Morgan may be best known for making charming little cars that look like airplanes from World War II, but that’s not all it makes. There’s the Aero GT, which is a touch more modern. But after a short drive in this BMW V8-powered roadster, I’m pretty sure it can actually fly.
(Full Disclosure: I asked Morgan if I could drive the Aero GT. The team said yes and invited me up to the factory to have a spin in a pre-production model. Morgan knows I’m cack at taking pictures so loaned me their on site snapping whizz, James. He’s well good.)
Morgans are all handmade, bolted together by, in some instances, several generations of family working under the same roof. Its craftspeople know their shit because it’s what some of them have been doing since they’ve been legally allowed to work. Care and pride is taken in making sure each car is just so.
That means everything that rolls out of the company’s factory on Pickersleigh Road could be considered limited production, but the Aero GT is exceptionally so: only eight will ever be built and they’re all sold out.
Angry, shouty, covered in pressure reliving vents and downforce helping dive planes–the Aero GT still has some of Morgan’s gentlemanly pretenses but the car is anything but genteel. There’s even a carbon fiber hard top to throw on there if you don’t fancy going roof down–it makes the car look a little more complete and aids aero.
The GT signifies the end of the naturally aspirated V8 Aero cars, since the 4.8-liter BMW mill—a naturally aspirated engine as BMW switches to an all-turbo lineup—that Morgan sources is going out of production. So consider this a screaming sendoff.
Each owner will have had a consultation with Morgan to choose their exact spec down to the last detail–the car I drove was a pretty punchy orange, one owner has gone for Miami Blue, and another has gone for a pretty striking green and gold combo. Not one went for the grey launch spec revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.
The Aero GT gets the same 4.8-liter V8 as the Aero 8, and the Aero Supersports and Coupé before it. That means 367 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque. They say 0-62 mph takes 4.5 seconds and it’ll crack 170 mph if you’ve got the stones to do it. Those are some decent figures considering its comparatively low power—I mean, an Audi RS 3 has 400 HP these days. But the Aero GT creeps in at just 2,601 pounds, that’s a touch less than a McLaren Senna.
The louvres on the wings are hand formed, it comes with adjustable dampers so you can tweak your ride to your heart’s content, the eight production cars come with a six-speed manual only. Though the pre-production car I was driving was fitted with a six-speed auto.
If you’re buying a Morgan Aero GT and care about mpg you probably shouldn’t be buying a Morgan Aero GT, but Morgan claims it’ll crack 27 in the city and 13 highway.
The noise. Holy crap, the noise.
Thanks to side-exit tailpipes it burbles its finest burble right under your ear as you drive along. It’s a low, muscle car V8 rumble that builds to a bellow as you press on. Just keep it in a low gear and listen to the sound of long dead reptiles burning, popping, banging, and crackling under your lughole for all eternity.
Some people think the whole “angry GT” thing is a bit much. I don’t. Yeah, it’s in your face, but the whole car looks like it was designed as a vehicle of the future in the 1950s. It’s big, it’s brash, and it’s unlike anything else out there. Morgan’s lead designer, Jon Wells, told me there were two ways the Aero 8 could have gone–heavenly or this: hellish with the touring car look made madder.
The standard car is more of a traditional beauty with its classic lines, but I’m glad the company found space to make the run out edition as the design devil intended. It’s got so much presence that the people of Malvern, who have had Morgans buzzing about town for over a century, still turn their heads to chase it with their eyes.
I’m not a particularly tall or wide person, but I struggled for elbow room in there. There’s plenty of width to the cabin, but the seats are pressed right up against the doors, meaning that your right elbow has nowhere to really go. Aside, I suppose, from the window sill.
I’m also heartbroken about the car’s planned production run. This thing looks mean, way more so than the comparatively stately Aero 8 upon which it’s based. I get why Morgan’s only making eight, but it bums me out that there will only ever be so few. The world needs more lunacy like this, not limited quantities.
Morgans in general have a bit of a packaging issue. The dash sits upright, the steering wheel with it. Despite having a vast nose, the dash sits close to the windshield, like ’80s 911 close, meaning there’s little wiggle room for the instrumentation. It’s upright or not at all. It also means there’s not much storage space. A hole in the dash, which is almost a glovebox, for your sundries and a small tray at the end of the transmission tunnel is about all you really get. I mean, you don’t buy this thing for practicality, but I’d like my phablet in eyeshot if possible.
You need a cigarillo, pencil mustache, and a finely tailored suit to pull this thing off properly. Perhaps at one point in your life you’ve tied someone to train tracks. Several people, even.
Roof down, cruising through town you have the world’s eyes on you (thanks, inventor of the camera phone, for putting my face in myriad pockets). You feel smooth, cool, and just that little bit happier than you otherwise would. Much like any Morgan, the Aero GT is something that oozes theatre and brings joy not only to the driver, but to the people who hear, then see it.
It’s long, at 163 inches it’s hardly a city car. That means you’ve got to think about what you’re doing when taking tight turns. Having front wheels perched at the end of a long hood and a relatively small windshield to aim through can make low speed maneuvering tough. You get a feel for it eventually, though.
Because Britain was going through something of a heatwave when I drove this (or a Texan winter) the roof stayed down the whole time I was in the car. The roof neatly hides in the trunk so your view isn’t obscured by folded cloth.
The pre-production car’s auto ‘box was decent around town, changing without issue, or complaint. It suited the car well, yet I can see why the final eight are manual only–a stick shifter is ideal for something like the GT.
Steering it around town isn’t hard work, but it’s not the easiest either. The ’wheel feels heavier than most, its power steering pump whining at the extremes of the lock available–three point turns can take a bit of effort. Moving through town you don’t get a great sense of what the fronts are up to either. A precision rack it is not.
Morgan’s ensured the car’s party piece, the V8 warble, is easily accessible through a smooth gas pedal. It’s linear and delightful. Easy enough to modulate so that you can make the most noise possible without firing yourself into the inevitable small SUV ahead of you on the road. Braking, too, is nice and easy. It’s livable around town, more so than you’d expect a $150,000 cad-friendly car to be.
It’s billed as the most hardcore Morgan to grace the road, but don’t go in expecting a GT3 RS with hand hammered wings.
It’s Morgan’s take on hardcore. This means a couple of things–the V8 will sing its little lungs out, and you’re not going to need to be “an helmsman” to have fun in it. Both most excellent attributes.
Find a straight bit of road and give the GT your finest angry stamp and it’ll explode forward, pinning you back in your seat and howling to the gods as though avenging a dead sibling. Because the noise comes out of the thing right below your ear you’ll find yourself doing that rather a lot. Did I mention that the exhaust exits right below your ear?
Some will balk at a V8 with a mere 367 HP in 2018, but the thing weighs the sum total of fuck-all, so a relatively small amount of grunt can still pin you if you use it wisely.
While acceleration is an assault on the senses, handling in the twisty stuff is a different affair. Keep the motor on sing so it’s as noisy as possible and deep in to torque band, you’ll stand the best chance for a lot of fun. But be warned: it’s not razor-edged. The adjustable dampers on the pre-prod were set pretty hard, yet pitching in at speed still meant the car had a bit of lean to it.
Not so much you could confuse it for a ’70s Caddy, but enough to leave Porsche’s finest unworried. However, the throttle is so smooth and that you can easily adjust the car’s nose with it. And the rear if you’re feeling irresponsible and have a track to play with.
Same goes for the steering. Around town it’s not super sharp, at speed it’s much the same. You can accurately point the car in the direction you want it to go, but you don’t get as much feedback as you would in other cars at that price point.
It was when I was giving it the beans I lamented the lack of stick shift. The old school auto is fine for bumbling around town, but when you’re giving it some, this was not the most responsive transmission. Pulling the paddle to switch ratios resulted in a slightly uncomfortable wait and slow shift. Much like a non-turbo V8, in 2018 it felt a little old hat.
Braking is taken care of with a set of hefty discs and, oh my, are they good. Pedal feel is as good as they come, meaning you can play with the stoppers to your heart’s content. As there’s not much car to stop it doesn’t take long to get from silly speed to a halt.
Well, there are only eight and they’re all sold, so its $150,000 entry fee (before options, personalization, etc) is entirely academic. Those who’ve taken the plunge will adore it, and that’s all that really matters.
In the Class of 2018 Supercars picture you’ll find a 911 GT3 RS wearing running gear and looking way too serious, a Huracan Performanté Spyder in a fine suit carrying a ton of books, the McLaren Senna in wrestling gear with a face that says “I’ve killed a man today.”
Then there’d be the Morgan looking calm, serene, and like it enjoys life.
It may be flawed compared to today’s collagen-rich super and hypercars, but it’s just bloody good fun to hoon. Once you’re dialed in to it you find yourself playing with the ’box, keeping the noise high and slingshotting yourself from bend to bend grinning like a loon, waking up small animals and disturbing villages ’til the cows come home.
It’s a joy creator, not a car that takes apexes seriously. You can’t treat the road like a race track, so why on Earth should your car? It’s just hilarious fun–hardcore or not, it’ll leave you wanting more and more road to play on.
It’s an exploitable vehicle, one that’s not set up to such tolerance it’ll bite you for putting a toe out of line. It’s big, quick, and emotional. Much like the Aero cars of days gone by it’s about the theatre of things rather than taking itself seriously. As a result, it’s sad that it exists, because it means Morgan’s about to move on from big, noisy V8s. It’s not for the time attack crowd, or people who wear branded gilets, but those who “get it” will adore it.
It’s the last of its kind, and as a swan song it’s perfect.