The Morgan Motor Company has long attracted a devoted following with its seductive and largely hand-built machines with axle-frame bodies and slack side curtains. The Plus Four—released in 1950 as the Plus 4 and a descendant of the 4/4 introduced in 1936—steadfastly defied a changing world to remain in production, looking much the same as it did ever did, with a sturdy steel chassis and an antediluvian sliding-pillar front suspension and cart-sprung rear axle intact beneath a classic 1930s-style body. Until now.
Led by Andrea Bonomi and his family’s private equity firm Investindustrial since 2019, the company founded in 1909 by HFS Morgan has boldly stepped into the future. It has revitalized its cars, injecting unheard-of comfort, practicality and safety – enough that Morgan will return to the US market in the second half of 2023, ending its latest regulatory absence – while retaining their vintage charm.
At the company’s ancient redbrick factory on Pickersleigh Road in Malvern Link, Worcestershire, the skilled workforce still does much by hand to produce the plant’s output of less than 1000 cars a year. Although you might not know to look at them, the cars – still with those nicely shaped aluminum panels covering axle frames and leather trim galore – are ultimately fit for the moment. Several body panels are now pressed out of house to save time and ensure added precision, although others are hand-struck in the newly expanded Malvern facility which strictly builds to order and still calls out “your old”.
A New Platform
The company’s new CX-Generation platform, a bonded aluminum tub very reminiscent of Lotus’s Elise, is thoroughly modern and twice as stiff as Morgan’s outgoing platform. A contemporary all-independent suspension that offers unprecedented ride quality is now fitted to it. It can no longer be fairly compared to that of WWI-era Mack trucks.
Newly installed power steering doesn’t have the kind of feel we’re used to in a Morgan, but on the other hand you can navigate corners with speed and security never before experienced in a Malvern product without the ever-present danger of errant bumps that make one bounce. away in the hedges.
Taking advantage of the company’s relationship with BMW – which began with its use of the firm’s V-8s in its Aero 8 models in 2001 – the Plus Four uses the Bavarians’ latest turbocharged 2.0-liter four. It provides 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, moving the light (2,200-or-so-pound) machine with alacrity. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission whose signature BMW issue gear lever pops out of a new center console—a symbol of Morgan’s brave new world. Unwelcoming as it may seem, the road-shifted gearbox actually matches the powerplant well, delivering a claimed zero-to-62mph time of 4.8 seconds, which we reckon will translate to a 60mph- arrival in 4.5 seconds on our side of the dam.
A six-speed manual option is available in the UK, but will not be offered in the US until later. Engine torque is limited to 258 pound-feet with the manual, and the car will take four extra tenths (plus four, it seems) to reach 62 mph. A 3.0-liter BMW inline-six, making 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, powers the wider and heavier Plus Six model, but it won’t be sold to us Yanks.
Welcome to the New Century
Almost as obvious as the revived Morgan’s ride is its array of comfort and convenience upgrades. In addition to the heating, the leather seats are wider and more comfortable, as is the attractive cabin. A digital instrument display in front of the driver flickers slightly, though traditional gauges keep track in the center of the dash in the old Morgan way. Features like air conditioning, airbags, power door locks, Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports make one exclaim, “Blimey, it’s almost like a real car!”
The newly designed convertible top is also to be commended and didn’t leak once over the course of several rain-filled days touring England. The manual transmission lid is only slightly more difficult to erect than a Mazda Miata’s top, and a convenient release allows its rear section to be quickly lifted to store luggage behind the seats. Improved sealing helps the old-school side curtains actually keep the rain out, another revelation. It also reduces, but doesn’t completely eliminate, wind noise, although it’s never bad enough to reduce the urge to travel in the fast lane regularly. An electric windshield defroster, along with the brand’s venerable triple mini-wiper-blade assembly, keeps the view of the road ahead clear, which, combined with the powerful four-wheel disc brakes, further lends a sense of security that was largely absent in previous Morgans. .
The new model stands on its own two feet as a compelling custom sports car with classic undertones and modern performance. It’s also surprisingly good value for a lovely, largely hand-built machine—expect it to launch in the US with prices starting around $70,000.
The firm may be old, but boy is it fluff too. And the new Plus Four gives us hope that when a battery-powered Plus Four arrives one day, it will continue to tug at the heartstrings, just as its sublime predecessors have 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 east): $70,000
Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 inches31998 cm3
Power: 255 hp @ 4400 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1000 rpm
Length: 150.8 inches
Width: 65.0 inches
Height: 49.2 inches
Combat weight (C/D east): 2250 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D IS)
60 mph: 4.5 sec
1/4-mile: 12.4 sec
Top speed: 149 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D IS)
Combined/City/Highway: 35/29/38 mpg
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