10 Mar 2014

2014 Morgan Plus 8 Review

Matt Hubbard drives the new Morgan Plus 8

2014 Morgan Plus 8

So you've got £85k to spend on a car.  It will be a second car so must be rear wheel drive, possessed of character, sound fantastic, be a convertible if possible, be a head turner as much as a performance machine and be brutally fast.

An Aston Martin might fit the bill but they start at £100k and the DB9 is being completely revised soon. A Porsche 911 Carrera cabriolet ticks most of the boxes except for the fact it's unlikely to stand out from the crowd enough, its engine note isn't that brawny and, well, it's German.  A Jaguar then.  The F Type V8 S costs £80k and comes in some rather fetching colours.  Sounds good too.

The elephant that you might not have even thought was in the room, because you might not have thought about it in the first place, is the Morgan Plus 8.

Once you have driven both the choice between the two comes down to how much you care to admit each car's character fits your character.  Here's my F-Type review.  You're reading the Plus 8 review.

The Morgan Plus 8 looks like all Morgan four wheeler cars have looked since the 1950s.  Running boards, long, narrow footprint, long bonnet with engine at the front, occupants squeezed in at the back.

But the Plus 8 isn't much like Morgans of old under the hand-formed aluminium bodywork.  The shape might look a little smoother than the 1960s Plus 4 (which still exists in largely the same form today) but the chassis is nothing like it.  Whilst a Plus 4 is constructed from wood with some aluminium the Plus 8 uses the Aero Supersports' underpinnings, and that means lots of aluminium with just a bit of wood.

An Aero Supersports costs £100k.  That means the Plus 8 is a bit of a bargain because it uses the same chassis and the same BMW sourced 4.8 litre V8, which sounds amazing and has 367bhp.  Oh, and the Plus 8 weighs 1,100kg.
2014 Morgan Plus 8

The colour of the test car was metallic brown.  It looks great in the flesh but if you don't like it you have 999 more colours to choose from.

If you plan to tour in your Plus 8 then you'll need to pack light.  It has no boot.  You can elect to buy a luggage rack but that's it.

Open the door and you'll notice that, like in Lotuses (also built from aluminium), the sills are wide.  Add in the width of the running boards and you need to either step in with something of a leap or reverse in, with backside hitting the seat before swinging your legs round.

The cabin is beautifully appointed.  The leather (you can choose pretty much any colour, or even non-leather if you're a Paul McCartney type) is rather lusciously fitted everywhere possible.  The dials look gorgeous and the metalwork of the handbrake, gear lever and pedals is top notch.

There's an airbag where you think the glovebox should be but there is a space underneath that for storage - with a handy 12v socket too.

The only let-down is the steering wheel which looks rather ordinary.  The good news (but it's a secret so shhh) is that a new steering wheel is on the way.  I've seen it and it looks fab.

Aside from the space beneath the glovebox you get leather door pockets and some space behind the seats - but not much.  The Plus 8 has no cupholder, which is remiss.  Morgan should go and take a look at Lotus' milled aluminium beverage receptacle and copy it.

The Plus 8 has a key and an ignition but you still need to press a button marked Start to fire up the engine.  In other cars this would seem frivolous but in the Plus 8 it adds to the sense of drama.

You sit low and peer through the flimsy looking windscreen down the long bonnet (which is beaten, shaped and shaved by hand) with its louvres (which are individually pressed by hand and placed by eye with no measuring tools) and you see the wheel arches and headlights.  Even at a standstill the view is emotionally moving.
2014 Morgan Plus 8

The seats are extremely comfortable and supportive.  The gear lever sits slightly under the dash but is no problem to use cleanly.  The steering wheel and pedals are perfectly placed.

Press Start and hear the V8 fire into life.  You can specify rear or side exit exhausts.  The noise from either configuration is a deep, sonorous rumble with the odd crackle.  Even at high revs it retains a deep note.  If you opted for side exit exhausts the sound is louder in the cabin, but that's a good thing.

Select Drive and off we go.

With such huge power and such light weight the Plus 8 should be a horrible, fearsome beast.  But it isn't.  Mindful of the fact it has no traction control (TVR weren't the last of the hairy chested driver's cars) you start slowly and treat the throttle with maximum respect.

But really there's no need to drive it slowly.  It has ample grip and a rather lazy power delivery, even if the amount of power it can deliver is ultimately huge.  You can quite easily lose rear end grip if you're aggressive with the throttle but when that happens it happens with lots of notice and in a rather gentlemanly fashion.

Would sir like the rear end to step out?  Yes please that would be lovely.

I've driven lots of cars with more power but who's delivery is normally muted by traction control.  Turn the power nanny off and the wheels break traction faster than a cat on an ice rink.

Not so in the Morgan.  It was designed from the off without electronic intervention so the chassis copes admirably and with warning.
2014 Morgan Plus 8 interior

This could be something to do with the aluminium underpinnings.  From the Exige to the F-Type, every aluminium chassis'd car I've tested has had superior handling and hasn't needed to resort to active suspension or four wheel steering to make up for a steel chassis.

The delivery may be slightly lazy but it isn't without ferocity if you press on.  The gearbox is more than up to the job.  It's a ZF unit so is comparable with the best in the business.

The steering is sharp.  Turn in is brilliantly compliant and grip is more than adequate.  The Plus 8 could do a passable impression of a race car but, unlike in a race car, vibrations are well damped and the ride is firm rather than jarring.

Yes, the suspension is quite stiff.  It's not overly so but more testing mileage and subsequent fettling could possibly lend it a smoother ride.

All this combines to make the Morgan Plus 8 a brilliantly fantastic car to drive.  After an hour behind the wheel I was massively enthused by it.  It's an intoxicating experience that transports the driver away from the norm and into a netherworld of cars that look and feel old but that have modern power trains and chassis dynamics.

No other manufacturer manages to achieve this.

The Plus 8 is not practical.  It has almost no storage space, the roof is manual and takes a minute to put up (and requires a knack), it consumes fuel at a vast rate and it hasn't been crash tested to death or  driven for a million miles before launch.

Consider what it is before purchase.  Know its limitations.  Understand that you cannot drive it every day through the deep mid-winter and expect it to look shiny and new come spring.  Appreciate and take account of all of this and you can't beat a Morgan Plus 8.

It is a sensationally involving car to drive, to look at and, I presume, to own.

It's also good value when you compare it to an Aston Martin or a Jag, and it depreciates slower than most cars.  The original 2012 press car cost £85k when new and is currently selling on eBay for £59k.    It has 15,000 miles on the clock which is huge for a Morgan.  Take a look at older Morgans for sale and you'll see the price will eventually start to rise.

Before I drove the Morgan Plus 8 my expectations were that it would be a reasonably involving car with plenty of poke and many foibles.  My expectations were exceeded by a factor of ten - in a good way.  If I could buy one I would - but I'd wait for the new steering wheel.


Price - £85,200
Engine - 4.8 litre V8 petrol
Transmission - 6 speed automatic
0-60mph - 4.5 seconds
Top Speed - 155mph
Power - 367bhp
Torque - 370 lb ft
Economy - 26mpg
CO2 - 256 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,100kg
2014 Morgan Plus 8

2014 Morgan Plus 8

2014 Morgan Plus 8 dashboard

2014 Morgan Plus 8

Review by Matt Hubbard