The big question surrounding the all-new Noble M600 appears to be: is it really worth an entire BMW 5-series more than a McLaren MP4-12C or a Ferrari 458 Italia? But that's precisely how much British company Noble Automotive will be charging for this machine when it goes on sale next year: a cool £200,000 ($331,000).
Given that it's 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 for a car that few people will ever recognize. But if we tell you that during the course of this road test the M600 went faster than a McLaren F1 in almost every in-gear increment from 20-160mph, you might begin to understand what sort of performance the M600 has at its disposal.
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 the price no longer seems quite so crazy.
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. But that's where the similarity between this Noble and those that have gone before ends.
For although the M600 may appear quite similar in concept to the stillborn M15, beneath its heavily restyled skin it is a significantly more exotic machine, featuring hand-made materials and construction techniques that no M12 driver could ever have dreamed about (or afforded).
Using carbon fiber for all the key body parts, the production car weighs just 1,250kg (2,756 lbs), according to Noble, although on our scales the test car – whose body was made from regular glass fiber-reinforced plastic, not carbon fiber – tickled the scales at a still impressive 2,877 lbs.
The spaceframe chassis is not made from carbon fiber but, instead, a combination of steel and aluminum – yet it is as strong and rigid as that of any rival, says Noble.
At the heart of the M600 is a twin-turbo version of the 4.4-liter V8 engine that was originally designed by Yamaha for Ford's Premier Automotive Group, and is used by Volvo. 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 U.S. engine specialist Motorkraft, which has added two Garrett turbos and a new Motec ECU to boost power to 650hp at 1.0bar of pressure. This can be reduced to 0.6bar and 450hp or 0.8bar and 550hp by rotating a switch by the gearlever. (More powerful versions with up to 750hp may appear in the future.) The M600's engine produces a thumping 604lb ft at 3800rpm. By contrast, the legendary 6.1-liter BMW V12 engine in the McLaren F1 produced 627hp and 479lb ft.
Open the rear clamshell and you'll discover the M600's other great secret: its unusually excellent (for a mid-engined car) weight distribution. The engine and entire transaxle, including a six-speed manual gearbox designed specifically for the M600 by Graziano, sit so far forward 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.
But there is, thankfully, a traction control system (although it wasn't functioning on our test car), which can be further tailored by a switch that reduces power to 550 or 450hp.