Malvern Link, England - The Aero 8 is only the second attempt by Morgan at a completely restyled and redesigned car in the sixty-five years since the company switched from three wheels to four.
The new Aero 8's eye-catching and controversial aluminum body is draped over a traditional ash hardwood frame. But instead of Morgan's famously old-fashioned chassis, the Aero 8 sports a bonded and riveted aluminum structure that is lightweight and exceptionally strong.
A race-bred suspension comprised of cantilever upper arms and lower wishbones at the front and rear is used in place of the sliding-pillar front suspension and rear leaf springs that have been Morgan hallmarks for decades. Credit for these advances goes to Morgan's technical director, Chris Lawrence, an engineer who has close, long-lasting links with the marque; he co-drove the Plus Four Super Sports that won its class at Le Mans in 1962.
The Aero 8's barnstorming performance flows from a BMW-sourced 4.4-liter V-8. With 282 bhp and 324 lb-ft of torque to motivate just 2205 pounds, Morgan's claim that the Aero 8 will rocket to 60 mph in five seconds is entirely credible. The engine is torquey enough to respond with impressive alacrity from low revs in sixth gear, and cruising at 100 mph is relaxed--no surprise considering that Morgan pegs the car's top speed at 160 mph.
Although the view over the hood is unequivocally vintage, the Aero 8 lacks the cut-down doors that have enabled generations of Morgan enthusiasts to travel with casually draped elbows. The cockpit is pleasantly snug and quite civilized. The car feels exceptionally solid for a ragtop, and--quite unlike Morgans past--provides a surprisingly comfortable ride over all but the poorest surfaces. Turn into a corner, and the 225/40ZR-18 Dunlop SP Sport 9000 tires grip like a bulldog's teeth in a burglar's leg: The 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, wide track, low roll center, and superb steering help make the sensationally swift Aero 8 go precisely where it's pointed.
Pundits expected Morgan fanatics to decry the Aero 8 for its modernity, but sales manager Matthew Parkin has already taken more than 540 orders for the car. The Morgan factory now produces twelve cars a week; output could double if the Aero 8 lives up to expectations.
One feature of the new Aero 8 epitomizes the Morgan Motor Company's great leap forward. Until now, nobody has associated this most characterful and resolutely independent carmaker with leading-edge technology or fancy equipment, but Morgan claims its new roadster is the first car in the world to offer electrically heated side windows. The Aero 8 really is a Morgan for the new millennium.