Nowhere are the contrasts on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed more in evidence than the cossetting, leather-lined cockpit of Morgan’s handsome new Aero 8. Twenty-four hours earlier I was trussed up in full-harness belts in the focused-for-action Nissan Juke-R 2.0 cockpit.
Relaxing in the sun, with the roof down and the Aero 8’s 370bhp 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine burbling purposefully, this is motoring in a different style and sums up Morgan’s appeal in a nutshell: modern running gear clothed in seductive bodywork with a louvred bonnet and 1930s-style running boards.
If the styling looks familiar, that’s because the front end is borrowed straight from the wonderfully art deco Aeromax, but from the A-pillars back the sheetmetal is all-new from Jonathan Wells, Morgan’s talented young design chief.
Wells’ main work has been to create curvaceous new rear wings and bootline capable of packaging the twin-layer mohair roof to fold flat, seamlessly with the rear bodywork, a first for Morgan, whose soft-tops usually sit proud, pram-style. "We’re very pleased with the result," Wells beams. A clever design feature is the rear-hinging luggage cover, which doubles up as the tonneau cover for the roof.
Inside, the cabin is trimmed with very tasteful ‘box weave’ carpet, in an oatmeal colour and edged delicately with brown leather trim, which finishes the Morgan interior to a new level. In fact, looking around this cabin, the details of the finish and the soft trim are a very high standard indeed.
There is a lot more underskin that’s new, too. The Aero 8 introduces a Gen II version of Morgan’s bonded alloy chassis, which is about 10% stiffer than the Gen I, according to chief engineer Mark Reeves.
Significantly, there’s also new, Morgan-designed wishbone suspension all round, replacing the inboard cantilever set-up of the previous models.
Reeves is steering the Aero 8 up the hill today - not surprising since he’s been living and breathing this car for months.
This Aero 8 is Morgan’s test hack, already put through 20,000 miles of endurance running, including punishing testing over Millbrook’s car-breaking pave. "We’ve done more testing on the new car than any other Morgan model," Reeves says proudly.
Last year Reeves piloted me up the hill in the Morgan Speedster, whose significantly cut-down windscreen let the airflow rush into the cockpit.
This time there’s much less buffeting as Reeves threads the Aero 8 up the hill. He’s looking after this pre-production car, driving rapidly but not flat out, and the Aero 8 dispatches the hill tidily.
With 370bhp on tap, there’s enough performance to tease the chassis, which feels nicely planted as he turns in neatly and powers out securely from the four main corners.
Reeves has spent much time setting up the Spax spring/damper units to compensate for the extra weight over the Aero 8’s rear axle from the new rear-end styling and roof mechanism.
The six-speed ZF automatic gearbox isn’t playing ball completely, however, and changes up too early a couple of times as Reeves accelerates up the hill. "It’s learning as I drive it on the paddles," he comments.