The Noble M600 may be seriously expensive but, says Tiff Needell, this high-performance British supercar offers unmatched driving pleasure
When Lee Noble set up the Noble car company in 1999 I tested his first vehicle – the M10 – for Top Gear. Although I was pleasantly surprised by its engineering and excellent handling, I had to admit its styling had more in common with a brick.
After watching my report, Noble went on to produce the elegant M12 to prove that he could do both engineering and styling. Competitively priced, it was an instant success with unanimous praise for its precise handling and exceptional steering feedback. Sales took off and over the next six years 1,500 were manufactured.
Keen to use this success to expand into a wider market, Noble unveiled prototype versions of larger, luxurious M14 and M15 models at motor shows, but they never went into production despite financial backing from Peter Dyson, who bought the company in 2006.
Noble left the company in 2008 and by then Dyson had decided that instead of edging a little higher he would go for broke and build a Noble supercar. The first prototype made its debut at the 2010 Goodwood Festival and now full production is underway.
Although the Noble M600 is ultra-modern in every other way, this is not a supercar that is controlled by electronic wizardry and a mass of computers. It’s a car for the real driver – you even have to change gear with one of those lovely old levers. The only choices you need to make are whether to turn the boost of the turbocharged Yamaha-based powerplant to provide either ‘Road’, ‘Track’ or ‘Race’ horsepower – that’s 450, 550 or 650hp – and to turn the traction control off.
I tested a bright orange model and the Noble M600, with its swooping, stylish lines, is the sort of car that – like a Lamborghini – looks its best in a stand-out colour. The drive was filmed for a Fifth Gear programme in the spring, where I go head to head with fellow presenter Jason Plato in a Porsche 911 Turbo S and Bruno Senna in the latest Nissan GT-R.
The first thing that impresses is the feel through the steering and the balance of the Noble M600 chassis. Pushed hard on the track, mild understeer will progressively turn to mild oversteer, and there’s nothing nasty lurking below the surface ready to fire you off the track. Unlike the M10, the interior has been turned into a cockpit of luxury with the black leatherwork enhanced by discreet orange stitching. Neat, easy-to-use switchgear enforces the driver-orientated theme.
But you don’t have to be on a track to enjoy the Noble M600. This is not a race car only happy on smooth surfaces as it provides excellent ride quality over the bumps of everyday roads. But with a price tag a little above that of Lamborghini’s new Huracán or a Ferrari 458, it’s a car only a few can afford. In many ways, the M600 takes me back to the driving delights of the McLaren F1 – the greatest supercar ever made. I can’t offer a better compliment than that.