Macan’ Me Crazy: What Porsche’s Bizarre SUV Name REALLY Means

By Blake Z. Rong | February 16, 2012
You say tomato, I say Macan. Porsche has a long history of using typically terse, Teutonic numbers for their cars—it’s only through sheer will and perseverance that the three-digit numbers 911, 928, and 914 have passed into the realm of legend. But when Porsche actually starts giving us real names, the results are mixed: Cayman, Cayenne, and Panamera aren’t exactly as evocative as something named after a ferocious alligator would have you believe. Lamborghini names their cars after exotic, unpronounceable bulls: Murcielago, Miura, Aventador, Gallardo. Porsche names their cars after plants that give you indigestion. Porsche’s new baby SUV, code-named “Cajun” for its resemblance to Paul Prudhomme, will be introduced with the name “Macan.” What’s a macan? We haven’t the faintest idea, either. Presumably because Macaque was trademarked by Cocoa Krispies, Porsche claims that “the name Macan is derived from the Indonesian word for tiger and combines suppleness, power, fascination and dynamics—core characteristics of the new off-road car.” We think somebody at Porsche marketing is merely trying to get ahead in Scrabble. In Indonesian, the Porsche Tiger has a nice ring to it—and given Porsche’s predilection for historical fetishism it certainly has precedence, though not anything its Volkswagen custodians would care to admit. But “macan” isn’t just relegated to South Asia: in Scottish Gaelic it means “laddie” and is synonomous with “nìghneag,” which is the phonetic spelling of the sound one makes when punched in the solar plexus or reviewing the repair bill for his Boxster. A Porsche Nìghneag has a nice ring to it, n’est-ce pas? In Serbio-Croatian macan is the hypocoristic form of “tomcat”—a male cat—which is a neat little tidbit that we’ll remember if we ever figure out how to play “hypocoristic” in our next Scrabble game.
But this is an English-speaking market, and we take what we can get. Drive a Macan in Macau while eating a pecan, wrapped in bacon? Can a Cajun Macan eat a Cayenne and not Carrera all over the seats? The Democrats attempt to muster bipartisan support: Yes We Macan, John McCain. A toilet designed for men would be a Man Can. A swindler who targets the elderly would be a Ma Con. A delivery driver who misses your house May Come later, or come in May. The word “Macan” would only earn 9 points, but 27 if it was on a Triple Word Score. Given the peculiarities of the cute-ute market, Ms. Pac-Man might look good in a Macan. Did you know that “Macan” is an anagram for Can-Am? Coincidence? Will the Macan produce 1,580 horsepower and feature a pair of turbochargers the size of honey dew melons? Will the ghost of Steve MacanQueen recognize it? I could go on. But I won’t. The Macan is subject to debut in 2013, and Motor Trend speculates that it will share much with the Audi Q5—including 235-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engines. In due time, the Macan will receive Porsche's usual assortment of dizzying trim levels and hotter drivetrains. And funny name or not, if its big-brother Cayenne is any indication, Porsche won’t be able to build them fast enough. Either way, this development follows Porsche’s intentions to move its North American headquarters somewhere in Georgia—and in a less-than-coincidental move, don’t be surprised if it settles down in Macon County.