Morgan Plus 8 - Practice Makes Perfect
Morgan Plus 8 - Practice Makes Perfect
January 25, 2014
Last Tuesday we had a great day out courtesy of the hospitable folk at the Morgan Motor Company in Malvern, Worcestershire. A fascinating tour of the factory - much more of which to come in a few days - was swiftly followed by the opportunity to test drive no less than three different cars. First up, the mighty Morgan Plus 8.
Clearly, the Morgan team have a sense of humour because knowing I had never driven any Morgan before, they gave us one of the most powerful cars in the range. Essentially, it is two people sitting behind a massive engine. The first hurdle was getting into the thing. Mrs DriveWrite, being petite and nimble (her words), didn’t have much problem but with me being, shall we say, a larger and more awkward shape (her words) and with a steering wheel to negotiate, it took a while to get me settled. No doubt it gets easier with practice.
The cockpit - the only apt description - is simple and uncluttered. No superfluous bells and whistles here. None of your new-fangled driver aids; no Bluetooth and so on although there is air-con. Fit and finish, as you can see from the images, is excellent. The speedometer and rev counter are centrally positioned; fuel and temperature behind the wheel. With a nod to modern requirements there are, of course, air bags and ABS.\
The car featured had a six-speed manual gearbox (surely the one to choose) but a six-speed automatic is also available with the option of ‘Sport’ and ‘Auto’ modes. The convertible mohair roof is easy to erect with a double thickness liner for insulation. Properly fitted around the doors it did a good job. Sadly there wasn’t the opportunity to slip the top off. But it’s the little touches that really satisfy; the ruched door pockets, the old-school door handles and the carbon fibre bucket seats nestled in the plush red leather interior all add up to the essence of a truly British sports car.
The Plus 8 is a seamless marriage of old and new. Underneath the traditionally styled body is a hand-made wooden frame nestled on a very rigid, bonded and riveted aluminium chassis. Standing outside, the proportions are fine but once installed low in the seats the aspect is different. Suddenly the long, louvered bonnet coupled with the elegant flow of the front wings makes the car seem much bigger and wider. I started the engine with, I don’t mind admitting, a touch of trepidation.
Now, the good people of Malvern are probably more used than most to seeing Morgan sports cars flashing by but the Plus 8 is not what you’d call subtle. The 4.8L V8 BMW engine snarls on start-up and positively bellows under acceleration. The small boy in all fully grown petrolheads will relish the way the soundtrack burbles and crackles especially on throttle lift-off. The sense of width meant I found myself giving parked cars a wider berth than is usual. Again, I expect that it’s something you get used to.
Acceleration is ferocious. The traffic light sprint to 62mph is dealt with in just 4.5 seconds and the Plus 8 will continue on to 155mph for those with nerves of steel. The chassis is very stiff and this makes the ride very firm yet not harsh. The power steering is light, but as you speed up it becomes very direct, responding immediately. This, combined with the Plus 8’s somewhat jittery ride, makes the car rather hard work to keep fixed in a straight line on Britain‘s ruined roads. Don’t change the car - fix the roads.
Despite the traditional looks Morgan make use of aircraft technology that saves 150kg over the weight of, say, a standard Aero 8, so the Plus 8 tips the scales at a low-cal 1100kg. With the V8 at the front kicking out a healthy 367bhp and 370lb/ft, driving requires your full attention. Morgan reckon that 23mpg is on the cards but I think that this would largely depend on the right foot - the temptation always is to accelerate.
The feel of the car was like a full-on racing machine, the pedals are hinged from the floor and very rigid - which took some getting used to - so gear changes meant some real effort was required. As I recall this is known as ‘driving’ and the 8 is an object lesson in how much we have forgotten about the art.
The Morgan Plus 8, like all the cars from the Malvern Factory, are hand built by craftsman and there is something very satisfying about that. Instead of robot assembly you have actual humans using real tools and it is clear they take pride in what they do. This car is simple, quick, alarming and pleasing in equal measure. At £85,000 it isn’t cheap and there are other sports cars available for that money. Brilliant though some of them may be the Plus 8 is a different experience. Once you get the hang of it this car brings back that sense of the golden age of motoring and it doesn’t get much better than that.