers' hips sit substantially lower in the body, and Porsche says the Macan's center of mass is nearly an inch lower than Cayenne's. The Macan's hood and hatch are aluminum, but its unibody is entirely steel, with 6,000 welds. Robots apply 500 linear feet of glue in a brand new body shop.

At first glance, it isn't easy distinguishing a Macan from a Cayenne. The most obvious detail difference is what Porsche calls “the blade”: a painted or carbon-fiber insert near the bottom of the Macan's side doors, above the sills. Its clamshell hood eliminates conventional front fenders, and the air intakes in front resemble Porsche's sports cars. There's 911 in Macan's hips and roof flow, and its rear end is particularly clean -- almost sparse. Generally the Macan looks more slammed than a Cayenne, crouching lower and wider. Its driver's seat sits substantially lower, and its steering column is closer to horizontal.

There are two engines for North America at launch. The 3.0-liter V6 familiar in the Porsche Panamera S powers the Macan S, with twin turbos and dry-sump oiling. Boost is limited to 14.5 psi, output drops to 340 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque.

The upgrade in the Macan Turbo is new, sort of. It starts with the normally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 from the base Panamera (as opposed to the undersquare, wet-sump 3.6 in the base Cayenne) and adds -- naturally -- twin turbos. With 17.4 pounds of boost, the Macan Turbo delivers 400 hp and 406 lb-ft, or at least 13 percent more horsepower and 17 percent more torque than anything else in the class, including the Audi SQ5.

Both Macans come with Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic. The company has no plan to offer a full manual. The all-wheel-drive is a Torsen-based system identical in concept to Cayenne's, with an electronically controlled, multiplate center clutch and locking rear differential. Default torque delivery is 70-75 percent rear, graphically displayed on the dash, though 100 percent front or rear is possible in extreme cases.

There are three suspension packages, available in both Macan models. The standard is steel springs with conventional shocks. Next is Porsche Active Suspension Management, with electronically controlled adaptive shocks. Finally, Macan offers class-exclusive air springs. The self-leveling air suspension varies ride height up to 1.6 inches, dropping the Macan lower on pavement than the standard suspension and increasing ground clearance to 9.06 inches off road. Wheels range from 19 to 21 inches in diameter, and all packages get wider rear tires.

Then there is Porsche's electronic management system. The sport button adjusts parameters for throttle map, redline, shift points, exhaust pitch and suspension (when equipped with PASM). The off-road button optimizes the same points, and torque distribution as well, for off-road use up to 50 mph. PTV Plus -- Porsche's torque vectoring rear diff -- is optional.

The Macan is built at Porsche's newly expanded Leipzig facility. While it ends up on the same final assembly line as the Cayenne and Panamera, it starts in its own new body shop, paint shop and pre-assembly lines manned by 1,400 new employees. Porsche chairman Matthias Müller calls them “new workers building a new model in a new factory.” Initial capacity is 50,000 Macans a year, a 30 percent increase in Porsche's annual vehicle output.

The Macan hits U.S. showrooms this May starting at $49,900 (Macan S) and $72,300 (Turbo). Nearly all Porsche's familiar extras -- Sports Chrono package, carbon-composite brakes, painted-logo center caps and custom appointments -- are offered. The company expects 60 percent of Macan buyers to come from other luxury brands, including Audi.

A Macan S with a 3.0-liter, 429-lb-ft turbo-diesel V6 is offered in Europe at launch, and in the United States sometime in 2015. A plug-in hybrid is in development, and a less expensive, sub-S Macan hasn't been ruled out. But for now, Chairman Müller drips confidence.

“We'll succeed as we have with Cayenne 12 years before,” he says. “Macan is the right vehicle at the right time. It's the super sportster of compact SUVs. We think of it more as a big brother to the 911 than a little brother to the Cayenne. “

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