Autocar, October 2007 - Morgan Aero8 America
Grandpaís, trilbyís, tweed and the impenetrable speed barrier that is 40mph is what I thought all Morgan owners were about. The Morgan Aero 8 on the other hand is for a different breed, one that if you are an Atkins fanatic requires a heavy dose of carbohydrates before driving. A hairdresserís car it is not. Owners of this car, and I say this without any hint of sarcasm or jest must be superhuman, super-enthusiasts, real honest to god hardworking tough gentlemen. Who enjoy sitting in small noisy spaces?
My first impressions of the Aeroís cabin after precariously squeezing aboard were of me donning a double headed crash helmet. Even with the seat right back to allow me to enter with some style the windscreen felt so close that I either had the wrong strength contact lenses in or it was in fact a helmet visor. Then turning left I was met with the peculiarly placed rear view mirror smack bang in the middle of the screen obstructing ones view and so close to your head that it reminded me of the time I once had to use my girlfriends vanity mirror, complete my huge eyes disturbingly starring back at me.
The cabin itself is nicely laid out and has that air of excellent British craftsmanship. The driving position is good, race pedal box right in front of you, steering wheel close and upright. The dials are clear and classy vdo units with a cream backing and a traditional font. It wasnít prefect though as the smooth clutch is so heavy that you need to sit just that extra inch too close to enable its effective action, making the feeling of being confined greater. Gearshift is direct with great feel and perfectly weighted. The BMW sourced 4.4l 325bhp V8 is fantastic. It fires with a crisp whaarp-crackle from the side exit exhausts and settles to an almost inaudible idle.
The handbrake though could be straight from the toy store of a big budget porno flick, delicious in its simple aluminium design and naughty in its feel and operation. The only thing was its location situated in a place far from reach, almost under the dash that made it virtually impossible to operate repeatedly and effectively in traffic. In fact when I collected the car the handbrake wasnít even engaged, the previous driver either not knowing its heave and push down to lock operation or couldnít be bothered.
When the rightly proud owners of these cars drive around in all weathers with the easily removable multi-layered fabric roof stowed they are not in fact posing. The need for the roof to be down is purely out of the desire to feel like you are not trapped, and when down it bestows the same relief and atmosphere when removing your said crash hat. Claustrophobics need not apply but thrill seekers do. The sound and feel of that magnificent V8 with the roof laid is simply glorious and straight out of the Bathurst 1000. The engine pulls smoothly and hard all the way to its redline with an extra surge above 4000rpm. Its a shame the steering is too heavy and weights up too much as you apply lock and press on, plus, and importantly it lacks any real feel or communication. At least it compliments the absurdly heavy clutch. These two very important controls turn this car into the superhuman mantra I described earlier making this car tiring and tedious to drive.
In addition the surprisingly poor but quick steering made this car with its long bonnet and external wings very difficult to thread through traffic. In fact I recently found the new Roll Royce Drophead easier and more relaxing to pilot in city traffic and its over 200mm wider and five times the price of the £62,500 Aero 8.
The Morgan is fast with 0-100mph in a little over 11seconds, 160mph and glorious in its approach especially with that sound track directly under your right ear. But accelerate rapidly in a straight line is about the only thing other than stop - with its excellent APís brakes - that the Aero 8 does right. Which is fine until you get to 80mph and above where the noise and buffeting is simply deafening, hood up or down. So you end up not wanting to go quickly, and yet you would not want to drive slowly around town or on country roads as the clutch and steering will give you a work out and quickly annoy. Itís like everything is in contradiction?
This America is without doubt a great looking retro styled car which is now thankfully fitted with normally aligned headlights. Over the standard Aero 8 it has only cosmetic changes those being black 6 spoke 18Ē Alloy wheels and the side exit exhausts. It all works to make it look meaner and this car gets the thumbs up from people on the street, one cabbie pulled alongside to say great car, others just smiled or waved, it made you feel good to be in. Even the view from the cabin over the round and louvered engine cover and its humped wings stretched far in front looks wonderful. So much of this car is right, fantastic even.
As I park up and walk away do I glance back? Yes, to see a gorgeous looking beast that should be so much better. I donít go back for another drive though. I walk on tired and deflated, but thinking that the next time I see one of these rarities I will pay the driver a knowing smile for the Aeroís style and engine with a large dose of respect for his superhuman efforts.