Sunday, 28 November 2010

Minty spearmint goodness:Noble M400

What does it feel like to own the only Noble in Singapore, find out below

Vital StatisticsCar: Noble M400Owners: 2Registered: 2nd November 2005Mileage: approx. 9,800 kmRevisited: 19th July 2010 / 22nd October 2010
With only one example in town, it's no surprise that the sight of the Noble M400 on our roads causes some amount of consternation, especially when you say, “It's not a Lotus.”
Previously a nondescript silver (some earlier snapshots here), the M400 (a track derivative of the earlier M12) has been resprayed in a fetching pearlescent White with fluorescent green accents, which serves to highlight its exotic, otherwordly looks even further.
The M400 is a true blue-collar, working class hero that has been endowed with supercar performance and dynamics without the corresponding price-tag.
Dubbed 'M400' for its spectacular power-to-weight ratio, the Noble puts out a seismic 400 (or 400.1bhp if you want to be precise) bhp per tonne (or 425bhp for its 1060kg kerbweight). For a sense of perspective, the modern day Godzilla, the Nissan GT-R (R35) doesn't even manage 290bhp per tonne!
View Image Details]' >Noble Automotive is the brainchild of founder/chief designer Lee Noble (started in 1999 and then sold in 2006 to entrepreneur and exotic car collector, Peter Dyson; Lee Noble would leave the company in 2008 to found Fenix Automotive, which also announced a new supercar dubbed the 'Fenix' in 2009 and slated for production in 2010), who combined Colin Chapman's lightweight rear-wheel driven philosophy with a hearty helping of 'HOLY MOLY' from the fire-breathing mid-mounted engines that served as donor powerplants to the Noble cars.
Due to the general lack of familiarity in Singapore, it's no surprise that most people instinctively (and rather predictably, we might add) say, “I'd rather have a Lotus,” or more bizarrely, “Why is the rear wing so big?”.
View Image Details]'This is in spite of the fact that many of them have never really experienced the Apocalyptic force-of-nature that is a Noble M400 before, not least because, well, there's just this single car in town and UK-based Noble Automotive no longer produces the M400 (the rights were sold in 2007 to a company in the USA called 1G Racing, which showcased and is now selling an updated version of the M400 called the Rossion Q1).
View Image Details]' Even our initial impressions were that this was some sort of a Lotus clone. However, it's not til you experience the elemental forces on tap from the M400 that you really appreciate the potent combination of a featherweight body with a twin turbocharged 3L V6 engine.
Although we seldom talk about straight-line acceleration, the M400's ferocious turn of speed compels us to mention its 3.5 seconds sprint timing to the 100km/h mark.
View Image Details]' With the augmentation by a pair of sweetly spinning turbochargers, the Ford-sourced V6 (from the Mondeo ST220) punches hard and keeps you down for the count as you ride the crest of the car's seemingless limitless wave of torque.
The close-ratio Getrag gearbox keeps you well within the turbo band and the shifts are precise and short-of-throw for satisfyingly quick action.
View Image Details]' Originally factory-shod in Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres, the current foot-wear takes the form of Falken Azenis RT615. However, the previous owner sold the car with an ultra-sticky set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres, which continued to offer stupendous grip even though it was coming to four years of age.
Ultimately, the plan may be to keep the Falkens' for street/demo use, but slap on a set of grippy Cup or Pirelli rubber for serious track work, thereby allowing the M400 to really shine. The car is currently under Exotic Tuner and there is some talk the owner will enter the M400 in a drag run at the 2010 Mettle Games, before it eventually takes to the track.
View Image Details]'The M400's role as track tool is clear enough when one slips into the cabin. Apart from the minor concessions to luxury in the Alcantara-clad bits (headliner, most consoles, seats and roll-cage frame), everything else is purely functional (especially the gauges, which allow one to keep an eye on the engine's vital statistics), which could also be why the interior looks like the parts were scavenged from a late night raid to the Ford and Demon Tweeks spare parts bin.
Anoraks might be interested to learn that the body and chassis of the Noble is built by Hi-Tech Automotive, which is based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, after which it is shipped to Noble Automotive for everything else to be added.
Surprisingly, there's even a decent amount of storage space in the M400, especially behind the seats... not that we'd expect this to be a compelling point to purchase the car of course.
View Image Details]'On full throttle runs, the M400 also emits all the right noises that you'd expect from a dedicated sports-car. The gasps, sighs and wheezes help turn any drive in the Noble into a full-blown mind blowing experience and there's nothing close to asthmatic about this car whatsoever.
Needless to say, the Noble garners loads of variety of attention from car-spotters and ignorant bystanders alike, so travelling incognito is somewhat of an uphill challenge.
View Image Details]'During our time with the car, we found owners of much more exotic vehicles rubber-necking to catch a better glimpse of the M400.
The perfectly weighted steering is razor-sharp and the turn-in, near immediate. Apart from the off-set pedal placement, the controls are easy to modulate and the braking force, painfully effective (4-pot AP Racing callipers all-round).
View Image Details]'Contrary to what many may expect of a sportscar, the clutch action is unexpectedly light and will not require thighs the size of small buildings to operate. More importantly, the M400 is raw, yet retains some element of comfort, since the damping and ride are well-sorted and surprisingly civilised, even despite its track-ready credentials.
View Image Details]' From the get-go, the M400 gets into stride almost instantly (thanks to its flyweight) despite just a smidgen of turbo-lag. Once the turbos kick in, prepare to reel in the horizon as the M400 bends time and space with neck-straining ease and spits you towards your destination with all the explosive spurt of a wayward spitball.
View Image Details]'However, never mistake the M400's power as being unfocused and misdirected, since the agile chassis easily allows drivers of all skill levels to exploit the car's potential: it's as scary (or not) as you want it to be, but never forget that the engine is mid-mounted, which can typically make for some tricky handling at the limit.
Moreover, unlike so many modern cars (sportscars included), there's no form of traction control (electronic or otherwise) nor ABS, save for your discipline, self-restraint and right foot.
View Image Details]'With the potential violence and 'Judgement Day'-type pyrotechnics from the twin-turbochargers a mere foot-prod away, it is even entirely possible to exit every corner in a state of opposite lock Nirvana, not that Motor Prime condones this sort of anti-social behaviour, of course!
View Image Details]' The Noble's compact proportions allow one to place the car confidently; it almost seems as though the car wraps even closer around you like a pair of sleek Oakleys when you get into the cabin. If it's purely superficial aesthetics you're after, you're unlikely to be convinced by the M400, since in these minds, the Lotus more often than not will seem to be a more appealing package.
(Conclusion after Fast Facts)
FAST FACTS : Noble M400ENGINEEngine: 2967cc, 24-valves, V6, twin-turbochargedMaximum power @ rpm: 425bhp @ 6500rpmMaximum torque @ rpm: 529Nm @ 5000rpmBore x Stroke (mm): 89 x 79.5Compression ratio: 8.0:1
TRANSMISSIONDriven wheels: Rear with Quaife LSDTransmission: Getrag 6-Speed ManualGear Ratios: 3.15/1.95/1.52/1.19/1.31/1.03:1 / R 3.87:1Final drive: (1st-4th): 3.87 / (5th-6th): 2.76
PERFORMANCE0-100km/h: approximately 3.5 secondsTop speed: 282km/h
SUSPENSIONFront: Wishbones, Coil Springs, Dynamic Dampers, Anti-Roll BarRear: Wishbones, Coil Springs, Dynamic Dampers
BRAKES & TYRES/WHEELSFront: 330mm x 13" AP Racing discs; 4-pot callipersRear: 330mm x 13" AP Racing discs; 4-pot callipersWheels: (f) 8.5x18; (r) 10x18Tyres: (f) 225/40 R18; (r) 265/35 R18
DIMENSIONSL x B x H: 4089 x 1885 x 1143 mmWheelbase: 2438mmLock-to-lock: 2.5 turnsKerbweight: 1060kg
Based on mere appearances alone, it's easy to mistake the M400 for just another Lotus clone, but as with everything else, one needs to appreciate the raw fury of the Noble's unleashed elemental forces to truly understand its place among the rarefied echelons of sportscars... like Wrigley's Spearmint's finest, the M400 provides enthusiasts with a welcome breath of fresh air. - story by dk ; photos by Vanq

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