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Morgan Roadster 3.7 V6 review (2012 onwards)
What – Morgan Roadster 3.7 V6 (2012 onwards)
Where – Malvern, England
Date – October 2012
Price – £45,900 (including VAT)
Available – now
Key rivals – BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Caterham 7 CSR, an actual 1930s classic sports car
A unique proposition in today’s new car market, the Morgan Roadster forces you to make major compromises but rewards with an evocatively old-school experience.
We like – 1930s style, unique experience, swift performance, sweet soundtrack
We don’t like – 1930s equipment levels, non-linear steering response, lack of composure over the bumps
Morgan has been building cars like this since the 1930s. Not sports cars or roadsters, we’re talking cars that look, sound and feel pretty much exactly as this brand-new Morgan Roadster does. Porsche gets regularly ribbed for evolving its 911 at a less than frantic pace but on current from, Morgan will still be building these when the sun dies.
Despite its visual and mechanical similarities to the Plus 4, the 4/4 and the old Plus 8, the Roadster has only been part of the Morgan Motor Company model range since 2004. By Morgan standards, it’s barely out of nappies.
The Roadster was introduced to replace the V8-engined Plus 8 with a similar two-seat convertible sports car using V6 power. More recently, the original 3.0-litre Ford V6 was replaced by another Ford V6 unit and it’s the resulting 3.7-litre Roadster we’re looking at here.
The engine has 280hp. That’s nothing too spectacular by modern standards but then it’s only the numberplate that gives this Morgan Roadster away as a modern car. With a dry weight of just 950kg, 280 horses feels like plenty here and Morgan claims a 0-60mph time of 5.5s along with a 140mph top speed.
Like almost everything else about the Roadster, the close ratio gearbox takes some getting used to but you soon learn to use extra care when navigating from second to third or back again. The pedal positioning, with clutch and brake far higher than the throttle, is a challenge for the ankles but the transmission feels reassuringly mechanical and the engine emits a deep, growly note when you plant the throttle.
This car actually rides far better than you might expect
You don’t get the audible charisma of a throbbing V8 but letting the Roadster rip down a leaf-strewn country lane on a moist autumn morning, you catch yourself wondering why technology was ever allowed to tame and shackle the raw, evocative thrill of the motorcar.
Ride and handling
The answer comes as soon as the Morgan drops a wheel into a serious rut or pot hole and you’re treated to a shudder that would register on the Richter scale. This car actually rides far better than you might expect on reasonable road surfaces but the suspension doesn’t cope all that well with sudden bumps.
The Roadster grips hard and put up a commendable fight against understeer at the entry to the damp corners on our test route. It’s the steering that prevents you from really putting the chassis to the test though.
The helm serves up a strange mix of lightness and slow response around the straight ahead, which quickly turns to excessive weight as you wind more lock on. You find yourself heaving the Roadster’s long nose around tight bends, with the lack of consistency and feel doing little to inspire confidence when going quickly.
Morgan aficionados will no doubt tell you that the Roadster’s, shall we say quirks, are an essential part of its charm. For anyone who isn’t already smitten with the Malvern firm’s output, it helps if you can empty your mind of the preconceptions you’ve formed by driving modern vehicles of how a car’s interior should work before you get in.
The whole thing is lined in leather and minimalist in the extreme. It looks suitably plush and the quality of fit and finish isn’t too bad for what is a low-volume, hand-built car. The seats are cosy, once you’ve levered yourself into them but taller drivers will find that space is tight.
The seats are cosy, once you’ve levered yourself into them
For reasons that remain unclear, the dash positions a small clock directly ahead of the driver, while the speedo is right over on the opposite side. With the roof down on a sunny day, the glare on the curved faces of the instruments makes it very tricky to see how fast you’re going. Your passenger on the other hand, has a perfect view and will be able to scream at you to slow down or hit you if necessary.
There’s no boot to speak of and protection from the elements is provided by a removable canvas roof, which is fixed to the car by a complex series of poppers and catches. Putting the canopy up in a hurry when the heavens open isn’t easy and putting it up incorrectly can lead to heavy leakage. The Roadster is far more enjoyable on a dry day when the roof can sit unused behind the seats.
Economy and safety
As you’ve probably guessed, the Morgan Roadster isn’t exactly bristling with safety kit. You get ABS, seatbelts and a heightened sense of your own mortality but that’s it.
Economy is reasonable considering the large engine and the performance on offer. The low kerb weight helps the 3.7-litre engine to a combined economy of 28.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 230g/km.
No car company is more firmly rooted in the past than Morgan and neither its loyal customers nor its army of fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The Morgan is a British automotive institution at a time when most of our other indigenous carmakers have been snapped up by foreign money. We live in a global village but it’s still nice to get into a car that reeks of these islands, the Roadster just couldn’t come from anywhere else.
The car looks fantastic, an authentic throwback to a different age, and it’s huge fun. It certainly has its foibles and at nearly £46,000, some of them aren’t easy to forgive. The thing with the Morgan Roadster though is that its uniqueness will keep a steady stream of customers coming because nothing else can give them what this car offers. Long may that continue.
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