The Morgan Motor Company has long attracted fans for its charming and mostly manual cars with ash bodies and flexible side curtains. Launched in 1950 and a descendant of the 4/4 that first went on sale in 1937, the Plus Four defied a changing world to remain in production, looking much the same as before, with a flexible steel chassis and antediluvian sliding-bar front suspension and bogie-spring rear axle intact under classic 1930s-style bodywork. Until now.
Led by private equity firm Investindustrial Andrea Bonomi and his family since 2019, the company founded by HFS Morgan in 1909 is boldly moving into the future. It revamped its cars, adding unheard-of comfort, practicality and safety – enough for Morgan to return to the US market early next year, ending its most recent regulatory absence – while retaining their vintage charm.
At the antique red brick factory on Pickersley Road in Malvern Link, Worcestershire, a skilled workforce continues to do much by hand to produce fewer than 1,000 cars a year. Although you might not know it to look at them, the cars – still with those slim aluminum panels covering ash frames and rich leather trim – are finally fit for the moment. A few body panels are now pressed in-house to save time and provide extra precision, although others are hand punched at the newly expanded Malvern facility, which is built strictly to order and still screams ‘Ye olde’.
The company’s new CX-Generation platform, a tub of bonded aluminum that looks a lot like Lotus’s Elise, is thoroughly modern and twice as rigid as the outgoing Morgan platform. A state-of-the-art fully independent suspension that delivers unparalleled ride quality is now attached to it. It can no longer be compared to the WW1 Mack trucks.
The newly fitted power steering lacks the feel we’re used to in the Morgan, but on the other hand, you can corner with a speed and confidence never before experienced in a Malvern product, without the constant danger of rough bumps that one bounces away into the hedges.
Leveraging the company’s relationship with BMW, which began with the firm’s use of the V-8 in the its Aero 8 models in 2001, the Plus Four uses the latest 2.0-liter turbocharged four. It delivers 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, propelling the lightweight (2200 or so) car along with aplomb. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, with the signature BMW-style gearshift lever popping out of the new center console, a symbol of Morgan’s magical new world. While it may sound like a no-brainer, the paddle-shift gearbox is actually a good fit for the powerplant, delivering a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds, which we think , would be 60 mph in 4.5 seconds on our side of the pond.
A six-speed manual transmission option is available in the UK but will not be offered in the US, presumably for certification reasons. It’s not all bad news, because the engine’s torque is limited to 258 lb-ft when paired with the manual transmission, and the car will also use more fuel, requiring four extra tenths (plus four, it seems) to reach 62 mph. BMW’s larger inline-six with 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque powers the wider and heavier Plus Six model, but it won’t be sold to us Yankees either.
Welcome to the New Century
Almost as exciting as the Morgan’s updated ride is its array of comfort and convenience improvements. In addition to heating and ventilation, the leather seats are wider and more comfortable, as is the beautiful cabin. The digital instrument display in front of the driver is slightly shaky, though the traditional gauges are kept in the center of the dash in time-honored Morgan fashion. Features like air conditioning, airbags, power door locks, Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports make you exclaim, “My God, it’s almost like a real car!”
The newly designed convertible is also commendable and never once leaked during several rain-filled days on tour in England. The manual top is a bit more difficult to put on than the Mazda Miata’s top, and a convenient release mechanism allows you to quickly raise the back of the top for stowing luggage behind the seats. Improved sealing helps vintage side curtains actually keep the rain out, another discovery. It also reduces, but doesn’t completely eliminate, wind noise, although it’s never so bad as to reduce the desire to regularly drive in the fast lane. An electric windshield defroster combined with the brand’s three esteemed mini-wipers provide a clear view of the road ahead, which, combined with powerful four-wheel disc brakes, further creates a sense of security largely absent from previous Morgans.
The new model stands on its own two feet as an exciting custom sports car with classic undertones and modern features. It’s also a surprisingly good price for a gorgeous, mostly hand-built machine, expect it to hit the US for around $70,000.
The firm may be old, but it is also brave. And the new Plus Four gives us hope that when a battery-powered Plus Four does come along, it will continue to stir the heart just as its legendary predecessors did for so long. Good show guys.
2022 Morgan plus four
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive, 2-Passenger, 2-Door Convertible
Base (C/D estimate): $70,000
Turbocharged intercooled DOHC, 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 inches31998 cm3
Power: 255 horsepower at 4400 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft at 1,000 rpm
Length: 150.8 inches
Width: 65.0 inches
Height: 49.2 inches
Curb weight (C/D estimate): 2250 lbs
EFFICIENCY (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.5 sec
1/4 mile: 12.4 sec
Top speed: 149 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 35/29/38 mpg
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