THE thought filled me with dread as the press release pinged into my inbox. Morgan is launching an off-roader.
Finally, the chaps in Malvern have caved into market demand and treaded the same path that Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Bentley – and just about every other automotive outfit previously defined only by their lithe grand tourers and svelte saloons – have already gone down.
Even the horrendously evocative subheading, “The Morgan built for overland adventure,” made it sound as though the company behind some of Britain’s coolest two-seaters was about to sell out and launch a sports utility vehicle. A BMW X3 with the Plus 8’s headlights.
How wrong I was.
In fact, I think just about the only thing I got right before clocking the Plus Four CX-T is that, to give Worcestershire’s best-known carmaker credit, it’s genuinely “a Morgan like you’ve never seen before” - but it’s also about as far from, say, the Porsche Macan as I am from outperforming Tom Daley at the next Olympics.
It is a Morgan with raised suspension, chunky tyres, a protected underbody to stop rocks clobbering its components and waterproof luggage cases, so think of it as more of a rival for the Ariel Nomad (like it needed one).
Morgan’s crack team of engineers have also given a lot of the hard work over to a company called Rally Raid UK, which is better known for its work setting up the bonkers off-road supercars that take part in the Dakar rallies.
They’ve given it a protective exoskeleton, which will not only keep you and the car in shape should you roll it down a Saharan sand dune, but also means you can use it to carry around mountain bikes, should you fancy it.
The final bit of not-terribly-Morgan kit comes from another of its regular collaborators – an up ‘n’ coming carmaker called BMW, who you may have heard of – which have provided a trick electronic differential with selectable modes, depending on what sort of terrain you’re on.
You might think this is all a bit off-piste for a small sports car firm, but in fact it’s going right back to its roots – some Champion readers with very long memories might recall that in the 1950s Morgans were a force to be reckoned with, notching up class wins in the RAC International Rally.
So a Plus Four designed with rough terrain in mind isn’t actually that different to some of the company’s classic models.
In fact, the only real problem with the Plus 4 CX-T isn’t how wonderfully niche it is, or even its £170,000 asking price – is that it’s only planning to make eight of them.
Either way, I’m glad it exists – and that if you are in the market for an exposed, noisy, hand-built, off-road sports car, and I know it’s a thriving part of the market that for some reason most companies strangely seem to ignore, that there’s now a genuine choice for consumers.
Thank you, Morgan, for unexpectedly making my day.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly