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Old 08-18-2014, 05:50 PM   #1
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Default Be Careful, Your (and our) Brand Bias May be Showing!

Speaking (without permission) for at least some of us remaining baby-boomers, I can see just how important it is for car makers to “get ‘em while they’re young” [if they can indeed be had] and “keep ‘em forever”. Such power has the built-up-over-time brand loyalty to cars become so compelling, it’s no wonder when a car buyer switches brands it is called a conquest – I mean it is (or at least it used to be) a big deal when someone strays from the fold. A friend of mine, now in his 70’s still buys Cadillac’s – he’s a “Cadillac Man” (which should get this guy a free fruit-stand he had so many lemons)! My other friend, a long-time Saab guy must’ve been devastated when they went out of business, but at least he had Volvo to fall back on. And, it has been tough on my Jaguar worshipping friend, at least until the last couple of years when, as he likes to mimic, “it’s great to be back.”

In this country, we’re all (or we used to be) – but I just don’t know if this holds true with the Millennials – pre-disposed to being a Ford or Chevy-guy (man or woman) a Roll’s Man (thinking of the movie, “Magic” with Burgess Meredith as the Rolls Man), a Mini maven or a Dodge Pick-up loyalist. Some of us even have the corporate underwear (figuratively speaking), tie-tacks and money clips to prove it.

Internationally, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, so it seems, spend big-time substantial sums of money to keep their customers in the fold – these companies do everything they can to make you not stray for fear you’ll miss being a member of the club. Once you become a buyer of one of these brands, the magazines, gifts, surveys, phone calls and other forms of propaganda (well that may be a bit much) are piled on and on. Getting these cars into the dealership for service visits are often like visits to the lobbies of some of the world’s finest hotels – complete with snacks, beverages, a big screen TV, “shopping opportunities” or even a personal DVD player complete with your choice of your favorite movie to help you pass the time while your baby’s fluids are changed, and the car washed and vacuumed. Or you can always elect to have a new loaner at your disposal for the day – and if you ask nicely, they’ll even come to your office, pick up your car, service it and return it all shiny and clean.

It is with this more than half of a lifetime of inculcation (by Audi) -- and the owners of 32 of these fine machines -- as a backdrop that my wife and I took a test-drive this weekend of the Porsche Macan S.

Gasp! Oh, the humanity! How could you?

Call it a research project. As you may know, my wife has a 9-month old Audi SQ5 Prestige optioned with Panther Black paint and the Magma-red leather sport seats and other leather trim, plus upgraded wheels and tires. The SQ5’s MSRP was about $63K+, before we added Audi-care which is “free” maintenance for 50,000 miles (and it isn't free to buy it).

The gloss black w/ beige leather interior Macan S was a bit south of $63K. I’d say, based on MSRP, this could be a pretty fair comparison with the SQ5. The Macan in question had the Premium Package, an upgrade to the wheels/tires (rears are one-inch wider no matter what), heated and ventilated front seats and heated rears, wood inlays and a few “multi-hundred” dollar options (such as a full-color crest on wheel center inserts) that, in toto, added up to some $12,000+, getting the Porsche to within spittin’ distance of the SQ5’s bottom line.

I should note, now that I am in possession of both the beautiful Macan brochure and an Internet browser, that $12,000 worth of options, which is a lot, hardly makes this Macan S “loaded” as was the salesperson’s claim. No, no, no – the Macan, unlike the Prestige SQ5 has “miles to go before it sleeps” if you have the purse for really loading a Macan to the hilt. But, my goal was to “fairly” (see above narrative to recognize just how difficult that is) compare a ~$63K Audi SQ5 to a similarly priced Porsche Macan S.

Knowing that I think (and, yes, I could be wrong) today’s car shoppers will not get down to the details, I’ll have to say, these cars will probably compete with each other – but the rarity of the SQ5s available at Audi dealers may make this competition more between an Audi Q5 3.0T Prestige (or, more likely a Premium+) and the Macan S to the “uninformed” (which, again, I think is often “today’s car shopper.”) This comparison, unless price is the primary threshold to be crossed, clearly favors the Macan S. The Q5 3.0T doesn’t even stand a chance up against a Macan S – but, a Prestige Q5 3.0T with the sport interior will be a bunch less money and, the Q5 3.0T is hardly a slouch; it is just that a Macan S will show the Q5 3.0T its tail-lights almost instantaneously, and will do so without breaking a sweat. If you’re looking for a very good performer, just not a super-super sporty one, the Q5 3.0T will do famously – and you will arrive in style. If you’re looking for a sporty performer, on the other hand, you’ll have to get behind the wheel of the SQ5 if you’re looking to compare the Macan S to a “similar” Audi CUV.

So it is now, I conclude, that the Macan S can only be fairly compared to an SQ5 if performance is in your top-three buying criteria. But here is where it can get tricky. The Macan S at about $63,000 looks better – from the front – than an SQ5, but (no pun intended) the SQ5 has the nicer derrière, by far.

The profile of each car is similar, but the Macan sits lower to the ground giving it somewhat of an overall sleeker countenance. I guess, it should be mentioned that the SQ5’s stance, etc., does allow it to carry more stuff, however. The SQ5 seems, because it is, roomier.

To the interior: The Macan’s dash which matches the color of the seats (in the case of our tester, a slightly yellow tinged beige) is beautiful. Normally, I’d give just about any Audi the award for best interior against any and all comers, but this Macan dash is a 10 to the SQ5’s 9. Yet the Porsche dash and console is covered with “a bunch of” identical thin chrome buttons – I assume a couple of days or weeks at most to get used to – whereas the Audi has the MMI control set, which, even in today's climate remains much easier to use in an eyes-free fashion so loved by fans of safer travels.

I’ll give the Audi the 10 in controls/switchgear and the Macan the 8.5. So far, as you can see, we’re down to personal preferences – a virtual dead heat (if you asked me).

Here’s something I found almost astounding: The Macan S, even with Premium Package doesn’t have push-button start! Cut off my legs and call me Shorty. You would actually have to get a fairly large key out of your pocket, put it in a slot on the left-side of the steering wheel and “engage.” Now, before 2005, I could have cared less about push-button start, or proximity sensing locking, etc., but after this long, I’ve gotten used to not having to fish my key out of my pocket (especially if I am carrying something) to get into the trunk or the passenger compartment and to start the car.

Next to the driving. Both the SQ5 and the Macan S have gobs of power off the line – the Macan should have some advantage over the SQ5 attributable to the former’s twin-clutch automatic (PDK) transmission. But the Audi programmers are, apparently, a brilliant bunch – and they have effectively made the 8-speed tiptronic feel virtually identical to the 7-speed PDK. I’d rather have the Porsche transmission (since I have lived with the dual-clutch 7-speed in my ’14 S4), but the extra cog in the tip also pays dividends in performance and efficiency. The tip doesn’t offer launch control, and the dual-clutch unit is just a smidge smoother and quicker shifting, so there is that. But, it’s pretty much a draw – at least in day-to-day driving – with a slight edge favoring the PDK.

Now to the power. The Macan has 339 pound feet of torque, less than the SQ5’s 346; and, the SQ5 has 354 horsepower, 14 more than the Macan S’s 340. Again, pretty much a draw, but back-to-back (my wife and I don’t have instruments other than our butts), the SQ5 seems to push you just a bit harder into the seat. Frankly, the acceleration feels stronger in the SQ5 (and the manufacturer’s numbers do favor the SQ5, as well), but that is not to say it would make much difference in the day-to-day experience on your (or my) local crowded interstate highways. The heck of it is, however, the SQ5 feels and sounds quicker and meaner than the Macan, too – although both cars are smooth and quiet until “appropriately aroused”.

My wife, an attorney for a publically traded company (which is an important data point for what follows), says: “The Macan S is a real contender, but as a CUV it seems to lose some of its “CUV-ness” [if that is important, to you, be guided accordingly] since it is about an inch closer to the ground than the SQ5 (but, for a few thousand dollars, the Macan S can be equipped with an optional air suspension which can raise and lower the vehicle more than an inch off of normal ride height). Also the SQ5’s optional seats are nicer, better bolstered, more like sitting in a big hand than the Macan S’s optional chairs which seem very slightly flimsy. The Macan’s dash is a beauty, the transmission very smooth, but the power-take up seems a half a beat or maybe a quarter of a beat less quick than the Audi's. The lack of a push-button starter is confusing. I love having the option of a heated steering wheel in the Macan which the SQ5 doesn’t even offer. Overall these cars are closely matched – but the Audi seems a bit more strong, more responsive and, oh yeah, the B&O sound system in the Audi bests whatever it was in the Macan S too.”

Finally, her most telling comment – “If I pulled up to my client’s location in a Porsche – even a CUV – I would be concerned they would perhaps think I was charging too much. An Audi or BMW or even a Mercedes at this stage of the market's acceptance doesn’t give off the ‘I’m making too much money’ look more and more clients seem to disapprove of these days; yes, I’ll consider the Macan S next time, but I’d probably be happier overall with the SQ5 – too bad Audi hasn’t trademarked RSQ5, which I assume means no RS version will be forthcoming [there is, however an RSQ3 trademarked, if you follow such trivia].”

If the Audi were to offer the current SQ5 with the dash of a current S4 and an adjustable air suspension and heated steering wheel, I’d think that Porsche would really have something to worry about. Now, however, all they have to worry about is the cannibalization of the Cayenne by the Macan S and Macan Turbo.

I’m sure we’ll revisit this vehicle about the time the next gen SQ5 comes to market. Meantime, the market now has another high-performance, high-content German CUV from which to choose.

Overall, it’s a great day! And, Audi, if you axe me, edges out Porsche, this time.

Drive it like you live.

Last edited by markcincinnati; 08-19-2014 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 08-18-2014, 06:53 PM   #2
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Great article...you should submit it to some magazines for publishing.
One thing though....The Tip does have lauch control....no button to push but there is a sequence....if you disable traction control, put tranny in "s", step on the brake and floor the accelerator, it will rev up to about 2k, release the brake within 5 seconds and you're off and running.....with a jolt!

Quote:
Originally Posted by markcincinnati View Post
Speaking (without permission) for at least some of us remaining baby-boomers, I can see just how important it is for car makers to “get ‘em while they’re young” [if they can indeed be had] and “keep ‘em forever”. Such power has the built-up-over-time brand loyalty to cars so compelling, it’s no wonder when a car buyer switches brands it is called a conquest – I mean it is (or at least it used to be) a big deal when someone strays from the fold. A friend of mine, now in his 70’s still buys Cadillac’s – he’s a “Cadillac Man” (which should get this guy a free fruit-stand he had so many lemons)! My other friend, a long-time Saab guy must’ve been devastated when they went out of business, but at least he had Volvo to fall back on. And, it has been tough on my Jaguar worshipping friend, at least until the last couple of years when, as he likes to mimic, “it’s great to be back.”

In this country, we’re all (or we used to be) – but I just don’t know if this holds true with the Millennials – pre-disposed to being a Ford or Chevy-guy (man or woman) a Roll’s Man (thinking of the movie, “Magic” with Burgess Meredith as the Rolls Man), a Mini maven or a Dodge Pick-up loyalist. Some of even have the corporate underwear (figuratively speaking), tie-tacks and money clips to prove it.

Internationally, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, so it seems, spend big-time substantial sums of money to keep their customers in the fold – these companies do everything they can to make you not stray for fear you’ll miss being a member of the club. Once you become a buyer of one of these brands, the magazines, gifts, surveys, phone calls and other forms of propaganda (well that may be a bit much) are piled on and on. Getting these cars into the dealership for service visits are often like visits to the lobbies of some of the world’s finest hotels – complete with snacks, beverages, a big screen TV, “shopping opportunities” or even a personal DVD player complete with your choice of your favorite movie to help you pass the time while your baby’s fluids are changed, and the car washed and vacuumed. Or you can always elect to have a new loaner at your disposal for the day – and if you ask nicely, they’ll even come to your office, pick up your car, service it and return it all shiny and clean.

It is with this more than half of a lifetime of inculcation (by Audi) -- and the owners of 32 of these fine machines -- as a backdrop that my wife and I took a test-drive this weekend of the Porsche Macan S.

Gasp! Oh, the humanity! How could you?

Call it a research project. As you may know, my wife has a 9-month old Audi SQ5 Prestige optioned with Panther Black paint and the Magma-red leather sport seats and other leather trim, plus upgraded wheels and tires. The SQ5’s MSRP was about $63K+, before we added Audi-care which is “free” maintenance for 50,000 miles (and it isn't free to buy it).

The gloss black w/ beige leather interior Macan S was a bit south of $63K. I’d say, based on MSRP, this could be a pretty fair comparison with the SQ5. The Macan in question had the Premium Package, an upgrade to the wheels/tires (rears are one-inch wider no matter what), heated and ventilated front seats and heated rears, wood inlays and a few “multi-hundred” dollar options (such as a full-color crest on wheel center inserts) that, in toto, added up to some $12,000+, getting the Porsche to within spittin’ distance of the SQ5’s bottom line.

I should note, now that I am in possession of both the beautiful Macan brochure and an Internet browser, that $12,000 worth of options, which is a lot, hardly makes this Macan S “loaded” as was the salesperson’s claim. No, no, no – the Macan, unlike the Prestige SQ5 has “miles to go before it sleeps” if you have the purse for really loading a Macan to the hilt. But, my goal was to “fairly” (see above narrative to recognize just how difficult that is) compare a ~$63K Audi SQ5 to a similarly priced Porsche Macan S.

Knowing that I think (and, yes, I could be wrong) today’s car shoppers will not get down to the details, I’ll have to say, these cars will probably compete with each other – but the rarity of the SQ5s available at Audi dealers may make this competition more between an Audi Q5 3.0T Prestige (or, more likely a Premium+) and the Macan S to the “uninformed” (which, again, I think is often “today’s car shopper.”) This comparison, unless price is the primary threshold to be crossed, clearly favors the Macan S. The Q5 3.0T doesn’t even stand a chance up against a Macan S – but, a Prestige Q5 3.0T with the sport interior will be a bunch less money and, the Q5 3.0T is hardly a slouch; it is just that a Macan S will show the Q5 3.0T its tail-lights almost instantaneously, and will do so without breaking a sweat. If you’re looking for a very good performer, just not a super-super sporty one, the Q5 3.0T will do famously – and you will arrive in style. If you’re looking for a sporty performer, on the other hand, you’ll have to get behind the wheel of the SQ5 if you’re looking to compare the Macan S to a “similar” Audi CUV.

So it is now, I conclude, that the Macan S can only be fairly compared to an SQ5 if performance is in your top-three buying criteria. But here is where it can get tricky. The Macan S at about $63,000 looks better – from the front – than an SQ5, but (no pun intended) the SQ5 has the nicer derrière, by far.

The profile of each car is similar, but the Macan sits lower to the ground giving it somewhat of an overall sleeker countenance. I guess, it should be mentioned that the SQ5’s stance, etc., does allow it to carry more stuff, however. The SQ5 seems, because it is, roomier.

To the interior: The Macan’s dash which matches the color of the seats (in the case of our tester, a slightly yellow tinged beige) is beautiful. Normally, I’d give just about any Audi the award for best interior against any and all comers, but this Macan dash is a 10 to the SQ5’s 9. Yet the Porsche dash and console is covered with “a bunch of” identical thin chrome buttons – I assume a couple of days or weeks at most to get used to – whereas the Audi has the MMI control set, which, even in today's climate remains much easier to use in an eyes-free fashion so loved by fans of safer travels.

I’ll give the Audi the 10 in controls/switchgear and the Macan the 8.5. So far, as you can see, we’re down to personal preferences – a virtual dead heat (if you asked me).

Here’s something I found almost astounding: The Macan S, even with Premium Package doesn’t have push-button start! Cut off my legs and call me Shorty. You would actually have to get a fairly large key out of your pocket, put it in a slot on the left-side of the steering wheel and “engage.” Now, before 2005, I could have cared less about push-button start, or proximity sensing locking, etc., but after this long, I’ve gotten used to not having to fish my key out of my pocket (especially if I am carrying something) to get into the trunk or the passenger compartment and to start the car.

Next to the driving. Both the SQ5 and the Macan S have gobs of power off the line – the Macan should have some advantage over the SQ5 attributable to the former’s twin-clutch automatic (PDK) transmission. But the Audi programmers are, apparently, a brilliant bunch – and they have effectively made the 8-speed tiptronic feel virtually identical to the 7-speed PDK. I’d rather have the Porsche transmission (since I have lived with the dual-clutch 7-speed in my ’14 S4), but the extra cog in the tip also pays dividends in performance and efficiency. The tip doesn’t offer launch control, and the dual-clutch unit is just a smidge smoother and quicker shifting, so there is that. But, it’s pretty much a draw – at least in day-to-day driving – with a slight edge favoring the PDK.

Now to the power. The Macan has 339 pound feet of torque, less than the SQ5’s 346; and, the SQ5 has 354 horsepower, 14 more than the Macan S’s 340. Again, pretty much a draw, but back-to-back (my wife and I don’t have instruments other than our butts), the SQ5 seems to push you just a bit harder into the seat. Frankly, the acceleration feels stronger in the SQ5 (and the manufacturer’s numbers do favor the SQ5, as well), but that is not to say it would make much difference in the day-to-day experience on your (or my) local crowded interstate highways. The heck of it is, however, the SQ5 feels and sounds quicker and meaner than the Macan, too – although both cars are smooth and quiet until “appropriately aroused”.

My wife, an attorney for a publically traded company (which is an important data point for what follows), says: “The Macan S is a real contender, but as a CUV it seems to lose some of its “CUV-ness” [if that is important, to you, be guided accordingly] since it is about an inch closer to the ground than the SQ5 (but, for a few thousand dollars, the Macan S can be equipped with an optional air suspension which can raise and lower the vehicle more than an inch off of normal ride height). Also the SQ5’s optional seats are nicer, better bolstered, more like sitting in a big hand than the Macan S’s optional chairs which seem very slightly flimsy. The Macan’s dash is a beauty, the transmission very smooth, but the power-take up seems a half a beat or maybe a quarter of a beat less quick than the Audi's. The lack of a push-button starter is confusing. I love having the option of a heated steering wheel in the Macan which the SQ5 doesn’t even offer. Overall these cars are closely matched – but the Audi seems a bit more strong, more responsive and, oh yeah, the B&O sound system in the Audi bests whatever it was in the Macan S too.”

Finally, her most telling comment – “If I pulled up to my client’s location in a Porsche – even a CUV – I would be concerned they would perhaps think I was charging too much. An Audi or BMW or even a Mercedes at this stage of the market's acceptance doesn’t give off the ‘I’m making too much money’ look more and more clients seem to disapprove of these days; yes, I’ll consider the Macan S next time, but I’d probably be happier overall with the SQ5 – too bad Audi hasn’t trademarked RSQ5, which I assume means no RS version will be forthcoming [there is, however an RSQ3 trademarked, if you follow such trivia].”

If the Audi were to offer the current SQ5 with the dash of a current S4 and an adjustable air suspension and heated steering wheel, I’d think that Porsche would really have something to worry about. Now, however, all they have to worry about is the cannibalization of the Cayenne by the Macan S and Macan Turbo.

I’m sure we’ll revisit this vehicle about the time the next gen SQ5 comes to market. Meantime, the market now has another high-performance, high-content German CUV from which to choose.

Overall, it’s a great day! And, Audi, if you axe me, edges out Porsche, this time.

Drive it like you live.
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Old 08-18-2014, 08:41 PM   #3
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Totally agree...

More CUV (taller, and less afraid to "use" it in winter and hard conditions)
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Old 08-18-2014, 09:14 PM   #4
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At first glance I nearly dismissed reading this thread as it was such a long post, but your writing is excellent and your comparison very helpful. I initially was planning on Macan S but due to cost for the performance options and timeframe for delivery (I was shopping in Nov/Dec 2013), I figured I should at least check out the SQ5. I thought the non dual clutch tranny would be the deal breaker but after one drive, I was hooked. I bought my SQ5 in early December and haven't test driven a Macan S but I feel no need to. The Turbo with air suspension still intrigues me, but at $80k+ it's beyond what I want to pay for a car these days. It will be interesting to see used prices on Macan over the next 4 years.
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Old 08-18-2014, 11:30 PM   #5
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Porsche higher class luxury cars than Audi. Any comparison of prices is impossible
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Old 08-19-2014, 12:21 AM   #6
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An SQ5 and a similarly equipped Macan "S" are in the same price range. Not much discussion about price.....it was more about characteristics and features.


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Porsche higher class luxury cars than Audi. Any comparison of prices is impossible

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Old 08-19-2014, 04:53 AM   #7
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From another baby-boomer ... very well written article! A very pleasurable read.
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:42 AM   #8
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Well thought out and well written inputs. We wrestled with most of the same issues mentioned herein and could have purchased either vehicle. Honestly, we simply liked the SQ5 more for our present needs. The combination of performance, utility, price and stealth was perfect. Very happy with the SQ5 thus far.
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:00 AM   #9
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Great article...you should submit it to some magazines for publishing.
One thing though....The Tip does have lauch control....no button to push but there is a sequence....if you disable traction control, put tranny in "s", step on the brake and floor the accelerator, it will rev up to about 2k, release the brake within 5 seconds and you're off and running.....with a jolt!

=====

I have both a '14 SQ5 and S4 models. The owner's manual of the S4 discusses launch control as do several video reviews on-line. I have the owner's manual of the SQ5 and there is no mention of launch control, although your description is the same as for the dual-clutch transmission on the S4.

Where is the SQ5's launch control discussed?

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Old 08-19-2014, 07:36 AM   #10
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Assuming we could get folks (here or in the general market outside of the "passionated" people here) to agree that any comparison of prices is impossible, I will have to respectfully disagree. While I would suspect/expect there will be some who would look at two vehicles without any consideration of the cost of acquisition of one vs the other, I would think the probability of someone looking at the cars and saying "price comparisons between these two are not meaningful" is very low indeed, single digit low and low single digits at that.

We're (or at least I was) speaking about cars that are fraternal twins and that in this case were in the low $60,000's.

The advantages the Porsche has -- price be damned -- are many. The Porsche can be had with a torque vectoring rear differential, the [2014] SQ5 could not even though Audi S4's and S5's certainly can. The list of options or "available" features (performance options, for the most part) that were not on the Macan S we tested easily exceed $10,000. A Macan S, via quick and dirty overview, can be optioned well over the cost of a Prestige SQ5 with every option box checked off.

If you're looking for the ultimate high-performance CUV the Macan Turbo offers yet an additional way to spend money. But, thinking just of the "S" incarnation, the Macan is the choice of the well-heeled who want seemingly unlimited optional choices. Even with "Audi Exclusive" treatments, the SQ5 just doesn't offer the same content that is available on the Macan (S or turbo).

Our point was to see "what" exactly about "$62,500 would get you in a premium German CUV -- our [see the title of the original post] conclusion was that tit-for-tat the SQ5 was a slightly better deal if you were indeed looking for a "hot rod" CUV. The Macan as we tested it, that is without the air-suspension and without sport chrono, seemed less CUV-like than the SQ5. Depending upon your perspective you may therefore choose either vehicle and be happy and rewarded by doing so.

My wife, to name one, wants the CUV experience to mean increased ride height; even though she could appreciate and even perhaps admire the stock Macan S's lower stance. I suspect she would just go for a car, a "sedan" if she wanted something low to the ground. For all I know, however, she may say, cost be damned, let's go for the Macan S with the air-suspension which would, money being the only factor here, permit either lower to the ground or a more elevated "traditional" CUV stance.

These vehicles are very close -- but factoring in price, well, we just felt the Audi, this time, had a slight edge over the Porsche.

Audi and Porsche are both premium car lines -- however, I'll grant that the perception (and typically the reality) of the Porsche Brand is that it is perhaps one or two rungs up that ladder. And, it is exactly that position in the pecking order of automobiles that gave my attorney wife pause since she perceives Porsche's may be many things but "value leader" is probably not in the top-five traits the general populace and market would believe as an apt description of the Porsche nameplate/brand.

Seeking to keep a bit of a DL stance yourself? Perhaps pulling up in a Porsche runs counter to THAT goal.

Drive it like you live.
markcincinnati is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-19-2014, 07:36 AM
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