Noble M600

Debut: 2009
Maker: Noble
Predecessor: No


Lee Noble left the company because of the disagreement with this car...

Noble has been existing for a dozen years. Like most other British low volume car makers, its infrastructure, management system and resources are rather laughable compared with world standards. What it has is a man's passion and determination. Lee Noble designed, engineered and tested the cars by himself. Some see him as Colin Chapman of our decades. Many praised his M12 as the best road and track car of its time, eclipsing contemporary Ferrari, Porsche and Lotus in terms of pure driving excitement. This made his company one of the rare successful new entries into the sports car business in the last decade - the same decade that TVR, De Tomaso, Marcos and Saleen went out of business.

However, as I remember in one of the interviews, Noble said success in this industry should be judged by one's ability to earn sufficient profit to develop the next generation models. Only in this way, the business can be sustained and further developed. Lee Noble didn't want his company to be seen as as a one-car company like Caterham. He wanted to replace M12 with an even better, faster and classier sports car. In 2005, he revealed the M14 prototype. But that car was not good enough, so in 2006 it was upgraded to M15. Unfortunately, to raise the necessary development funding he had to sell majority stakes to new investors. It was believed that disagreement with the direction of the new car led to his eventual departure in 2008.



Styling: apparently designed by an engineer without considering arts

Nevertheless, the company bearing his name lives on. Under the new management, the M15 prototype was developed into an even more expensive supercar. Priced at £200,000, M600 is the latest British response to the likes of Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT and Pagani Zonda. This sounds crazy for a marque used to sell £50,000 sports cars and has a workforce of a dozen, not to mention the doubtful build quality, parts and servicing it can offer.

Frankly, I don't believe the new direction would work, even after reading numerous favourable reviews from UK. Lee Noble might be right to leave the company he founded and started his own, cheaper project. I am not to say the M600 were not a great drive. For sure, it offers spectacular performance - right at the level of McLaren F1 - and a very well tuned chassis. Still, many areas of the car leave something to be desired. First of all, its styling is far from tasteful, apparently designed by an engineer without considering arts, just like any previous Nobles. Poor transformation from drawings to 3D modelling in its body panel supplier resulted in many rough edges in the details. Moreover, the combination of a tall windscreen (which obviously came straight from M12) and slim side windows is not coherent. As is the match of a round windscreen with a flat panel rear screen. Many places reveal the compromises to use existing parts. It is a child only its mother - and British motoring journalists - loves.



When you build only 50 cars a year, you cannot afford to make your bespoke components...

The same journalists described its interior well finished. This may be right by the standard of M12, but when we talk about a supercar rivaling the bests from Italy and Germany, it is nothing. What we see is a dull design finished in dull materials - carbon fiber is used only on the center console surface rather than the whole structure, for example. Audi air vents and Aston switches might sound decent, but their looks are out of sync with the character of this supercar. When you plan to build only 50 cars a year, you cannot afford to make your bespoke components or commission your suppliers to build unique components for you, so you have to settle with an aftermarket hi-fi, steering wheel and Sparco bucket seats. You cannot afford to develop an LCD multi-information instrument reading like the latest Ferrari 458, Lexus LF-A or McLaren MP4-12, so you have to use the good old gauges. You have to keep telling your customers that this is a gadgets-free driving machine.

Low volume British sports car specialists always talk about pure driving experience because they could not afford to develop modern electronic driving aids. Noble is no exception. This car has no ABS, stability control, adaptive suspension, active aerodynamics or torque vectoring - wonder where your £200,000 is spent ? Its mechanical format is very conventional: mid-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive, a tubular steel spaceframe chassis, carbon-fiber bodywork, twin-turbo V8 engine, 6-speed manual gearbox, conventional limited slip differential, double-wishbone suspensions, steel brakes and very wide Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Its specifications fail to raise the slightest interest from techno nuts like us, but don't put it off so early... This car has 650 horsepower pulling just 1250 kilograms. In other words, it has a higher power-to-weight than Bugatti Veyron !

It has a higher power-to-weight than Bugatti Veyron !

The motive force comes from a twin-turbo 4.4-liter narrow-angle V8, derived from the Yamaha engine powering Volvo S80, rebuilt and turbocharged by American company Motorkraft. Running at 1.0 bar full boost, it produces 650 horses at 6800 rpm and an equally impressive 604 lb-ft of torque at 3800 rpm. It doesn't have a very musical soundtrack though, as its noise is dominated by turbo wane and wastegate whooshes. It isn't completely free of turbo lag, but once it has overcome an initial soft throttle response, it rewards you with gigantic thrust and sensational g-force, very much like a Bugatti Veyron in full action.

However, the brutal power is not as well tamed as its more sophisticated rivals with advanced 4-wheel drive or launch control. If you are hard on throttle, it will spin the rear wheels at first, second and even third gear ! The Graziano transaxle seems old-fashioned compared with the modern twin-clutch transmissions of its rivals. A perfect launch is more difficult to achieve as you need to lift off the throttle during each gearchange to avoid wheel spin. This means it loses time on every gearchange. Moreover, the M600 is geared to reach 60 mph in second and 100 mph at third, a gear more than the norm. This explain why Autocar measured it took 3.5 seconds to go from 0-60 and 6.8 seconds from 0-100 mph. That is the level of Ferrari 599GTB and Lamborgahini Murcielago SV rather than Veyron. Subjectively, the Noble feels far stronger than these numbers suggested. A better indicator of its true performance is 0-200 mph, where it took 29.8 seconds in the Autocar test. That is only 1.8 seconds longer than McLaren F1. It's decisively slower than Bugatti though, which needed 24.2 seconds according to an R&T test, but it is easily faster than Ferrari Enzo without question. Note that the Autocar test was conducted with an early prototype having glass-fiber instead of carbon-fiber bodywork, which added about 50 kg to the scale. The production M600 will be slightly quicker.

As for top speed, Noble claims a theoretical 225 mph, higher than Ferrari Enzo again. Whether it can run as stable as the Ferrari at that speed is another matter. Without a rear spoiler (fixed or retractable) and having yet to conduct high-speed testing at Nardo, high-speed stabilty is what it needs to prove.

One of the most exploitable supercars, like an M12 with twice the power...

Despite of the brutal power, on public road the M600 is surprisingly drivable. Its wide rubbers offer generous grip. Its braking is strong. Its steering is precise and communicative. Best of all, its chassis is set at neutral balance. You can induce oversteer with your right foot. When it slides under power, it does it progressively and predictably. Back off throttle and it comes back into line without drama. Such a playful manner is rare in a car at such performance level. Controls are surprisingly friendly to use - the clutch is as light as your Honda Civic's, the steering is well weighted and free of kickback and the gearshift is manageable considering the tremendous torque it needs to handle. Only the brakes need a serious shove to get working. In addition to a compliant ride that deals happily with bumpy British roads, no wonder Evo magazine described the M600 as one of the most exploitable supercars ever built.

That said, the lack of ABS and stability control does hurt driving confidence if the road gets wet or unfamiliar. M600 provides only a simple traction control (which comes with the Volvo engine) and a switch to select different engine mappings, i.e. 650hp, 550hp or 450hp. You need the basic understanding of its ability and proper disciplines to avoid doing silly things, such as open throttle wide at slow corners. Masterminding that and it will be a highly enjoyable driving machine, just like an M12 with twice the power.

Nevertheless, strong performance and handling alone are not enough to make a supercar sells. It also takes adequate styling, build quality, sophistication and, above all, sense of occasion to do so. Especially to a marque without prestigious pedigree, the road to success will be extremely difficult. We can only say good luck to Noble.

 The above report was last updated on 3 Jan 2010. All Rights Reserved.
 
AutoZine Rating


M600




Specifications
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M600
Mid-engined, RWD
Tubular steel spaceframe and tub
Carbon-fiber
4360 / 1910 / ? mm
2540 mm
V8, 60-degree
4439 cc
DOHC 32 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
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650 hp / 6800 rpm
604 lbft / 3800 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
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F: 255/30ZR19
R: 335/30ZR20
1250 kg
225 mph (c)
3.0 (c) / 3.5*
6.8*
14.0*
29.8*


















































Performance tested by: * Autocar

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