Morgan AeroMax (2006) review

Published:07 December 2006

Morgan AeroMax (2006) review
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AeroMax? Looks like an Aero 8 with a roof to me

Yup, that’s exactly what it is. They’ve used their traditional ash frame for the bodywork and extended it to include the roof. The craftsmanship inside is gorgeous with a beautifully curved wooden central spine running from windscreen to boot floor. Like the Aero 8 the bodywork is made of aluminium and that’s also used in the roof. There are some other differences too. While the Aero 8 has got a 325bhp BMW engine (as had the prototype we drove), the engine in the new model’s has been boosted to 380bhp so performance will improve too. And then there’s the price tag…

How much is it going to cost then?

The AeroMax will set you back – deep breath - £110,000. That’s a princely £47,500 more than the roadster. It puts Morgan firmly into Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche 911 Turbo territory but company boss Charles Morgan claims it’s a logical progression. They’re only planning on making 100 and even though they’re not going to be available until early 2008, they reckon they’ve already taken deposits on the 30 of them. Originally the car was a one-off, designed for the mega wealthy and Morgan-mad president of Baring Brothers Bank, Prince Eric Sturdza. The firm are using his model as the prototype for the production model and we drove that car.

So what’s it like?

Really rather good. The driving position would be perfect if the pedals weren’t so offset. But Morgan assure us that’s because the prototype is left-hand drive. The AeroMax uses a bonded aluminium monocoque. They then hang the suspension on either end. By doing away with rubber bushes in favour of ball joints they can use quite soft springs. This gives a very compliant ride as well as loads of grip. It’s not remotely tail happy and the electro hydraulic steering is responsive, accurate and communicative, even though the front wheels feel a long way from the driver.

Anything wrong with it?

Not a lot actually. The gearbox is BMW’s so there’s nothing wrong with that. And the engine sounds gorgeous through those side exit exhausts. The trouble is, there’s so much wind and road noise that you can’t really hear it when you’re on the move. There’s also the price, which seems a bit steep for a car that is after all using a stock BMW engine. Incidentally it’s also got Lancia Thesis back lights but don’t hold that against it. They look fantastic.

The original Aero 8 was dog ugly. How does this one measure up?

We were pleasantly surprised. In the metal – or rather wood and aluminium – the AeroMax looks really good. It’s slightly dinkier than you’d imagine. The slab sides over the doors are a bit awkward but they’re going to be rounded off on the production version. Despite that, in profile this is like nothing else on the road. It looks slightly less cross-eyed than the original Aero 8. In fact the front was such a hit when this car was first shown off at Geneva in 2005 that Morgan have since adopted it for the Aero 8. It’s got great move-over appeal.

What about inside?

You can never forget that the AeroMax has been crafted by men rather than machines. The curved dash board is lovingly sculpted from a single block of ash. There’s leather everywhere and the fascia is made from milled aluminium. The Aston Martin steering wheel is a bit of a let down but it does at least have an airbag. There’s plenty of luggage space too, although accessing it is a bit of a challenge. There’s no tailgate in the conventional sense of the word. Instead you get two rear windows that hinge centrally. They look fantastic but you can’t get more than a squashy bag through each.

Verdict

That the AeroMax is a very competent product is beyond doubt. It’s built using a beguiling combination of modern and traditional techniques that gives it a proper bespoke feel. It’s also fun to drive, developing the attributes of the Aero 8 nicely into a more usable tool. Whether it’s worth that price tag is another question altogether. Charging £110,000 moves Morgan into a different arena altogether. But the firm haven’t survived thus far by making hasty decisions. And having already sold a third of their limited production run suggests the AeroMax was another astute move.

Specs

Price when new: £0
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 4398cc 32v V8, 325bhp@5400rpm, 330lb ft@3600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: sub 5sec 0-62mph, 160mph, 23mpg
Weight / material: 1150kg/alumninium, wood
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4089/1770/na

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