One major question mark hangs over the Noble M600: it starts at a hefty £206,000 asking price. So is this 662bhp British supercar really worth an entire BMW 5 Series more than a McLaren 570S or a Ferrari 488?
For a car that is hand-built in small premises on the outskirts of Leicester, by a team of fewer than 20 people, this does sound like an awful lot of money, particularly for a car that few people will ever recognise.
During the course of our road test, however, the M600 went faster than a McLaren F1 in almost every in-gear increment from 20-160mph. That being the case, you might begin to understand why Noble sees fit to charge such a fee.
Because in the end it is its raw, brain-mangling performance that defines the M600. Not just in a straight line but also around corners, under brakes, during acceleration, everywhere and anywhere. What we are talking about is one of the fastest cars that has ever been built for use on the public road, in light of which £206k no longer seems quite so crazy. Keen to have a substantial range, there are three models currently on sale – the standard coupé, the Carbon Sport – effectively a M600 dressed in carbonfibre finery and the open-roof Speedster.
Noble Automotive has previous when it comes to creating cars of truly stultifying performance. Noble’s first car, designed by company founder Lee Noble, was the awkward-looking but surprisingly excellent-to-drive M10. Then came Noble’s eureka moment in the form of the South African-assembled M12, over 1500 of which were sold in six years during the mid-2000s.
The astonishingly rapid M400 was the final and most dramatic derivative of the M12 before Noble embarked on the M14, which then became the M15, neither of which saw production. The M15 did, however, provide the platform for the M600, a car completed after founder Lee Noble left the company in 2008.
Noble M600 design & styling
The Noble M600 may be a strangely derivative, unimposing, even backwards-looking supercar by the bombastic and avante-garde standards of the very latest quarter-million-pound creations, but that cottage-industry styling clothes a car for which no apologies are needed.
As with all previous Nobles, the M600 uses a mid-engined spaceframe steel chassis with double wishbones at each corner and coil-over dampers for its primary suspension. Although it may appear quite similar in concept to the stillborn M15, beneath its heavily restyled skin it is a significantly more exotic machine.
Using carbonfibre for all the key body parts, the production car weighs just 1250kg, according to Noble, although on our scales the prototype we tested – whose body was made from regular glassfibre-reinforced plastic – weighed in at 1305kg. The spaceframe chassis is made from a combination of steel and aluminium – yet it is as strong and rigid as that of any rival, says Noble. The Carbon Sport is the only M600 model to take carbonfibre panels on and wear it with pride.
At the heart of the M600 is a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine, originally designed by Yamaha for use in Ford’s now-defunct Premier Automotive Group. It’s a traditional 32-valve V8 set in a regular V design – not a flat-plane, 180-degree crank like those used in Ferrari’s V8 mid-engined cars, in other words. In this instance it has been comprehensively reworked by US engine specialist Motorkraft, which has added two Garrett turbos and a new Motec ECU to boost power to 662bhp at 6500rpm and 1.0bar of pressure, and 604lb ft of torque at 6800rpm.
Open the rear clamshell and you’ll discover the M600’s other great secret: excellent weight distribution. The engine and entire transaxle, including a six-speed manual gearbox designed specifically for the M600 by Graziano, sit so far forwards in the chassis that you wonder whether there isn’t room for a second power source.
At each corner the M600 uses steel brakes with six-pot calipers at the front and four at the rear, designed by British braking specialist Alcon. Controversially, there is no anti-lock system, Noble claiming that high-effort brake feel would be compromised by the fitment of ABS.
Noble M600 interior
Considering that it’s such a specialised, low-volume car, the Noble M600’s interior is, by and large, an impressive achievement. It lacks the same design panache, or the luxurious smell, as the inside of a Ferrari, but it’s a reasonably well thought out cabin all the same.
The dash layout is clean, clear and concise. The instruments look good and are genuinely easy to read. Even the minor controls feel polished in their operation and sit logically just in front of the gearlever, alongside the M600’s cheekiest feature: the cover for its traction control button, pinched from a Tornado fighter jet.
It’s a shame that not all of the car’s switchgear is so exotic. You’ll recognise ‘parts bin’ indicator arms that also feature in Jaguars and Aston Martins, as well as a regrettably downmarket audio system that definitely doesn’t belong on a £206k-plus supercar, regardless of who happens to make it.
Immediately ahead of the gear lever is a red, three-position toggle switch with ‘road’, ‘track’ and ‘race’ modes. This regulates the turbo boost settings of the car’s V8 engine, cycling from 0.6bar and 450bhp, through 0.8bar and 550bhp, to 1.0bar and 662bhp, and allows the driver the opportunity to reduce peak power from the engine to make the car easier to drive in slippery everyday conditions, for example.
Inside there are lots of carbonfibre touchs, but Noble hasn’t neglected the comfort or practicality aspects of the M600, with buyers given the choice of adorning the interior with leather, suede or Alcantara, fine wool carpets and knurled finished metal.
Space is quite good for a mid-engined supercar. There’s a decent-sized boot in the nose and enough headroom inside to accommodate a 6ft driver wearing a crash helmet. The seat reclines far enough manually to suit all but the ridiculously tall.
Ideally we’d like the pedals to be located more centrally in the driver’s footwell and further away relative to where the adjustable steering wheel sits to allow for a better driving position. Noble claims, however, that each M600 will be designed to suit its owner, including the position of the pedal box.
Noble M600 performance
There are so many adjectives that can be used to describe the Noble M600’s astounding performance that it would be easy to get completely carried away. So instead we’re going to let the numbers do most of the talking.
Take, for example, what it can do in fourth gear, and from as little as 40mph. In most supercars you need to wind many more revs into the crank before anything interesting happens, but in the M600 it takes just 2.2sec to go from 40-60mph in cog four. Even in a McLaren F1, which has no turbochargers to spin up, it takes 2.3sec.
Drop to third and the M600 is closer to full boost, which is why it’ll cover the same increment in a mere 1.4sec. But if you really want to feel the full effects, hook second. That’s when the M600 feels at its most wild, generating just enough traction to catapult itself from 40-60mph in an incredible 1.1sec.
More impressive is the Noble’s lack of off-boost lethargy in the higher gears. Even when pottering along in sixth, the M600 is well mannered enough to pull cleanly from under 1000rpm. Its cause is helped further by the light clutch and a swift, precise gearchange.
From a standing start the M600 is actually quicker than the F1 to 30mph (1.6sec vs 1.8sec), but due to the fact that during the two gearchanges needed to reach 100mph, you have to lift slightly to avoid lighting up the rear tyres, it’s slightly slower to 100mph. The Noble is still only 1.8sec behind at 200mph (29.8sec). This is perhaps the clearest indication of all as to how rapid the M600 really is.
And what of the brakes? Apart from the system’s lack of anti-lock, they’re excellent, not just in their outright power but also for feel from high speeds. On the road, a touch too much pedal effort is required at lower speeds, but the trade-off comes when you’re going for it, when the feel is fantastic. A big black mark for the lack of ABS, however, which would give the driver a welcome safety net.
Noble M600 ride & handling
Noble has an uncanny knack of achieving the impossible with the ride and handling of its cars, but the M600 takes things to a new level. In short, it handles beautifully, yet it also rides with an eerie level of comfort on the public road.
This is not a machine with which you can take liberties, especially not on a wet road with the traction control disengaged, but it never does anything you don’t expect. There are no sharp edges to the way the grip fades at either end, even if you are silly enough to give it a bootful out of a slow corner.
Having said that, you do need to have your head in the right place to get the most out of the M600 and not end up in the undergrowth. Drive it like a Porsche Boxster, for example, and you’ll find yourself in trouble; this is a very rapid car that will light up its rear tyres on a dry surface readily in third gear with some cornering load in the suspension.
The M600’s steering is very well weighted and extremely accurate, without ever feeling neurotic in its response. Although it appears to be geared very quickly at just 2.2 turns across the locks, the lock itself is exceptionally good for a mid-engined car, which means two things: one, the turning circle is excellent; two, you are highly unlikely to run out of lock when correcting a slide.
Downsides? The tyres generate a fair bit of noise on rough surfaces. And though unusually friendly as it may be for a 200mph car, the lack of anti-lock brakes must again go down as an issue, because it robs the driver of a little confidence. But beyond that it’s pretty hard to fault the M600’s chassis.
Noble M600 MPG & running costs
Whether the M600 appeals sufficiently to pinch sales from the likes of the McLaren 570S, Ferrari 488 or Lamborghini Huracan is unknown, and in many ways entirely irrelevant. The market is its own guide with a car as rare and unusual as this. Even if the car isn’t deemed a match for the supercar establishment, it could still be popular enough to satisfy Noble’s super-modest expectations for volume.
What’s not in doubt is the quality of its construction, the way it performs, the way it drives generally or Noble’s commitment to aftersales service, most of which will be carried out at Noble’s Leicester HQ and via a specialised dealer network throughout Europe. You’ll need to be a bold customer to write a £206k-plus cheque for an M600, sure – but not necessarily a stupid one.
It wasn’t possible to carry out our normal road test economy schedule with the M600, due to a shortage of time at our MIRA test track and with Noble’s test car. Our test experience would suggest that this is fairly economical by relevant class standards, however. You could reasonably expect 18mpg from the car on a day-to-day basis, and up to 25mpg when touring.
The only note of caution we’d give would concern that carbonfibre bodywork, which would be expensive to replace in the event of cosmetic or crash damage. That’s unlikely to be a serious concern for any buyer who can afford the car’s asking price, or who’ll only use the car occasionally. But for any track day regulars who’ve paid for expensive panel damage to exotics in the past, that might just be enough to make you think twice.
Noble M600 verdict
Forget the M600’s eyebrow-raising price for one moment and consider what it does, and how it does it.
The Noble can live with a McLaren F1, not just from 0-60mph or even 0-100mph but all the way from 0-200mph. That makes it all but unique among the hundreds of cars we’ve road tested since the McLaren in 1994, and nothing short of a sensation when it comes to the act of going fast.
Yet despite its monumental performance, the M600 is also a really usable car. Although slightly imperfect ergonomically, it rides as well as it handles, steers beautifully and could, at a pinch, be used every day of the year – provided the lack of anti-lock brakes wouldn’t put you off. That’s just as much of an achievement on Noble’s part as the raw performance itself. And now you can also have it with a collapsible roof only further enhances the appeal.
So is it worth at least £206,000? In many ways the answer is a resounding yes. Speed matters to a great many people in this area of the market, after all – and by current measures, £206k isn’t a lot to ask for the magnitude of it that the M600 serves up. Particularly when it comes in a car with such a benign and friendly dynamic temperament as this.
Does the M600 look sharp enough, feel special enough, or have the sheer wow factor that its more established rivals offer? In the end that’s up to the people who can afford this kind of amazing car to decide.
We suspect the majority of them would say no. But then British sports car makers have never been in the business of serving the majority.