The brand new 2012 Morgan Plus 8 is the latest member to the Morgan Classic lineup which is hand built by craftsmen at the foot of the Malvern hills following traditions and soul representing the British Morgan brand. Produced by the last independent family owned car manufacturer in the world, the Plus 8 is based around contemporary technique while being shaped in a historical body work which hasn’t changed much since its original version was released in 1968.
The most noticeable upgrade to the Plus 8 is the use of a new engine and the same modern aluminum chassis of the Morgan Aero supercar. The new 4.8 liter eight-cylinder engine is sourced from the previous-generation BMW 550i and develops 367bhp and 490Nm of torque. The engine is linked to either a six-speed manual or six-speed ZF automatic gearbox. Our red test car was fitted with the latter option without paddle shifters. The setup was a bit sluggish, but a manual mode is available if needed.
The new Morgan Plus 8 makes use of technology from the aircraft industry to achieve a dry weight of only 1,100kg. This makes the Plus 8 the lightest V8 passenger car in the world approved to European safety standards. The car also has one of the stiffest chassis of all the convertible roadsters available today, according to Morgan. Add this is to the powerful delivery of grunt by the V8 engine and you have a car this low and light it flings you through the British country scenery at a terrifying rate. For the record, the power to weight ratio is around 315bhp per tonne and a sprint to 0-100km/h of 4.5 seconds is combined with a top speed of 250km/h.
The roads near the Morgan factory provided us with an excellent scenery to try the new Plus 8. Following the lines of the country roads we experienced the open-top sports car as the Morgan family intends it to be. The sloping route through the hills showcased the precision and sharpness of the steering while the suspension proved to be quite firm and jittery on poor surfaces. Bumps in the road were able to upset the front and rear axle’s composure and push it from its line unintentionally. An unwanted behavior in a sports car with only a few electronic safety aids like power steering and ABS.
After a while you get the hang of it and you start to respect the capabilities of the all-British sports car, which provides you and your passenger with a growling soundtrack and barking blips from the V8’s exhaust. But do not get fooled by its looks or the use of ash wood, because this Morgan can compete with any modern sports car and has the brilliance of easily letting its back end step out. Still the Plus 8 is far from a comfortable sports car, even though it was released as the most comfortable classic Morgan the company has ever built.
The Plus 8 is a wonderful weekend tourer, but not one capable of covering a longer multi-day trip through the country side. The cabin is spacious enough for two people, but it hardly has any space for luggage. Air conditioning is standard equipment in the old-fashioned leather lined cockpit which includes a lockable stowage compartment and simple, old-fashioned dials and knobs. A radio/CD player is standard equipment as well, but it is hard to use or even see it. There is no boot and the only logical luggage space is behind the seats with the roof closed and in the passenger footwell. The hood itself feels quite solid and is made of mohair and has double thickness liner for insulation. Getting it up and down asks for some patience and effort, but it is all part of the Morgan experience and tradition.
This new Morgan Plus 8 is capable of translating a classic driving style through its modern techniques, engine and suspension. The classic soul of Morgan shines through the aluminum body work and the interior, and makes it a special place to stay. The best and fastest Morgan ever build is surely one of the most enjoyable sports car out there offering loads of grunt through its eight-cylinder engine and excellent steering and handling, which respond immediately to a driver’s input. The package would be more of a challenge if Morgan would sell a faster paddle shift gearbox keeping your hands on the steering wheel while providing full control over the shift pattern, the screaming engine and the rear stepping out.