Who says you can't have your cake and eat it? The new Morgan Plus Four ticks the aesthetic and experiential boxes of classic car ownership but also comes with modern reliability and hidden tech to remove any potential hardships. And now it's officially available to buy in Ireland.
In the metal
If you were to remove the registration plate from a new Morgan Plus Four, the vast majority of people probably wouldn't accurately guess its production year. Morgan knows classic styling and its silhouette is one of the most consistent and easily recognised; hence, the company has remained true to that, even as it progresses to a more modern era.
Contemporary Morgan does a superb job of tastefully adding modern features in the same way that an architect would enhance a Georgian building. It still looks old, but there are fine details when you begin looking more closely that make you appreciate the subtleties. Unsurprisingly for a low-volume hand-built car, there is a generous amount of choice available when choosing the specification, meaning that you can have 'your' Morgan with a rather unique look if you so wish.
Not everyone will want the more extrovert 'Safari Yellow' paintwork applied to our test car, but it looks wonderful nonetheless, especially with the 15-inch alloys that add a more modern look compared to the traditional wire-spoked wheels. Whether the fabric roof is up or down, the Plus Four casts a dramatic profile. A long bonnet, hinged down the centre, adds to the visual drama, with a total of 74 louvres incorporated into it.
Lifting it reveals an engine that doesn't look as special, unfortunately, although being a modern unit should mean owners will have fewer reasons to access it in the first place.
For the most part, the interior is a simple affair and sticks to a classic minimalist look. In this automatic version, the flat-bottomed steering wheel carries the paddles shifters on the back. The plastic finish and light feel are out of place with the rest of the car's interior, and it's a pity that Morgan didn't put more effort into creating a more special solution for these.
As for the rest of the Morgan's interior, well, it's all about function and little else. You won't find any large distracting infotainment touchscreen displays here, and it honestly makes a refreshing change. Instead, the centre of the dash houses a large speedo and rev counter and some simple controls for the ventilation, though the latter is more about keeping some warm air around the legs as you enjoy some open-top driving.
Should you require it, the roof is a job for a two people ideally, but can be put into place solo when needed. Door cards with side windows can also be quickly installed and when are not required can either be slotted in behind the rear seats or left at home. The spare wheel on the rear deck is an option, but we think it looks good with it there, leaving aside the practicalities of having one. A rear luggage rack is also optionally available.
To describe driving the Morgan Plus Four as a unique experience is by no means an exaggeration. It is enthralling and engaging, flawlessly executing the escapism of driving a classic car, yet it remains carefully and thoughtfully sewn together with modern thread.
For starters, there's the sheer physicality of driving this car, from the slender yet supportive seats and positioning that places you close to the steering wheel and that upright windscreen. There's plenty of room in the pedal box for even the tallest driver's feet, while the door has a curvature ratio that Euclid would appreciate, making it ideal for resting one's arm on while driving more casually.
And you can drive the Plus Four in a very relaxing way, thanks in part to the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's a ZF unit that accompanies a BMW-sourced 'B48' engine that also does service in the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra, and it continues to be one of the best autos on the market. Other manufacturers do use this gearbox, but it's BMW that gets the best from it in our experience.
Depending on your mood, the auto can be left to do its thing while you savour the experience of the world flashing past. You get a sense of sitting low to the ground and also of being perched over the rear axle. This sensation becomes more evident as you steer through bends and it requires a touch of recalibration as the front axle is a fair distance from you. But what is most surprising is the urgency at which the Plus Four can shift along. More than any other, this one aspect is what is sure to shock anyone with prior experience of the older Morgan models.
This accumulation of speed is, of course, amplified by way of your backside skimming mere inches from the ground and how little bodywork there is around you. It's not that you feel exposed in this car like, say, on a motorcycle, but you do get a much stronger sense of connection with what the car is doing. The Morgan isn't simply lots of power in a light chassis; the suspension setup copes reasonably at medium and higher speeds, far from being a bone shaker, yet composed enough to accommodate the needs of a more enthusiastic driver.
One of the advantages of a modern engine and transmission is the option to turn the wick up thanks to the different drive modes. The Plus Four is nothing short of a thrilling drive down a fast-flowing back road at its most potent setting. If anything, it's almost a bit too rapid as you get on the power and the car flings you towards the horizon. The exhaust pops and burbles excitedly on the overrun, adding yet another layer to the sensory deluge the Morgan immerses you in as you drive. The steering is quick and direct, making it great fun if you like the outright pace and occasionally ragged corner exits. However, the Plus Four does its best service when you dial it back a notch.
What you get for your money
Buying a Morgan is almost exclusively an act of the heart rather than the head, so it's wrong to judge it based on numbers alone. It isn't a cheap car to buy with prices that start at around €100,000, and can rise according to how you choose to specify it. That is a sizeable sum of money, but you are getting a genuinely hand-built car to your exact specification. Other companies are doing similar things for multiples of that figure.
Get in touch with Edgewood Automotive if you're interested in buying one, as it's the sole Irish distributor for Morgan.
The Morgan Plus Four offers high levels of charm and engagement and wraps it up in an experience that's genuinely hard to match or replicate. It's every bit the car to look forward to driving at the weekend. It is a remarkably refreshing experience that couldn't be more different from today's modern vehicles. Yet, it contains all the modern conveniences and tech that some classic car owners will only dream of having. If ever there was a car to give you the best of both worlds, this is it.