Having used pretty much the same design on the Plus Four for decades, Morgan has massively switched things up for the new version. Under that bodywork - which it must be said, doesn’t look all that different from the old car’s - is a bonded aluminium frame, replacing the old-school ladder setup. Leaf springs and live axles have made way for coilover dampers and double wishbones.
Although Morgan still wants to firmly look to the past, its future involves a departure from the ancient steel frame, taking the lead from the aluminium chassis Aero 8 introduced in 2000. “The technology has become more relevant, the cars are getting more powerful and we have [to] satisfy more constraints in terms of crash testing, emissions, ease of manufacture,” head of design Jon Wells explained as we toured the company’s Malvern Hills factory last month.
Don’t be thinking this means the wood has gone, though. Far from it - the Plus Four and the Plus Eight-replacing Six - are still built in a body-on-frame fashion, and now, even more ash is used than before.
The wooden frame is largely based on the old one but has been “tidied up” for more efficient use of space, and made thicker and stronger in places. Ash is still, in Morgan’s view, the ideal material to affix its Superform aluminium panels.
98 per cent of the Plus Four’s components are new, but front and rear wings are carried over from the old car with only light tweaks. The non-concentric circular shape of the rear wheel arches is still achieved using a solid oak jig which has been with the company so long, no one’s entirely sure how old it is. 50 to 60 years is the estimate.
Amongst those new components is a 255bhp 2.0-litre inline-four turbo engine supplied by BMW (a ‘B58’ inline-six in the Plus Six), which comes as a package with all the engine electronics, the prop, driveshafts and rear differential.
The automatic Plus Four and the auto-only Plus Six also carry over a gear selector from the German company, which does look at odds in a classically-styled Morgan cabin. This was a stipulation from BMW, as since there are so many connections between it, the engine and other systems, doing without it would have massively complicated the adoption of these new powerplants. Using electric power steering systems is also necessary, although these aren’t supplied by BMW.
BMW’s engine line-up goes well beyond those two units, of course, and Wells confirms that there are “lots of things” in the current line-up being considered for future use. So could the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 go into a successor to the old 4.8-powered Aero 8? “You’re not the first to say that!” Wells said. “We are working on what the next-generation of flagship looks like, but that’s some way down the road,” is as far as he’d elaborate.
As for the Plus Four and the Plus Six, despite all the modern touches, Wells insists they do still feel like Morgans to drive, despite a lot of the anachronistic touches - the steel frame, the leaf springs and so on - being consigned to the past. “That was probably one of the biggest challenges - make sure we didn’t end up with an MX-5”.
Has Morgan succeeded in making something that doesn’t just feel like every other modern sports car? For the most part, so stay tuned for our full Plus Four review soon.