Morgan has always been a bit of a curiosity to me. I love their traditional, old school styling and I have a massive respect for their hand built manufacturing processes and the skills of their craftsmen. Anything that’s had the heart and soul of real people poured into bespoke products is a winner for me and that’s exactly what Morgan have been doing for years. The one question I’ve always had though, is why wouldn’t you just buy an actual classic? Something with history, something with its own story to tell. Why would you pretend to experience the golden age of motoring when you can go and do it for real with one of the many fine examples of classic British sports cars for around £60,000? Upon finding out Morgan did day hire in one of their new Plus Four sports cars, I thought it would be a great opportunity to stop speculating and see for myself what all the fuss is about.
Looking at the options on the Morgan website, the day hire fit us perfectly for our 2 day road trip that would see us begin in our home of Lancaster and end in Hertfordshire. At £235 I think it’s decent value for money, especially when you consider there’s no mileage limit and it’s a £60k+ car. Booking is easy and straightforward, I enquired online and received an email back with availability. From there I called the factory and paid over the phone. I swear it was less hassle than some vans I’ve rented off companies in the past! Collection of the car was at 0930 from the factory in Malvern, which meant a very early start for us.
Upon arrival we checked in at the front desk, gave credit card details for the damage excess (£2000 or reduced to £750 with a £15 payment) and were then lead out to the car by one of the Morgan staff. After a brief explanation of the controls and how things work (there really isn’t much) it was time to hit the open road! As part of the handover, we were given a leaflet with two recommended routes, we chose to head towards the Cotswolds but didn’t really stick to any plan, we just enjoyed seeing where the day would take us.
First impressions of the car was that entry was slightly awkward for a tall driver, partly due to a very wide sill but once inside, it wasn’t as cramped as first thought. Controls are well placed and easy to hand but the footwell is extremely tight with no rest for your clutch foot, so it’s kind of left hanging. Thanks to us being on a day trip around country roads, it didn’t really bother me but I can see it becoming uncomfortable on longer journeys.
Since we’re on the topic of the clutch, the action itself isn’t great. There’s very little feel as to where the biting point is and pedal travel is far too smooth with no mechanical interaction to let you know when it’s engaging. This lack of communication between car and driver continues through to the steering that almost feels sticky. It was direct enough, just lacked that finger tip sensitivity a good system gives. Someone tell me otherwise but I’m convinced it’s electric.
Despite some of the numbness thanks to the BMW sourced parts, it still feels involving. The whole car vibrates with the engine and it’s all the better for it. Ride quality is also very well judged, it feels stiff but never jarring, enough to let you know you’re driving a sports car but no so much you’re swerving like a drunk to avoid every imperfection in the road. Where this car excels is the 5/6 tenths range. Stick it in third or fourth and get into a relaxing flow, let the turbos torque pull you through the corners and set a pace that you can still let your eyes wander and soak in the views. This I believe, is what the brief for the car was and Morgan have executed it marvellously.
There’s a but here. In this day and age cars can’t get away with being one trick ponies, especially not for the price Morgan are charging. It’s when you start to press on and take it into the 7/8 tenths range that things start to fall apart. The four cylinder turbo engine really doesn’t enjoy being taken beyond 4/5 thousand rpm, it’s lost its pull by then and sounds like it’s had enough too.
While precise in it’s action, the gear change can’t be rushed, the engine seems to suffer from rev hang which I found a constant frustration and the only work around was to slow things down a bit. Through the twisties it’s the same story, take it above it’s comfort zone and you can feel plenty of flex. Id be disappointed if that flex was all in the chassis but the bushings and the tyre sidewalls could also contribute. Driving how 90% of people will use this car, in all honesty, it’s not really a problem, though I personally just craved that occasional eagerness for a turn of speed.
This general easy going nature seems summed up by the placement of the rev gauge, it’s out of eyeline over to the centre of the dashboard rather than in front of you like a true sports car. Again not a problem for most Morgan drivers but slightly off putting considering the motors narrow window of power.
Aside from the driving experience, there’s two other points regarding general usability that I found to be design oversights. Unless you have bags strapped to the rack on the rear, there’s next to no storage, the only area in the cabin is the narrow gap behind the seats that’s only big enough for a few drinks bottles and a handbag. This turns the Plus Four from what I thought would be a great car for a couple to spend the weekend away, to essentially a day trip car. I’m certain Morgan owners have found more ways around this but a basic storage capacity should be there from the factory, this isn’t a track car where saving weight comes at all costs.
My final and slightly alarming point is regarding the fuel filler position. It’s almost directly above the exhaust! I pulled over at a BP about 5 minutes away and began filling up (Morgan ask you to return the car with a full tank) and as the trigger clicked to indicate it’s full, a small amount of fuel leaked out and ran down the bodywork, dripping off about 2 inches away from the exhaust tip! It was a bit of a heart in mouth moment, especially with my girlfriend sat in the car. I definitely feel this should be addressed, particularly when you consider the basic design has been unchanged since… forever.
With our time with the car coming to an end and a great day out of touring the Cotswolds, driving through scenic roads and villages and getting lost once or twice, it was time to bring it home. The handover process was a pleasure too, a quick check around of the car by a member of staff and as long as you haven’t crashed it, that’s you done! If you’re wanting to book the day hire for yourself, I’d advise you do some planning on places and areas to visit, the day goes by rather quickly and it’s easy to miss things although it’s also fun to just be free and explore.
It may sound like I’ve been coming across very negative of the car and in some respects I have. A car costing this much should be more cohesive, the classic design and wonderful craftsmanship should blend with the new tech of the motor and other mechanicals much better than they do. I spent the last half of the drive wondering just how much better the car would be with an old school naturally aspirated engine and more feedback through the steering… on paper, the old Plus Eight. However, for someone who wants to experience a slice of motoring’s golden age without the questionable reliability, high cost of maintenance and other foibles of a true classic, the car still has an audience.
You get so much positive attention in the Plus Four, it turns heads and people stop to chat, all having classic car stories of their own to tell. It’s actually very impressive on fuel too, even if you are giving it the beans down the odd country road. Most of all though, it’s just a car that makes you feel good. Head out for a pub dinner or take the other half out for a little day trip and it makes total sense. For this reason Morgan’s still have a place in this modern world and the automotive landscape would be a worse place without them.
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