Morgan Plus Four Road Test

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A Morgan is a rare sight on Northern Irish roads, but even over the roads of the Malvern hills near Worcester this Plus Four turned many heads.  I’m over at their factory at Pickersleigh Road where the coach builders have been manufacturing motor cars for over a decade.  

The 1950s design of the Plus Four and it’s big brother, the Plus Six, along with the three wheeled Super Three is the epitome of iconic British motoring.  A work of art at rest, and wouldn’t be out of place on a poster for the latest Notting Hill-Hugh Grant-Bridget Jones Rom-Com.

But this enduring appeal doesn’t mean a design endured.  In 2019, Morgan upended it’s steel/wood platform for a bonded aluminium chassis, wood frame and ali panels.  Out went the Ford sourced motors and the latest BMW 4 and 6 Cyl engines for the Plus Four and Plus Six respectively.

For the red hood on grey Plus Four I have on test, it’s a 6 speed manual with BMW’s B48 as found in the 128ti, but you can 1specify the ZF8 auto as an option.  With 255bhp on tap, yet a meagre kerb weight of around 1000kg there is performance on offer previously unheard of from a Morgan.  

Ingress and egress is a straightforward affair, especially with the manual hood folded away.  The long front end and rearward seat reminds me of a Caterham, the passenger compartment stuffed at the rear of the wheelbase, and similarly that feeling you could eat blackberries from a hedge when performing a three point turn, sitting that close to the rear axle.

The seating position is rather high, which initially feels unnatural but quickly becomes a blessing in disguise.  Long noses and T-junctions don’t play well together and this higher perch helps ensure that iconic front end remains in one piece.  There is a special feeling to the view up the centre split hood, your eye catching the vent louvres, the beautiful sweeping sills running up and over the wheel arches, and those lamp pods peeking.  

Drama continues in the cabin, which has a wonderfully clear traditional cliff face dashboard with a sympathetic small LCD speed display.  Ah and the feel and smell of stitched leather everywhere.  Before I was released onto the Malvern Hills in the Plus Four, I’d just finished the factory tour.  I’d highly recommend it and it immediately endeared me to the brand and the product.  How could you not, when you see wiring looms and body panels being installed, wheel arches laminated from timber or bonnet louvers being cut by hand.  

On the road and you can always tell a car that has been extensively developed for our B-roads.  Suspension is compliant over all kinds of broken cambered asphalt, giving confidence to cover ground at a decent pace without being thrown off line.   The steering is well judged and despite being such a light chassis, is power assisted.  It didn’t give me Lotus levels of feedback, but I could easily place the car on the road and had just enough information to let you know what was going on underneath you.

The BMW four pot is fairly gruff but with plenty of turbo wheezing, it’s 255bhp is more than entertaining in a car that only has ABS and no other driver aids to distract (or protect) the driver.  Power delivery is linear so it doesn’t catch you out. 

That being said I found the six speed manual to be baulky, tall geared and coupled with a heavy clutch, the Plus Four telling me in no uncertain terms to get off its scruff, keep my inputs calm and to be treated like the grand tourer it is.  There is a sport mode that sharpens throttle response, however relaxing into things is a better way to treat the Morgan, the new chassis and powertrain belying expectations of perhaps something sharper.   Maybe the optional ZF8 auto would suit better.  The brakes took the most reconciliation, with an inch or so of dead travel in the middle pedal catching me out at some junctions in my first few miles.  

Morgan Plus 8 with Rover V8 Power at the Factory

On the right day, decent weather, roof down and undulating B-roads through hills and dales and you are imbued with a sense of rightness.  Any quibbles with the drivetrain pale into significance.  Outright pace makes way for a more rewarding drive at eight tenths, the turbo four wooshing like the wind through your hair, yet you aren’t near the national speed limit.   Kids eyes widen.  White van drivers find a thumbs up rather than middle fingers.  A Red Bull eschewed for a pot of tea. 

Wood frame on bonded aluminium chassis is the magic of the new Morgan CX platform.

 

Putting a lid on my wistful rambling for a moment to surmise my thoughts on the Morgan Plus Four.  Something quite special; garage artwork.  The CX platform is a game changer for Morgan and I can understand how they easily fill their 800 or so build slots annually.  However, I had expectations of that lightweight chassis and Munich motor as the making of a drivers car, but ultimately I felt it fell short in that front.  Instead, the Plus Four is unapologetic in delivering something more traditional and I expect exactly what a Morgan customer wants.

Thinking of one?  Get yourself over to the Morgan Factory for a tour, and then you can hire one and tour the same superb roads around Malvern as I did direct from the team at Morgan.  

Morgan Plus Four

From £66,430 OTR
255bhp 2.0 4cyl Turbo
Classic Dark Grey £870
15″ Alloys (Wire Wheels are an Option)
Soft Deep Red Leather £1615
Maroon Mohair Hood £805

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About Author

Andy is the founding member of RMS, and when he's not following motoring events around the UK and Ireland he can be found on the track (sideways, having competed in top level drifting for a decade), or of course he'll be on the forum.

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