The Most Impressive Off-Road Vehicle of 2021 Is Based on a Car From 1950
Morgan's new Plus Four CX-T proves we actually don’t need all these SUVs
If you would have asked me what the best off-road vehicle of 2021 was back in July, I maybe would have said the new Ford Bronco (for its accessibility), or possibly the Land Rover Defender (you gotta love a two-door Defender, plus it comes with a V8 now), and definitely the electric Rivian R1S (well, if it wasn’t still delayed). But I’m glad no one asked me then, because I would have changed my answer come August.
As it stands today, the best off-roader of the year, which also claims the award for the most unexpected off-roader, is the new Morgan Plus Four CX-T. Yes, those kooky Brits who are still building brand-new roadsters that look like they just drove off the set of a PBS Masterpiece show are getting in on the off-road craze that’s sweeping the automotive industry. Not only that, but with one fell swoop they’ve proved that, no, you don’t need a bloated truck or distended SUV to hit the dirt.
As the name suggests, the new model is based on Morgan Motor Company’s Plus Four, a model that was first introduced in 1950 and revamped (and slightly renamed) last year. (Meanwhile the CX refers to the automaker’s relatively new aluminum platform and the T stands for “Trails.”) If you’re not familiar with the car, it’s basically a time-capsule roadster. While it’s certainly been updated for the modern era, its whole raison d’être is prioritizing style over substance; it’s a sports car for rich eccentrics who yearn for an older era of motoring, but not so much that they want to drive around in an antique. In other words, it’s the last vehicle we’d ever think would get the big-tires-and-rally-lights treatment.
To help in that regard, Morgan didn’t do this all in-house. The Worcestershire company partnered with Rally Raid UK, a shop that specializes in builds for one of the most famous off-road races in the world, to realize the CX-T.
“Applying my experience of 13 Dakar Rallies, 60 Dakar vehicle builds and a lifetime of overland adventuring to an unconventional sports car such as a Morgan has been an interesting and rewarding project,” said Rally Raid owner Mike Jones. “The Morgan Plus Four CX-T is a genuine overland adventure vehicle and I look forward to seeing the incredible destinations that owners will find themselves in.”
That’s right, while Morgan notes this is a special project that won’t see full-scale production, it will indeed be available to the general public. As it stands, the company will build eight CX-T cars, each going for a price of £170,000 (or about $235,500), whereas the normal Plus Four starts at £64,995.
So what are you getting for the price of two Defender V8 Carpathian Editions? First, and most crucially in my mind, there’s both an internal and external roll cage capped with a composite hardtop, something you won’t find on any other Morgans. Elsewhere in the defense department, there’s a five-piece underbody protection system that benefits from an extra four-or-so inches of clearance compared to the regular Plus Four. Sure, those add-ons aren’t very sexy, but the BMW-sourced xDrive electronic differential certainly is, as it allows for three different driving modes including Road (fully open), All-Terrain and All-Terrain: Extreme (fully locked). There’s also upgraded suspension, an equipment rack (with extra wheels and tires, as well as Pelican luggage and a couple gas cans), and a few design touches here and there that round out the rally persona.
Altogether, it leads to the sort of vehicle we hope will star in the next Indiana Jones flick. You really need to see this thing in action:
In fact, if you fancy yourself an Indiana Jones type — you know, an adventurous scoundrel with an appreciation for history and an immaculate sense of style — this is the perfect car for you. We’re not certain the CX-T will be available to U.S. buyers — merely because Morgan doesn’t offer the price in U.S. dollars in the press release, even though the automaker has previously indicated a renewed focus on selling in the States — but for something this tantalizing, it wouldn’t hurt to ask. (We’ll update if we hear back.)
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