In 2000 the origonal M12 GTO was relesed to the press, Autocar find out what it's like.
We suspected all along that the Noble M12 GTO would be a bit special. Ever since an awkward-looking red sports car called the M10 arrived at Autocar’s offices and ran rings around a Lotus Elise, Noble has been a name to watch out for. But bulldog-chewing-a-wasp looks scuppered any hope of sales success and the M10 scurried back to Leicestershire never to be seen again. Some drawing board time for Mr Noble then, the results of which fell through the letterbox a year later. It was silver, called the M12 GTO and it looked rather better than good.
In exchange for £44,950 you get double wishbones at each corner and adjustable dampers. If that looks a bit more Autosport than Autocar, then the huge 330mm cross-drilled and ventilated Alcon brakes and 225/50 ZR18 and 265/35 ZR18 Bridgestone S-02s reinforce the race car connections. Two Garrett T25 turbochargers have a steroidal effect on the 2595cc Ford Duratec V6. Noble rates the engine of the M12 at 310bhp, but with just 980kg to punt along it feels much stronger than that, and from just 3500rpm it can summon 320lb ft of torque. With a power-to-weight ratio of 316bhp per tonne it is only one horse shy of the 317bhp per tonne the mighty Porsche 911 GT2 manages.
The M12’s standing-start acceleration is only just on the sane side of comfortable; a vicious melee of g-forces, rapid gearchanges and that ever-present and ever-vocal turbocharger. It thumps through 30mph in 1.7sec, 60mph in 3.9sec and passes 100mph in a deeply impressive 9.4sec. After that, drag takes its toll and at around 130mph acceleration becomes merely strong. Flexible, too; in fourth gear the 911 Turbo only just manages to peg the Noble up to 120mph. The Mondeo-derived gearbox is more than up to the task and the brakes are dazzling.The M12 is blessed with a peach of a chassis. Mechanical grip in the dry is staggering and we don’t think we’ve ever driven a road car with more wet-weather adhesion. And there’s finesse, too; a classic all-round double wishbone set-up gives something approaching a masterclass in control, response and enjoyment. A near-complete absence of body roll should scupper all chances the Noble has of riding comfortably, but that simply isn’t the case: the M12 flows over tricky roads. Pity the steering, though competent, isn’t quite up to the exceptionally high standards set by the rest of the package.
Though we doubt many people would consider an M12 as everyday transport, it is more than up to the task of mooching around with Mondeos. Access isn’t that great, the door sill has a habit of snagging Achilles tendons and the door itself doesn’t open wide enough. But once inside the seat is comfortable, visibilty is surprisingly good thanks to the low scuttle, and there’s ample head and shoulder room. Pity about the driving position though. To a man, everyone who drove the car wanted to be able to move the fixed seat backrest, bring the wheel closer to their chest and shove the pedal box between two and four inches back into the footwell. As it stands, the M12 can be a little awkward for long journeys, but we’re sure individual customers can tweak some of these problems out.What you really want to know is whether you should actually go out and buy a Noble M12; a car built in tiny numbers, costing more than a BMW M3 and with little dealer support. The answer is yes. It’s normally the shoddy details that prevent cars like this from going all the way, but not in this instance. And don’t confine it to track days; it’s a fantastic road tool as well, a car that will get you places absurdly quickly, and with a big grin. It is one of the most exciting cars we have ever driven.