Morgan reckons its new 260hp Plus Four roadster could become the driver's preferred option in its CX-based line-up, thanks to the standard fitment of a manual gearbox, its lower mass and the better weight distribution enabled by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The BMW B48 2.0-litre motor has been given custom software settings specific to the open-top sports car, resulting in its unique power output and 295lb ft of torque. It's mounted within the same aluminium structure as the Plus Six, which stands separate as the marque's six-pot grand tourer - although the Four gets bespoke wishbones, giving it a visibly narrower track and a 104mm thinner central body.
The Plus Four, succeeding both the old Plus 4 and Roadster models, comes after four years of development, involving heavy input from engineers at BMW to ensure the sweetest possible settings in Morgan's new £62,995 entry car. Its 260hp motor is obviously well down on the maximum B48 output (although 65 per cent better than the old 4), but the Plus Four weighs just 1,013kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 257hp/tonne and legs to hit 62mph in 4.8 seconds. That's with the £2k option of a ZF eight-speed auto; three-pedal models get a lower 258lb ft maximum and take 5.2 seconds to hit 62mph, with top speed 149mph on both variants. Plenty fast enough, we can all agree.
As we know from the Plus Six, the CX architecture is a big step forward over the old steel ladder base, with thicker sides, much better structural rigidity and resulting improvements to refinement. The Plus Six and Four both still use ash wood frames to mount the bodywork, but its bolted directly to the aluminium structure rather than erected like a tent frame around it - as was the case before. As such, it's fair to expect the same benefits in the Plus Four, with the addition of a better weight distribution thanks to the nestling of that B48 behind the front axle line. By comparison, the B58 six-pot in the Plus Six extends a good couple of inches beyond the wheels.
That should make quite the difference to handling in a car as light as this, as will the narrower double wishbones that mean the Plus Four gets its own, slimmer wheel arches - albeit ones still constructed using a hand-operated jig that's supposedly half a century old. In fact, pretty much all of the hand-shaped panels are unique to the Four, but they're also obviously very similar to that of the 335hp Six. After an early viewing of the Four at Morgan's Malvern HQ, PH reckons that the Four does a better traditional Morgan impression than its sibling thanks to the smaller footprint and 15-inch wheels. It's more plucky than purposeful, which is no bad thing.
Plus Four production was very much underway when PH visited last week, offering a glimpse of the six new shades and customisation options set to be available on the four-cylinder model. Thanks to a raft of shared cabin componentry with the Six, including its wood-based dash and centre console, Plus Four building has not required any rejigging or factory changes. The unfinished cars scattered across the rooms of Morgan's Malvern home were a mix of Plus 4s, Sixes and Fours, with a few 3 Wheelers thrown in for good measure now that production of the V-twin car has moved in house. Business is certainly looking busy, as emphasised by head of marketing Toby Blyth's ambitions when we visited.
"Our business plan is for a gentle increase in volume over next three to five years following the Plus Four's introduction," he said. "We'll be doubling annual output to around 1,400-1,500 units in that time, with around 25 per cent of Plus Four demand expected to be for the manual gearbox car, which is exciting."
Toby was quick to explain that the Four's appeal comes from more than just its lower price point. Much of the engineering focus has been in giving the Four its own character; those wire wheels, Toby said, were an "engineering nightmare", because they required a super low offset, redesigned wishbones, suspension uprights and braking components to fit. But the team made it work because they believed the Four needed a traditional wheel option to suit its character. That being said, we were equally as taken aback by the new bin lid design worn by the turquoise car below...
Another key feature of the Plus Four will be its running costs, which thanks to that inherent lightness and the efficiency of BMW's B48, ought to be rather low. Morgan claims 40mpg is in easy reach and CO2 outputs of 159g and 165g per km for the auto and manual cars respectively. That's almost a third lower than was possible in the old, 3.7-litre Ford Cyclone V6-powered Roadster, opening the doors to many more markets around the world. At this stage, the car's access to America is unconfirmed, but Toby said that Morgan was working on getting the car through new low-volume legislation, which would negate the present requirement for 'intelligent airbags'.
If all goes to plan, cars - for which orders are being taken now - should begin reaching driveways from the middle of 2020. But first, PH will let loose in Morgan's new sports car to deliver a full road test. More on that in the coming weeks.
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