Morgan Plus 8 – Review
By Liam Bird
Coat: check. Scarf: check. Gloves: check. Hat: check. Slim fitting shoes: check.
Slim fitting shoes? Yep, slim fitting shoes. I’m about to drive Morgan’s new Plus 8 and previous experience of the products of Malvern Link’s Pickersleigh Road has taught me that they’re not the kind of things you drive in your walking boots, even if, like me, you’re not exactly prop-forward material. I’m happy to use both brake and accelerator together whilst indulging in a little heal-and-toe down-changing, but I’d rather not do it inadvertently. So slim fitting shoes it is, even if they aren’t as warm as my Meindls.
The Morgan Plus 8 promises to be the ultimate fusion of Morgan’s traditional craftsmanship and its modern-day chassis technology. By clothing the bonded aluminium chassis Morgan uses to underpin their unashamedly art-deco looking Aero-cars with the more traditional (albeit stretched a little) looking bodywork of their Roadsters, they’ve created what just might be the ultimate modern-day classic. Not only is it charming in its appearance – sinister too when bumper-less and painted jet-black as per the example kindly loaned me for today’s drive in to Worcestershire – but the Plus 8 is seriously, astonishingly even, quick.
Below the Plus 8’s multi-louvered, centrally hinged bonnet lies a 4.8 litre V8 engine courtesy of BMW – and it pumps out somewhere in the region of 370bhp. It’s coupled, in this case, to a beautifully mechanical feeling 6-speed manual gearbox, complete with clickety sounding gate and, well that’s it. There’s no traction control, or for that matter, any other form of electronic safety net or driver aid: all inputs are your own. In the dry the Plus 8 will touch 80 in second; in the wet it will spin its rear wheels in fourth for fun. You do get ABS, airbags and power steering though, and you can specify an auto ‘box too, if that’s your thing.
With its mohair hood in place, entry and exit to the Plus 8 is – how shall I put this? – challenging. The sill is wide and the door low. Gaining entry seems to be a matter of tumbling in head first, getting your torso in over the transmission tunnel and then treading your legs in and down towards the floor hinged pedals. You can see why most Morgan owners choose to drive top-down even in winter; getting in with “easy-up” roof stowed is just so much easier. Today though it’s close to freezing and, frankly, I’m not so hardy.
Once in, the steering wheel sits close to your chest, the seats are snug, if a little upright, and storage space is seriously limited. Two slim door pockets and a cubby behind the seats are the only hints towards “luggage capacity”. Also, there’s nowhere to rest your left foot – hence those narrow shoes – but, with the air-con on the Plus 8’s leather clad cabin proves surprisingly cosy.
Turn the key and thumb the starter and after a couple of churns the V8 fires. It sounds magnificent, shattering Malvern’s cool morning air with a deep base rumble, the kind of which only a big V8 can make. A few decadent throttle blips are hard to resist.
Once on the move it’s clear that the Plus 8 demands your attention. The clutch requires a firm push; the brakes a firmer one, but once warm the big AP racing rotors seem more than up to the task of bringing this fly-weight soft-top to a halt, whatever it’s velocity. The steering fidgets in your hands and feels wonderfully direct, and you soon learn, despite your initial reactions, to loosen your grip of the wheel so as to guide the Plus 8 rather than man-handle it.
“Nothing else like it”
The way it immediately reacts to pressure on the accelerator is a constant reminder you that you could quite as easily determine this car’s trajectory with your right foot as you could with your right hand. The Plus 8 is a brute – its combination of firm ride and what can only be described as savage performance, together with its aural delights, makes nearly everything else you’ve ever driven feel sterile by comparison. There simply is nothing else quite like it.
And that, ultimately, is the Plus 8’s raison d’être. It’s madly impractical and yet utterly addictive. At £82,500 it’s far from cheap. But part of the appeal of Morgan ownership has always been that they make bespoke cars. Meaning you’re unlikely to ever encounter two that are exactly the same. Hopefully the same won’t be said for the slim fitting shoes you’ll need to go with it.
Morgan Plus 8
Engine: 4799cc.V8 32 valve petro
Transmission: 6 Manual rear-wheel-drive
Power: 367 bhp @ 6300rpm
Torque: 370 lbft
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Max Speed: 155mph
Mpg: 25.7 (combined)
Price: from £82,500