Six hundred and fifty horsepower. Say it slowly and deliberately, and the time it takes to vocalize is enough for the brain to register that it is not an extraordinarily large output by today’s standards. But when you learn that the Noble M600 weighs just 2,700 pounds, and therefore has a power-to-weight ratio of 520 hp per ton, the true significance of the number becomes clear.
Eight-point-nine seconds. That is precisely how long it takes for the Noble M600 to go from rest to 120 mph. It’s a time that most supercars would be proud to own for the zero-to-100-mph sprint, which in fact the Ferrari F430 does. As even the mighty Enzo takes 9.2 seconds to reach 120 mph, the Noble M600 is one seriously quick machine. Along the way, zero to 62 mph occupies 3.0 seconds, 100 mph comes up in 6.0, and the top speed is 225 mph.
Finally, the steady state lateral acceleration number on the skidpad is said to be over 1.0g, and the Noble is rated fourth quickest supercar on the chart at the Top Gear test track. On top of that, this lap time was taken in winter, in temperatures of minus five degrees, when the tires were not working optimally.
Performance numbers are one thing. Few supercar owners ever wring their cars out, even on a track. What’s more important is the real-world driving experience, the grin factor if you like. This is where the Noble’s back-to-basics philosophy will either attract or intimidate. The M600 has no ABS, no ESP, and no brake servo. When you turn its traction control off, it really is OFF. So when you write out the check for around $300,000, you’re signing up for an authentic analog driving experience.
So anyone who signs the order form for a Noble M600 had better not be short on talent. Not because the car has any handling vices, but because if you’re going to extract its full measure, you really need to know what you’re doing. A racetrack is certainly the right place to get to know the car, and I was fortunate enough to have the Ascari Race Resort in Southern Spain and wonderful weather for this test drive.
As part of durability testing, Noble drove the car down from England, about 1,500 miles. The car lapped Ascari many, many times over the weekend, and was then driven back home. The aim was to prove its credentials as a reliable road- and track-capable supercar for hardcore enthusiasts.
It is no surprise that the M600 took this trip in its stride, since its predecessor, the original development prototype, was driven from Chicago to Arizona with a Porsche Carrera GT for benchmarking all of the way, and a Ferrari Enzo part of the way. The trip took in typical test zones like Death Valley and pushed both men and machine to the limit.
Back in England, the development car was put through its paces at a level not normally associated with low volume specialist car manufacturers. Climatic wind tunnel testing, acoustic NVH, and sessions on a four-post rig for suspension tuning capped off thousands of miles of testing. The distillation of all this intensive development work, the pre-production M600 impresses deeply. Feeling very well resolved on a dynamic level, it is astonishingly fast and agile with low weight, big torque, and no turbo lag to speak of. Throttle up and go is its middle name.
The M600’s heart is the Yamaha-developed, 4,439cc, dohc, 60-degree V8 that hails from the Volvo XC90. The engine is manufactured in Japan, and then shipped to Motorkraft in the U.S., where its reciprocating parts are swapped out for forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods married to lightweight forged alloy pistons. The twin-turbo installation is also carried out. The two Garrett turbochargers on bespoke manifolds boost at a modest 1.0 bar, and the power unit makes its 650 hp at 6800 rpm and 604 lb-ft of torque at 3800. A pair of massive intercoolers keep intake temperatures down. The engine is mated to the ubiquitous Italian-made Graziano six-speed manual gearbox, which has seen service in several low-volume supercars. Surprisingly, the M600 does not have a limited slip differential.
Accelerator travel is very precise so you can meter in exactly the amount of squirt required, which makes it a very easy car to balance into and through corners. On the back straight at Ascari with the motor on full noise, I experienced incredible forward thrust. Power delivery is instant, linear, and light years from the sudden and peaky kind of on/off arrival associated with turbocharged engines of yore.
Some equally powerful but heavier cars seem to pause while they inhale and fill their deep lungs before beginning their battle with inertia. Not the Noble. With plenty of torque and relatively modest mass to move, you can feel it accelerating the second you dip into the throttle.
The counterpoint to the M600’s ability to sling you up the road at warp speed is its docility and tractability. If you don’t wish to extract every last ounce of performance, you could actually drive it to the supermarket. The front luggage compartment can accommodate small cases or squashy bags for a weekend away, so you might just get a modest week’s groceries in there.
My simulated urban torture test consisted of lapping Ascari in fifth gear, only dropping to fourth for the hairpin. The car responded crisply and smoothly to throttle inputs at 1200 rpm, and really took off once the tach needle passed 2000 rpm.
Incidentally, there is a chicken switch on the console. While the full Monty delivers 650 hp, you can dial the output down in two stages, 550 hp and 450 hp, for bad weather or if a less experienced driver is behind the wheel. More than just increasing power, the middle and full power settings also sharpen throttle response, steepen the boost curve, and loosen up traction control so you can have maximum fun on-track.
Whichever setting you choose, there’s no escaping the deep, NASCAR-grade V8 rumble from the motor. This really turns heads when you accelerate away on full throttle. Its exhaust note does not just hint at big powerit clubs you over the head with it. The amount of cabin insulation means that while you get an earful of this intoxicating engine note when you work the motor hard, it recedes into the background on light throttle. Undertaking a long trip will not be a torture session. This is a legitimate GT in which you can cover a fair distance without fatigue.
The steering is power-assisted rack and pinion. Light steering can be dangerous at speed, and heavy steering is tiring over distance. Caster, camber, and rack location all have a bearing on the fingertips, so Noble put a lot of work into getting this aspect of the chassis just right. The result is a helm that allows you to translate your desired direction of travel to the front wheels instinctively. The nose turns in accurately on cue and the rest of the car follows through with no hint of bump steer or the nervousness that over-assistance can bring.
Eschewing the ultra-light but very expensive all-carbon tub of higher volume specialist supercars, the M600 is built around a stainless steel and aluminum tub with an integral safety cell and front and rear crash structures. The tub has deep sills with a high H-point for side impact protection, and together with the figure-hugging lightweight seats, positions occupants further from a side impact than in a normal family car.
Suspension is accomplished using double wishbones and coilovers front and rear and an antiroll bar at each end. Speedline forged alloy wheels contribute to the low unsprung weight, 9.0x19-inch in front and 12.0x20 at the rear, and are shod with 255/30 and 335/30 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. The rear tire dimensions, by the way, are shared with the Carrera GT.
Alcon developed the M600’s massive brakes, which incorporate 380mm front and 350mm rear vented discs mounted on lightweight alloy bells. The front discs are semi-floating for better heat dissipation. The cast alloy monoblock calipers are six-pot in front and four-pot at the rear, and use Pagid high performance pads.
Not only do these massive brakes lack ABS, they also lack a servo. Instead, a race-style twin master cylinder looks after leverage. If you aren’t used to such brakes, they can cause a moment of panic the first time you approach a bend at speed and find that the pedal requires a much greater shove than anticipated. But you can lean on them pretty hard without locking up, and they are progressive and full of feel.
In the dry, mechanical grip is phenomenal. When the big rear tires do eventually let go, you get plenty of warning. So long as you’re not being a lunatic with the throttle, breakaway is progressive. You can even indulge in easily manageable power slides if you have the space.
As a pure driving experience, it wouldn’t be a stretch to describe the Noble as a bigger and more powerful Lotus Exige. The steroids they use in Barwell, Leicestershire are obviously very effective.
Noble is very much a cottage industry in the traditional British sense, employing just 15 people. Managing director Peter Boutwood joined the company at the end of 2006. An automotive designer and F3 racer, his inspiration for the pure driving experience came from the Ferrari F40, which with no electronic aids has a reputation for being dangerous in the wrong hands. The aim was to build an even faster car with similar driving purity, but which would handle really well.
While it may superficially resemble the M14 and M15 concept cars penned by company founder Lee Noble, who left in 2006 after a disagreement with his partners, the M600 is actually an all-new design. This prototype has a glass-fiber bodyshell, but the production cars will be made from carbon fiber. The prototype’s weight is 2,800 pounds with fluids; the production cars will weigh closer to 2,700 pounds and therefore will be very slightly more accelerative.
The interior is typical of low-volume sports cars. It is well finished for this type of car, but is never going to cause sleepness nights in the trim departments at Audi or Porsche. The M600 also has one neat touch for those who like their mil-spec hardware. The switch located under a red-painted guard cover that allows you to disarm the traction control is the missile launch button from an RAF Tornado fighter-bomber. Fox two!
The Noble M600 has the makings of greatness, and the fact that a small company can produce a car so mechanically finessed is astonishing in itself. Noble is truly one of the Davids with the know-how to slay the Goliaths of the establishment.
British understatement and form following function seem to be the M600s design tenets, and for some, the fact that it does not look as spectacular as its Italian rivals may be a drawback. But for those bored with mainstream supercars, who also value purity in their driving experience, the M600 might well be the perfect panacea.
Longitudinal mid engine, rear-wheel drive
4.4-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, twin-turbocharged
Double wishbones and antiroll bars front and rear, coilover springs and shocks
Six-piston monoblock calipers with 380mm rotors (f), four-piston monoblock calipers with 350mm rotors (r)
Length/Width (in.): 171.7/75.2 (height not specified)
Wheelbase: 100 in.
Curb Weight: 2,756 lb
Peak Power: 650 hp @ 6800 rpm
Peak Torque: 604 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.0 sec.
Top Speed: 225 mph
MSRP: $300,000 (est.)