“How good would it be if it said Lola on the nose?” Boutwood wonders, about the lingering effects of the Noble name – founder and designer of those first Nobles, Lee Noble, ceased to be involved years ago – and he might be right because there’s still so much to like about the M600.
It doesn’t weigh a great deal, for a start: it has a fairly straightforward chassis by today’s standards, with a stainless steel sheet tub augmented by a tubular spaceframe, but clothed in carbonfibre bodywork it weighs less than 1200kg.
It has a 4.4-litre Yamaha/Volvo engine in the middle. The name on the engine’s box varies depending on how old the engine is, and Noble has a decent stock, but it doesn’t really matter because as soon as the engine’s needed, it heads off to Judd to get the makeover that gives it up to 650bhp at 6800rpm and 604lb ft at 3800rpm.
When it comes back it drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or, optionally, through the same ‘box but with hydraulically actuated, clutchless shifts: it’s a single clutch unit like Aston Martin’s most recent offerings, or the Lamborghini Aventador, not a dual-clutch auto. And Noble is still working on the calibration.
It’s still working on the interior finish for the removable targa panel in the roof, too. The roof panel? Well, it doesn’t weigh much, and it doesn’t take long to put it in. It slots at the front and clips at the back and our acquaintance – in some relatively heavy rain – suggests it doesn’t leak. But it’s not finished inside yet, you can’t carry it in the car and it’s a manual on-off job. But for the typical Noble buyer, maybe that doesn’t matter.
What's it like?
I know it’s a cliché to say that interior quality has come a long way on small volume cars. There’s usually a very long way to come from, but between the last time I drove an M600 and today things have been improved inordinately. The fit and finish on the Speedster, the stitching on the leather, the carbonfibre work is all really first class. You could sit this M600 alongside any other supercar and, non-bespoke column stalks aside, its interior wouldn’t look out of place. It looks hand-finished in the most pleasing sense.
Noble has recently appointed a dealer, Super Veloce Racing, of Buckinghamshire. “The M600 is one of the most usable supercars,” says Super Veloce’s sales and events director Lee Cunningham. “Hmm,” I think, because this is a bloke who has won a few Lamborghini races in his time, is the current Ariel Atom Cup champion, so his idea of usable probably differs from mine – given the M600 has no ABS and no stability control.
But brief reacquaintance with an M600 coupé first, and then the Speedster, shows me he’s right. The M600 has a high nose, so it gives no bother to its carbonfibre bodywork over speed bumps, even though that might mean it looks less fast while it’s standing still. Visibility is good, control weights are ideal and it rides extraordinarily well. When it was launched we were convinced the M600 out-rode, out-steered and out-handled the Ferrari 458 Italia. I think it still outrides and outsteers a 488 GTB today.
If there’s a loss in rigidity between the coupé and the Speedster, I barely felt it. Lopping off the roof hasn’t affected the torsional stiffness too much, according to Boutwood. A crash-test car is in build, which will show how well it stands up to being banged.