Ask around at the firm’s visitors’ centre as to why that decision was taken, and the answers come very honestly. “It was the right offer, when all the others over the years just weren’t,” one staffer said. “We’d reached the point where the family was beginning to hold the company back rather than drive it on. Growing the business now needs investment and well-connected, industry-savvy leadership. Which, we’re hoping, is what we’ve now got.”
At the same time as announcing that change in ownership, back in March, Morgan also announced its first ground-up new car in 19 years: this one, the Plus Six. In development since 2016, this’d be better thought of as the old regime’s parting gift to the company rather than the first fruit of the new one. Ironically, though, it’s definitely ‘all-new’ enough to feel like the latter.
How does the Plus Six stand out from other Morgan models?
Based on a new aluminium box-section monocoque chassis twice as stiff as the old Aero-series chassis that served under the Plus Eight, but also no more heavy, it’s also the first factory Morgan with a turbocharged engine: BMW’s 335bhp ‘B58’ turbo straight six hooked up to the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike any Morgan before it, the Plus Six has electromechanical power steering, and its new chassis has even been designed to accommodate electric drive motors in future.
You’re getting into a little bit of the company’s future, then, when you click the chromed button door release, swing open the tiny, cut-down driver’s door, and step over one of those famously wide running boards to lower yourself carefully into the Plus Six’s all-new cockpit. The seats remain pretty narrow, just like the footwells – but the cabin has clearly grown for length, with this 6ft 3in tester is genuinely spoilt for leg room. There’s both reach and rake adjustment on the steering column, and a very sound layout of controls overall. I’m not sure that footwell leaves room for a third pedal except at a squeeze, though there has been talk of a manual version. Even so, chances are you could be comfy here for a few hours at a stretch, almost regardless of how you’re built.
The Plus Six’s cabin finish is generally very good. Our test car had attractive ‘box weave’ carpets, embroidered headrests and soft, attentively stitched hides – though it could have done with a more appealing-looking steering wheel. Instrumentation is by traditional analogue clocks placed, in Morgan convention, in the middle of the fascia – and the more distant positioning of the speedo than the rev counter, together with the size of its numbering, makes you glad there’s also a small digital trip computer screen with a digital speedo visible through the orbit of the steering wheel rim. If not for that, you’d need to take a passenger with you at all times, just to tap you on the knee as you hit the national speed limit – which, for all I know, may very well be what Morgan owners do anyway, just in case.
How does the Morgan Plus Six perform on the road?
And it really wouldn’t take long to hit that limit, by the way. That BMW straight six sounds a bit tuneless at times, offering a lot more turbo induction noise than exhaust burble under load – although an ‘aftermarket’ exhaust which might, I suspect, be fitted to your car even before it leaves the factory, apparently adds greater audible fruitiness.
Assuming it adds enough of it, there’d be very little else to find wanting here about a powertrain with more torque than a top-of-the-range six-pot Jaguar F-Type operating in a car weighing half-a-tonne less. The Plus Six is instantly quick, picking up from dawdling speeds with real swiftness. It is not a car that needs to be driven at all hard to go fast, or to feel enlivening for its outright pace. That’s new ground for Morgan, in my experience. There’s no doubt that a good manual version would be more involving and, to this tester, would suit the car better. Still, the ZF auto’s manual mode is quick enough to feel like a very acceptable compromise, and it’s as slick as anywhere when shifting by itself (although I do wish Morgan had found some nicer-feeling shift paddles than the somewhat flimsy, plasticky ones familiar from the PSA-Peugeot-Citroen parts bin).