Morgan Aero SuperSports

Morgan Aero SuperSports Morgan Aero SuperSports
First Drive Review From the February 2011 Issue of Car and Driver

Let’s not beat around the bush here: Morgan has many of the qualities you’d expect to find in a good, old-fashioned cult. Seen from a safe distance, the English sports-car manufacturer seems deliberately eccentric—it still regards lumber as an appropriate material for use in a vehicle’s body—with its followers tending to demonstrate the sort of glassy-eyed devotion you’d expect from the freshly mind-laundered.

And for those who have had their personalities tested, bought the colorful robes, and maybe even wondered about the metallic aftertaste to the Kool-Aid, Morgan’s decade-long model cycles and oddball products make their own kind of sense.

But for all of Morgan’s century of heritage—and the fact that its cars are still assembled by hand—Morgan has been quietly changing in recent years. It’s almost become two different sports-car companies. The majority of its business is still in what it cheerfully describes as its “traditional” models such as the 4/4, which is essentially its 1936 predecessor with a relevant engine.

Yet, for the last decade, Morgan has also been selling far more modern, far more expensive models based on the high-tech combination of a bonded aluminum chassis (similar in principle to that underpinning the Lotus Elise) and a BMW V-8 powerplant. The first of these was the Aero 8, a car whose myopic headlamps gave it a slightly startled appearance. And since then, we’ve had the art deco AeroMax coupe and now this—the latest, greatest, and most expensive Morgan yet—the Aero SuperSports.

In essence, the SuperSports is a targa-roofed version of the AeroMax. Like the latter, the SuperSports is a pure eye magnet. You could park it next to anything this side of a gold-plated Veyron and be confident it would win the majority of attention.

But priced hard against luxury Brit rivals such as the Aston DB9 and the Bentley Conti GT, it’s going to have to do more than look good. Power comes from a 4.8-liter BMW V-8, which puts out a relaxed 362 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque. In modern supercar terms, that might sound like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but the SuperSport’s svelte construction—Morgan claims a 2600-pound curb weight—means it actually boasts a power-to-weight ratio bettering that of its obvious rivals. On the go, it certainly feels every bit as rapid as the conservative 4.2-second claimed 0-to-62-mph time suggests, with progress accompanied by an old-school V-8 soundtrack (although U.S. cars will have to do without the side-exit exhausts).

And behind the retro looks, the driving experience is impressively modern, too. Structural rigidity and cornering grip are both exemplary. (The wooden framing supports only the aluminum bodywork.)

Not that there aren’t problems. The targa roof is definitely one for California summers rather than dodging fall showers. It takes five minutes and at least one assistant to remove and stow the two panels.

Still, exclusivity is guaranteed. The run is limited to 200 cars, which is about how many thousands of dollars it will cost. ­Morgan may be a cult, but its cars still have a certain appeal.