Review and road test of the Morgan Roadster
"The Roadster's V6 powerplant has some serious breeding to fall back on"
It's almost an irrelevance whether the Roadster is a materially better car than the Plus Eight. There will still be a long queue of buyers looking to get behind the wheel of this classically styled open top and Morgan will still pour long man hours into lovingly crafting each car to the customer's requirements. The Roadster does bring a number of innovations to the company. Rather than use the rather antiquated V8 engine that powered the Plus Eight, the Roadster instead opts for a 3.0-litre 24-valve V6 sourced from Ford. Before you start groaning, bear this in mind. A turbocharged version of this engine does a sterling job in Noble's M12GTO and two bolted together form the yowling heart of Aston Martin's Vanquish, owner of probably the finest engine note of any current production car. Though it can also be found in humbler Mondeos and Jaguar X-TYPEs, this powerplant has some serious breeding to fall back on.
The last Plus Eight rolled off the Morgan production lines in May after a 35 year production run. If the Roadster can emulate anything like this sort of success, Morgan should be proud. The pace of change now is quicker than at any time before and Morgan as a company have been forced to adapt. The key drivers behind these changes are not only customer demand but also legislation changes. Their latest Aero8 has been uprated to feature the latest BMW-sourced 4.4-litre V8 and now complies with all European and Federal approval requirements, opening it up to a bigger audience. Morgan is better placed to capitalise on a fatter order book too. The days when you had to wait until you were grey and decrepit before you received the Morgan you ordered in your thirties are well over. Place an order for a Roadster today and the car could well be in your garage within 12 months.
Many of you may well remember the 'Troubleshooter' series when Sir John Harvey Jones visited Morgan and was frankly appalled at what he saw. From a business process point of view, the company was operating in the dark ages with many procedures that could be automated or computerised being undertaken by hand. Since then Morgan have undoubtedly modernised but have, if anything, outsmarted the renowned management consultant. Identifying the parts of the business that needed to retain the personal touch, Morgan have streamlined many of the secondary processes. This means that orders can be fulfilled quicker without compromising the core bespoke quality of the end product.
It's impossible to drive a Morgan without realising just what it was that encouraged the early pioneers to build their sportscars in the first place. Behind the wheel, you're open to the elements - and not only the sun or the rain; each pothole is an adventure.
Every ripple, bump and groove in the roadway is fed back through the leather-trimmed steering wheel. One advantage of the compactness of the Roadster's V6 powerplant is that the engine can be tucked back behind the line of the rear axle. Modern chassis engineers would refer to the car as 'front mid-engined' and this has a number of benefits. With the weight more centralised, there's less inertia at the front end. This means that the car will turn into a corner that much more crisply. One of the key markets that Morgan are targeting with the Roadster is that of the occasional track day attendee and the Roadster, with its sports suspension, agile responses and lusty V6 powerplant, looks like an interesting alternative to the usual throngs of Lotus Elises and BMW M3s. Demand should be strong.
Morgan Chairman Peter Morgan certainly hopes so and quotes his father, the company's founder, who maintained that you should always, "let demand run just a bit ahead of supply." People want nothing more than something they can't have, so the wait, the build-up, the anticipation, becomes part of the appeal.
Like all Morgans, the Roadster features an ash frame and hand built coachwork. Look closely and you'll see the concessions to aerodynamics and crashworthiness but it's undoubtedly a Morgan. The engine cranks out a healthy 223bhp at 6150rpm and the car will scuttle to 60mph in just 4.9 seconds. The top speed is a faintly academic 134mph but some idea of the engine's muscularity can be gained from the fact that it'll surge from 50-70mph in fourth gear in just 6.1 seconds. This is no peaky screamer. Of course, the key to this performance, and indeed the car's agility, is the all-up weight of just 940kg. Suddenly the £34,991 asking price doesn't seem exorbitant.
It's often forgotten that Porsche introduced the 928 back in the seventies with the intention of getting rid of the 911, a car they saw as becoming embarrassingly anachronistic. As history has shown, they failed dismally at that attempt. In burying a legend, one suspects Morgan may well have more success. There's never been a more relevant car to roll out of Malvern Link than the Roadster.
Facts at a Glance
Facts At A Glance
CAR: Morgan Roadster
PRICES: £34,991 - on the road
INSURANCE GROUP: 16 [est]
PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph 4.9s / Max Speed 134mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: tba
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height 4010/1720/1220mm