An F-Type rally car, the world's fastest SUV and TG telly's return.....
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That’s an old car! Very funny. It is, of course, a brand-new Morgan, but of all its models, the Plus 8 is the one perhaps most rooted in the past. Though not for much longer: this 50th Anniversary special edition marks the end of an era, with the car about to lose its naturally aspirated, BMW-sourced V8 engine and move into the future. It spells the end of the Plus 8 as we know it. Yikes. Indeed. It’s a special engine, one found in all of Morgan’s Plus 8 and Aero models in recent years. Its 4.8-litres produces 367bhp and 361lb ft, and with just 1,100kg to shift in this Plus 8 Speedster, that results in a mildly perilous turn of pace.
Okay, 0-62mph in 4.5secs and a 155mph top speed may not drop jaws these days, but try it in a car with no roof or windows and some very low-cut doors. It’s a raw experience, one made all the more visceral with the side-exit exhausts piping the V8 burble right up towards your eardrums. Britain is known for its trackday specials, nearly all of them powered by a highly strung four-cylinder engine, perhaps with a supercharger whining away. Getting the same physical experience with a lusty nat-asp V8 up front is actually a bit discombobulating. Trackdays? Really?! Well, Morgan claims this Plus 8 Speedster was ‘born on the racetrack’, but in truth, it’s not an expert handler. For all its lightness, it’s a car that feels happiest driven smoothly and calmly. It rides extraordinarily well, especially when you consider how tightly tucked into the arches its wheels are. There’s not an awful lot of suspension travel, yet it soaks up the worst of British roads surprisingly well. It’s also the go-to example of a car that likes a ‘slow in, fast out’ approach to cornering. Getting that long, heavy front end tucked into the corner ought to be your first priority, then you choose how much of the alarming amount of power you send to the rear wheels to make your exit as neat or as messy as you wish. With not a jot of electronic assistance and some semi-slick track tyres fitted, the Speedster would appear to have the potential to be quite scary. But it’s an extremely talkative car and you’re never kept in the dark about how much grip’s beneath you. Phew. It still looks a bit full on… Indeed, it’s a very physical driving experience, though only really for your face and torso. You need to wrap up warm and have some headgear – perhaps even a helmet – if you’re going to be going quickly. For your hands and feet, however, it’s a refreshingly simple experience. With no confusing driving modes or interrupting assistance systems, it’s about as easy to drive as cars get. Especially with so much torque and so little weight. Give these to learner drivers: I’d bet it’s impossible to stall, no matter what gear you happen to be in. You’re being silly now. Fine. But the Speedster’s a car of contradictions; for all its silly track tyres and complete openness to the elements, it’s a comfy car that has the potential to be the laziest, comfiest motorway cruiser around. As long as you’ve got lots of clothes on. This is a V8 engine at its most traditional: a quiet, fuss-free background component when you just want to get places, and loud and bombastic when you want to change down a gear and go for it. It’s wonderful, and driving the 50th Anniversary only rams home why it’ll be missed. What about the rest of the 50th Anniversary? Just 50 of these will be made (see what they did there?) with the number split between blue Speedsters and British racing green convertibles with more habitable, full-size soft-tops. If you’re going to send off a special engine, though, you want the full experience, right? Both get design flourishes such as yellow towing eyes, white brake calipers and an 8 painted into their grilles, while the wheel design is new to the 50th Anniversary. The leather inside, you’ll be delighted to know, is weatherproof. Each car is individually numbered and you’ll not only be reminded of it by the car’s plaque, but on a bespoke Christopher Ward watch that comes with the car. Which may go some way to justifying why it costs, um, £129,000. That’s almost double the cost of a standard Speedster. Must be a pretty sweet watch. So what’s next for the Plus 8? Very good question, and one Morgan won’t answer at the moment, other than to say its development team is working at full pelt on what comes next. This engine departs simply because the job-lot originally bought from BMW is all used up, but it appears Morgan is using it as an opportune time to move the Plus 8 forwards. Will it have one of those new-fangled turbocharged V8s? Will it have some futuristic electric power? Perhaps it’ll be replaced by something else entirely. Whatever happens, the new car will have to go some way to replicate the unique and beguiling character of the Speedster you see here. It’s very silly, but it’s also very special. 7/10