My Morgan adventure
I have been lucky enough to drive an enormous variety of vehicles in my varied media career. However, I had never driven a Morgan. I rather carelessly ignored kind invitations to visit the factory and test drive a car or two. How remiss of me!
The situation was remedied last month when the good folk at Malvern offered to deliver a car to my door. How could I refuse?
All too soon a Land Rover and covered trailer appeared at the bottom of my driveway, and I must confess to being rather excited as the green Plus Four emerged into the daylight, mine for a week.
A few Morgan lessons were required prior to the final handover, the cars being quite unlike anything else on the market today.
The Plus Four still retains the traditional Morgan look, yet has undergone a recent modernisation programme, the aim being to broaden the car’s appeal and perhaps attract an affluent younger audience.
Under the distinctive louvred bonnet now sits a powerhouse of an engine, kindly supplied by BMW. The turbocharged 2.0-litre lump produces a heady 255bhp and in a car weighing just over 1,000kg, the performance is breath-taking. The 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.8 seconds gives some indication of the car’s acceleration and then there is the top speed of 149mph, for the brave.
My test car came equipped with an intelligent eight-speed automatic transmission, though you can specify a manual gearbox.
Other modern touches include air conditioning, heated seats and the ability to connect your smartphone to the built-in speakers. I am not sure any of these are strictly necessary. Drop the roof, wear a sensible coat and listen to the engine…
Day two with the Morgan saw an empty diary, so a chance to play. I set off after breakfast from Northamptonshire via Lincolnshire and into Norfolk, with no particular place in mind. The weather was fair, the roads were empty, the roof was down, and all was right with the world.
I removed the side screens for the full open-air effect, but a nip in the air soon saw them being reinstated. The heater, powerful in itself, seemed only capable of warming my left hand and foot and as for the heated seats, I did wonder if there was a loose connection as I could not detect any warming effect.
I paused to fuel both car and driver in the delightful coastal town of Hunstanton, and once replenished we pressed on, retracing an exciting driving route that I had covered a few weeks earlier in a Porsche Panamera Turbo.
I suspect I was quicker across the Norfolk coastal roads – and if I wasn’t, it certainly felt that way. Sitting so close to the ground rather magnifies the sensation of speed and there is an immediacy to the car’s controls, now so lacking in most modern motors.
You feel connected to the Plus Four, the steering an extension of your arms, the slightest movement having a direct impact on the direction of travel.
Morgan has also put some of its energy into softening the ride and although still on the firm side, at no time was it uncomfortable. You are always aware of what is going on under the wheels and that just adds to the experience.
Push hard into a corner and there is scant body roll – and even when the heavens opened, grip was plentiful, and the car gave me no cause for concern.
Let me now pause to consider the German-sourced engine, now powering that most British of cars. I have already mentioned the surfeit of power, but also worth mentioning is the enticing ‘sport’ button. Once pressed, the throttle response is sharper, the Plus Four feeling even more eager to gobble up the tarmac. As an accompaniment, the exhaust now pops and bangs, lovely for a while but a tad tiring in what is a noisy car anyway.
I returned home – again, via Lincolnshire – in the early evening having spent the whole day behind the wheel. Tired… yes! Windswept… yes! Exhilarated… undoubtedly!
This was to be the pattern for the rest of my time with the Morgan. Any excuse to pop out for a drive and even in the wet, there was fun to be had.
I would not recommend getting caught out by a sudden shower as there is no electric roof to save you from a drenching. Instead, there are poppers to be popped and awkward latches to be engaged. Practice makes perfect… Almost watertight, expect a few drops of water to find their way into the cabin in the heaviest of rain and rejoice in the heated front screen which is vital in ensuring some forward vision.
Other than the hood, there are other Morgan foibles to deal with. The seats are a little on the narrow side. I only just fitted in, though legroom is plentiful.
With the hood erect, closing the doors requires a hand through the window to ensure the side screen locates correctly. You soon get into the swing of it…
The fuel tank is rather small, so expect frequent yet inexpensive fill ups – and the claimed 33mpg for the combined cycle is very fair.
Luggage space is limited to a modest space behind the seats, so I would recommend the optional luggage rack (£510 to £630).
So, would any of this put me off Plus Four ownership? Absolutely not, as I had so much fun behind the wheel. If I were lucky enough to be an owner, I would happily drive the Morgan every day, knowing full well that each drive would feel like an adventure.
Unbelievably, Morgan later offered me a brief spin in its other amazing model – the Plus Six. I had an hour with the car, but it was enough to get to grips with it.
What’s the difference between this car and the Plus Four, then? Well, briefly, the Plus Six features the latest generation BMW turbo six-cylinder inline engine. This delivers 335bhp, 369 lb ft of torque, and, again, using an eight-speed automatic automatic ‘box, the car will travel from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds.
The use of this latest powertrain technology not only delivers a more exhilarating, high performance sports car, it also provides gains in terms of fuel consumption and an overall cleaner engine.
A combined economy of 34mpg establishes the Plus Six as one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles within the Morgan range.
Perhaps when I retire, I will buy a Morgan and become that eccentric old chap seen out and about in all weathers, roof down of course. It is an appealing prospect and there is no harm in dreaming.
So, if you fancy some good old-fashioned driving pleasure, pop along down to your Ledgerwood Morgan dealer and take a drive on the wild side. You will be glad you did.
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