For as long as I can remember, the letter “S” has marked the sweet spot within any road-focused Porsche model range. Originally deployed on the company’s sports cars, “S” stood for “super” – an indication of a higher-powered engine as well as special equipment to provide an elevated driving and ownership experience. Nowhere is the rule of “S” more applicable in Porsche’s current range than the Macan, where it indicates a the intersection of meaningfully elevated performance and luxury with surprising value.

Like all Porsche lineups, the Macan range is a broad one, with prices starting at under $60,000 for the “base” model to almost $95,000 for the top-performing Turbo version, all before you touch Porsche’s notably wide and deep options list. No matter which Macan you choose, you get superb sports car-like handling thanks to a staggered wheel-and-tire setup as well as Porsche’s legendary chassis tuning; a surprisingly roomy, versatile, and luxurious interior; Teutonic build quality; and a driving experience that is greater than the sum of its substantially excellent parts.

What makes the Macan S the pick of the range is how much more you get for (in relative terms) a relatively small financial step up from the base model. For about $7,000 more than the regular Macan, you get a massive upgrade in power – a bump from 248 hp to 348 hp thanks to a turbo V6 instead of an inline-four under the hood – as well as enhanced standard equipment. For comparison’s sake, jumping another 80 hp or so to the Macan Turbo requires an additional $30,000, though you do get even more luxury equipment as standard.

It’s not just the additional power from the six that transforms the Macan; it’s the way the 3.0-litre turbo’s elevates the character of the overall package. Yes, the Macan S it’s over a second faster to 100 km/h, but what really makes a difference is its refinement, smoothness, and creamy throttle response; they all contribute to an experience that simultaneously feels more luxurious and more sporty.

Thanks to the additional performance, you don’t have to work the S as hard as you have to work the base car in many driving situations, so real-world fuel economy is surprisingly similar, and the V6 sounds terrific, too, not needing any artificial enhancement from an optional sports exhaust to sound like a Porsche. You also get upgraded brakes, helping to retain the sweet natural balance of the Macan’s performance envelope, and the typically-perfect Porsche matching of control weights, which make the Macan S such a pleasure to drive in all situations.

Like the entire range, the Macan S was recently substantially upgraded, with a redesigned front fascia and lights up front, a revised rear with a full-width light strip echoing the latest “992” 911 at the rear, and a number of excellent new optional paint colours, including the photo car’s beautiful Mamba Green. But the big changes are inside: while the overall package has remained the same, the materials have improved, and the dash has been redesigned around Porsche’s latest-generation widescreen infotainment system.

The newest Porsche Communication Management not only has a huge high-res display with crystal-clear graphics; it also allows easy smartphone mirroring with Apple CarPlay and provides far more intuitive operation of everything from navigation to climate control to the radio and user preferences. The new system also seamlessly integrates new driver assist systems including a comprehensive surround-view camera system, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and more.

Like many Porsche things, those assist systems are optional equipment, and I actually prefer it that way. When it comes to Porsches (indeed, when it comes to most German cars) that means there’s excellent value to be had if you browse dealer listings for cars that have been lightly optioned. You can find a Macan S with a the most important upgrades well under $80,000, and drive away with one of the best-looking, and most entertaining, SUVs on the market today.

You can browse our comprehensive inventory of Macan S models here.