Ah, Morgan. A company so steeped in anachronisms it makes a Lotus 7 look like the space shuttle. While other companies have been using materials like carbon fiber for years now, Morgan is still using wood as part of the chassis. Old in style and affectation they might be, but Morgans can haul the mail, and woe unto anyone who thinks otherwise. The next piece of evidence that Morgans are not to be underestimated has just debuted in Geneva in the form of the fifth-gen Morgan Aero 8.
Let's get the non-apocryphal, held up as rumor, actually true part out of the way right at the top. Morgan uses wood for the chassis. Actually, it's not the whole chassis, it's a sub-frame, and it's not just any wood, it's some rather nicely carved, kiln-dried ash, and it lies just south of the engine and outboard from the main frame rails. But yes, Morgan still uses wood to make its cars.
And why not? Its cars do work, and work quite well, thank you very much. Case in point being the new fifth-gen Aero 8. How does a car roughly the size and weight of a Mazda MX-5 motivated by a BMW-sourced 4.8 liter V8 cranking out 367 horsepower sound? Pair that with 370 lb.ft of torque, and you know this thing is going to accelerate like very few other cars on the road. Specifically, that's 0–62 mph (100 km/h) in a scant 4.5 seconds and it tops out at a heady 175 mph (282 km/h). Morgan didn't say if that top speed was with the top up or down, but if it was with the top dropped, then huzzah sirs! Transmission-wise Aero 8 buyers have the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with paddle shift.
But what makes the Aero 8 so special? As the name implies, aerodynamics are actually addressed with this car, versus other Morgans. Other Moggy's (as they're affectionately called) have the aerodynamics of a set of car keys. The Aero 8 has a mostly attractive aluminum body that features such modern niceties as fully sculpted front fenders and a nicely rounded, Panoz-like rear end treatment. Morgan has even gone so far as fairing in the headlights to reduce drag and help with the overall aerodynamics. Yes, fairing in the headlights does make the Aero 8 look slightly cross-eyed, frankly, but wind tunnels don't lie.
Speaking of that body, it's worth pointing out that it is hand-formed by a real human being, the old fashioned way – one body panel at a time, with careful use of body bucks, templates, calipers, and, most importantly, the human eye. Like the car itself, the process might be archaic, but it gets results.
Morgan says that the styling, featuring long, fast and with low shoulder lines and bodywork centering on the cabin, was meant to evoke impressions of classic open cars from the 1960s. The vehicle's occupants are also seated low, which allows for the sleek roofline and balanced vehicle proportions. The company even goes so far as to point out the resonance with Depression era Auburn Speedsters, saying that, "From above, the view echoes that of a boat deck, enhancing the sense of adventure and escapism."
On the inside, the latest Aero is all comfy-cozy as can be. There's real wood surrounds for the all-new dashboard arrangement (as if Morgan would use fake wood), textured box-woven carpets and fine leather trim to enhance the new interior. There are also such modern amenities as a new air conditioning system, an optional touch screen multimedia system and low slung carbon seats, while bespoke detailing options are also available.
"This project presented us with an opportunity to evaluate and capture exactly what defines Morgan as a class leader in hand-making luxury British sports cars," says Morgan Head of Design, Jonathan Wells. "Over the last 15 years the Aero Platform has successfully evolved both aesthetically and mechanically. Now on the 15th anniversary of the original iconic Aero Eight, it is incredibly exciting to have the chance to revisit the design with this knowledge in mind."
Unlike previous Aero 8s, the new model will only come with a convertible folding top when it enters its limited production run in Q4 of this year. However, a hardtop will be available as an option, which, if you're going to drive it year round, makes tons of sense, given the winter weather its home country is notorious for. The former fixed hard top-only Aeros, the Aero SuperSport and Coupé, will cease production in April 2015. The Gen 5's convertible folding top is, get this, double-lined mohair. The only way this thing could be more British is if it kept tepid beer in a special compartment.
"Morgan cars are synonymous with open top motoring," emphasized Steve Morris, Morgan Managing Director. "We produce two-seater sports cars that are lightweight and exhilarating to drive. The new Aero 8 signifies a return to this formula within our flagship range of vehicles. The Aero 8 offers the perfect marriage of fine craftsmanship and performance technology, one that we believe is so important in today’s increasingly autonomous world."
And we are not going to disagree with Mr. Morris one iota. Even if you are not in the market for a car of this type, if you get a chance to drive one, do so. Its design and construction might be anachronistic, but its performance is eye opening to say the least.
A trailer showing the fifth-gen Aero 8 from concept to the road can be viewed below.