Driven: Noble M400

Noble M400
Engine: V6 2968cc Twin Turbo
Power: 425bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque: 390lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Power/Weight: 401bhp / tonne
0-60mph: 3.5 secs (est)
0-100mph: 8.0 secs (est)
Top Speed: 185mph

While I've been fortunate enough to drive a lot of cars - and spend a lot of time on track - I remain an average driver in terms of track skills. It's frustrating but I'm just not the sort of chap who can jump into an unfamiliar car and wring its neck from the off.

Likewise, finding myself on an unfamiliar track can be a bit daunting. I can't identify the correct apexes on the bends within one lap - nor can I fine tune my braking points withinfive minutes.

So trying Noble London's M400 demonstrator at Rockingham proved quite a challenge for an average chap like me. I've not driven there before and my previous experience in an M12 had been limited to ten minutes blatting about suburbia a couple of years back.

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Race schools always make sure that instructors do hot laps after the punter has done their thing - just in case the novices get the wrong idea about how hard to push the car. Luckily for me, Noble London's owner -- and ex-Tuscan racer -- Giles Cooper dispensed with that nonsense.

One lap around to show me which way the track went, and which line to take, and then it was another three of high speed blatting! Even from the passenger seat it was obvious how well balanced the M400 is. Giles linked up the corners in a smooth yet aggressive manner, eking plenty out of the engine and making the most of the chassis. It was a fine demonstration that taking a car by the scruff of the neck doesn't have to mean ten minutes of lurching, understeer and oversteer.

My Turn

When we swapped positions and I took the driving seat, I was apprehensive of all I had to learn in a short space of time. There are some cars which, when driven on track, take a real understanding of the finer points of weight transfer, sympathy with notchy gearboxes, and peaky engines, which can make driving on track an intimidating experience -- especially with an instructor barking at you.

With the Noble it wasn't so. Sitting low down in the M400 you get an unusual sense of road car like calmness and comfort, yet coupled with race like feel to the ride and handling. Few cars feel so 'flat' or convey the notion that the wheels are right at each corner with you and engine finely balanced in between.

A joy in the bends
A joy in the bends
Driving the car is easy. The steering is light yet informative, the pedals instinctively placed and the gearbox light and direct. It might sound a minor point but with such great ergonomics it becomes that much easier to concentrate on the important aspects of driving such as speed and track position.

It was relatively easy to adopt a decent pace in the M400 on the Rockingham track. Even with much faster drivers around, it's not a car that you need be fearful in. There's enough pace to keep yourself ahead of any traffic and then just back off when the time is right to let them pass.

The massive 425bhp on tap allows the Noble to thrust forwards when you apply your right foot. The pedal unleashes opens the floodgates and with a gush of power, the turbos whizz (fairly quietly though within the car) and before you know it you're flying towards the next corner at great speed. A dab of the brakes, the speed is moderated and then it's a matter of keeping the engine spinning at the right speed to keep the car correctly balanced on the fine suspension. That's where the real skill comes in - and where the Noble can provide the most reward.

The chassis is firm -- perhaps too much so for British roads -- but the rewards are there to be had from guiding it through high speed bends. More experienced drivers can revel in the feedback and balance to be enjoyed whilst us mere mortals can learn a lot about how to correctly drive a bend thanks to the feedback provided by the car. Get it wrong and you can feel the car pressing hard but it stays composed -- not biting back too early. It's not without its limits but speed and precision with which experienced drivers can guide the M400 around a track are a joy to behold.

Great Track Car
Great Track Car
You wouldn't want to use a car like this everyday -- and many would say that it's expensive for a track toy -- but if you can afford it there can't be many similar experiences to be enjoyed.

I don't believe the M400 is the prettiest car but - as can be the case in other walks of life - some talents more than make up for looks.

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Comments (11) Join the discussion on the forum

  • joust 24 Mar 2005

    PetrolTed said:
    There's a difference between racking up lots of miles in a weekend car and using one 'every day' though.
    Anyway, let's not lose sight of the fact that overall I loved it.
    If it wasn't for Mad Ken's idea of 'traffic control' I'd drive it every day Ted.

    Unfortunatly, if I have to be in work for 8:20am, I can leave home at 7:30am for 'driving to work' "to work". If I want to be in for 9:00am then I leave at 7:31am, and if I want to be in at 10:00am then I leave at 7:32am (thank you very much Mr ****** Ken)

    As it also takes me 1 hour to get in by train and tube, so, if I don't need to be in before 9:00am I take the train. If I need to be in before 8:30am I take the car.

    That means that I drive it ~2 or 3 times a week, and 50%+ of my miles are done in and around London.

    For those that have driven through Stretham's roads^h^h^h^hpotholes you'll be pleased to know the M400 (as was the M12) gets me there just as comfy as the X5, and given the choice (which of course I have) of the X5, Quattro, Marcos or Noble, 90% of the time I'll take the Noble into work.

    So, would I drive it every day, in London, from Croydon via Stretham, through Dulwich to the City - yes!

    Ted - if you want to you are quite welcome to drive my around some of Croydon & Surrey's finest, and you'll see that whilst there is a small 'compromise' (probably change is the better word) between the 3R and M400, smiles per mile the M400 probably has the 3R licked (no offence to 3R owners!)

    J

  • PetrolTed 23 Mar 2005

    Well, you would say that Simon

    Fair enough. Opinions are opinions.

    There's a difference between racking up lots of miles in a weekend car and using one 'every day' though.

    Anyway, let's not lose sight of the fact that overall I loved it.

  • ninjadave 23 Mar 2005

    I've not been my usual self and eased off the stalker-like way I monitor Noble's development recently.

    I'm very pleasently suprised to see that while I was away the larger air intakes have been body colour-coded. That was the one thing putting me off the M400, and made me want to wait for the GTC to hit the market - well, that and for the winning lottery ticket to fall into my pocket, meaning I wouldn't have to convince the misses it really is worth the pitence of a price tag the Noble's carry for the car you get, allowing me to have one of each in every colour

  • micknall 23 Mar 2005

    Have to say that I entirely agree with Joust, Ted. The M400 may not have any boot space (though the six-bag lugagge set allows you to pack for a couple of days away), but in terms of day to day driveability there are few cars with its performance and value for money that can touch it. That's what has always made Nobles special.

    As a company, we design and build road cars: in no way should prospective buyers regard them as 'expensive' trackday-only vehicles!

    Excuse me, while I just step down from my soap-box...

    Simon Hucknall
    Press Officer (and 'Fearless speed-junkie, if you believe this week's Autocar)
    Noble Automotive Ltd.


  • hunttheshunt 23 Mar 2005

    ish!!

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