With a turbocharged BMW engine under the bonnet, is the Morgan Plus Six a real alternative to the sports car norm?
Usability, refinement and enhanced driving enjoyment. These are the elements that define the new 267kph, 250kW Plus Six according to its creators, and after 112 years in business they should know their customers better than most.
In this case that means a comprehensively redesigned roof – one that doesn’t just look neater and fit better, but which is also far simpler to use than before, which will be a welcome discovery to anyone who’s wrestled to get the old hood up in a hurry when it started to rain.
It also brings a much needed pair of new seats in place of the previous bench-style seats; and these, perhaps more than any other aspect, define the new Plus Six as a more serious driving machine.
There is still antiquation on offer aplenty, even with a potent and distinctly modern 3.0-litre BMW straight six turbo engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox nestling beneath that inimitably long bonnet. But together with an optional new sports exhaust system and subtler additions such as a lockable new luggage compartment in the rear and, heaven forbid, new USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity for your phone, Morgan has guided the Plus Six – and its smaller four-cylinder brother, the Plus Four, which we’ll write about in weeks to come – towards the 2022 model year, without going over the top.
As a result, the “new, improved” Plus Six feels subtly modern and practical in its approach but still charmingly old-school in its fundamental personality. That’s not an easy balance to strike given the amount of technology that Morgan could so readily have unleashed upon the car. But this will come later, they say, because Morgan has every intention of being around for another 112 years and is already working hard on EV models for 2030 and beyond.
In the here and now, however, the Plus Six appears to be just what the doctor ordered. The test car wore eye-catching Viper Green paintwork, 19-inch wheels and tyres and had the optional new adaptive sports exhaust system fitted, allowing it to produce a rousing series of crackles on overrun in the process.
For some customers this might seem a little bit over the top, in which case there’s a range of more traditional colours to choose from and a less vocal exhaust that can be specified as standard. But no matter which range of options you choose, you get a smooth and powerful BMW straight six turbo engine and an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox with paddles, like it or not. Some customers initially say they want a manual but when they try the auto, they tend to like what they find, says Morgan, hence the reason there is no manual alternative.
Either way, the broad-shouldered Plus Six goes every bit as good as it looks and is, on the right road, a beguilingly lovely car to drive. This car is categorically not about zero to 100kph times or top speed, but if you must know it’ll do it in 4.2sec and won’t run out of steam until a bona fide 267kph registers on the speedometer, which is still analogue in design and continues to sit charismatically in front of the passenger, not the driver.
On the move the Plus Six feels more than just a little bit urgent. The initial step-off in first gear is borderline savage, and when you get going the acceleration on tap is always more than enough. In a straight line this is a seriously rapid car, with vast reserves of torque in the mid-range and a genuinely hair raising edge to its delivery – and raw performance – over the final 1,500rpm. Much as you’d expect from what is essentially a BMW M140i engine inserted into a car that weighs not a lot more than a tonne.
The gearbox also works a treat in conjunction with the engine, with a sport mode that enables manual shifting via the paddles and a sport plus mode that makes the throttle response even sharper still. There is no traction control and in the dry, it doesn’t need it, even with this much energy going through the rear tyres.
You would never call the Plus Six incisive or definitive in its handling. But again, it doesn’t seek to offer that kind of driving experience in the first place. Thanks to decent body control, light but accurate power steering, fine brakes and surprisingly excellent traction, it is however a car you can have a whole heap of fun in, yet one that’s also calm and refined when you want it to be.
The new hood, as advertised, is also much easier to raise and lower than before while the wind management is also better than you might expect, hood up or down. On a sunny day it really is a delightful car to drive, even if its ride quality isn’t that great under the microscope and the steering doesn’t have quite the depth of feel you might like under bigger cornering loads.
Point is, Morgan’s engineers haven’t dragged the Plus Six kicking and screaming into the 2022 model year. Instead they’ve caressed it towards the future in just the right way, with a range of subtle but well-judged improvements that keep it relevant but still charming in every way. Which is why the waiting list for one is still six months long, and why Morgan’s future looks brighter than ever right now.
On the surface Morgan’s 2022 model year Plus Six doesn’t look much different, but a range of subtle upgrades have collectively made a big difference to it overall. So although it remains expensive, it still feels every inch like a true Morgan but one with a better hood, a more comfortable cabin, sharper than ever dynamics and a rousing soundtrack to match. We love it, and so do its increasing band of customers.