Noble M400 And M12 GTO-R3, Two Incredibly Fast Supercars

"Staggering" sums up the new Noble M400 and it also describes the Noble M12 GTO-R3. The cars are almost the same, except that the M400 is much more powerful and has been reworked extensively to make it perform better on the race track. But it's still a road car.

The performance of these supercars is just stunning a 0-60 time of under 3.8 seconds with a maximum speed of over 170 mph for the M12 GTO-R3 puts it in the league of super-quick supercars. Not fast enough? Well, the M400 has a top speed of around 185 mph, and can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

Light and simple

The Nobles are low coupes, with the look you can only get with a mid-engined layout. Above all they're amazing value the M12 GTO-R3 is yours for about $100,000, and the M400 costs about $120,000. These are sports cars in the true tradition of modern sports and racing cars started by the likes of John Cooper, Colin Chapman and Eric Broadley light, simple with good road holding.

It just shows that you don't need 6 liters or more with 500 plus bhp to build a supercar. Sure, with 500 bhp you can get to 190 mph or more, but off a race track that doesn't mean a thing.

So who's Noble? It is a small firm started by Lee Noble, who has designed a number of kit cars before starting his own company to produce a supercar. His aim was to produce a car that was spacious and civilized, and that "anyone could drive fast without feeling intimidated." Now they produce over 200 cars like that each year.

For the M400, they took the M12 GTO-R3 and souped up the engine, and then sorted the suspension to suit. The weight is slightly lower and light weight is one of the strengths of the M12 GTO-R3 anyway.

Distinctive lines with air dam and three front air intakes

The Nobles look the part, with the typical low nose and an air dam stretching across below the three air intakes. The lamps are the small, modern halogen type, behind streamlined plastic panels. In the sides are neat air intakes forward of the rear wheels, which apart from being useful, break up the slab look of the sides all the air intakes are larger on the M400 to improve cooling. The sloping roof extends into flying buttresses that slope back into the tail on each side of the engine cover. At the rear, one spoiler is built in, but there's also a wild separate spoiler on a pair of legs above the tail.

Inside, the layout is simplicity itself, with the main instruments in individual pods right in front of the driver, and the minor instruments on the central console. The short gear level pokes up above the deep central tunnel.

Twin-turbo charged V-6 engine

At the heart of each Noble is a twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter V-6 mounted amidships and driving through a six-speed gearbox to the rear wheels. The car is very light and this is where the performance comes from: the combination of plenty of power, light weight and a small frontal area.

It's hard to believe that the 352 bhp V-6 engine of the M12 GTO-R3 starts life as Ford's all-aluminum unit. Most of the internal parts are either replaced with special Noble ones, or are modified to improve performance. The twin turbocharger installation is Noble's own, and these tiny units are responsible for boosting power to 352 bhp at only 6,200 rpm that's 118 bhp per liter, the same as the Ferrari Challenge Stradale. Maximum torque of 350 lbs ft is produced all the way from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm, giving massive mid-range power.

Boosted to give 425 bhp in the M400

To boost the power output of the M400 to 425 bhp at 6,500 rpm, high lift camshafts are installed with a pair of larger turbochargers. A side effect of the extra power is that the maximum torque of 390 lb ft (529 Nm) is produced at a higher speed, reducing low-speed torque a little. The fuel management system is new, and to suit the racers, the limiter cuts in at 7,200 rpm instead of 6,400.

With that much power coming out of such a small pot, forged pistons replace the cast ones, and there is a large baffled sump. An air-cooled oil cooler is also standard.

Getrag six-speed gearbox

Currently, Noble is the only user of the six-speed close-ratio box fitted to the V-6. It is built by Getrag, the German specialist. The engine is mounted across the frame, so the gearbox and axle gears are in one unit, providing one of the most compact power train packages in the business. A new gear shift mechanism has been adopted for the M400.

Simple, stiff frame

Simplicity is the theme with the chassis frame it consists of a steel tubular space frame to which aluminum panels are bonded and riveted. The result is light weight and great stiffness all at a fraction of the cost of the carbon fiber composites and aluminum space frames used by Noble's competitors.

Practical considerations have not been forgotten as they often are on super sports cars. Both the nose and tail section hinge up to give plenty of access to the mechanical units.

The suspension is typical of supercars, with double wishbones front and rear. The uprights are aluminum, and there are the usual spring/damper units at each wheel. For the M400, dampers with aluminum tubes are used, and there is an anti-roll bar at the front the M12 GTO-R3 doesn't need one, but for the track less roll was deemed useful.

This little pocket supercar it is only 161 in long weighs only 2,380 lbs (1,080 kg). Little wonder that the performance leaves owners of very powerful, exotic and expensive machines gasping. With 335 bhp per tonne you're just bound to be able to accelerate as fast as the tires can grip and the M12 GTO-R3 has a special differential to prevent much excessive wheel spin on one wheel.

With its greater power output 143 bhp per liter and slightly lower weight, the M400 has a power:weight ratio of 400 bhp per tonne! That is extraordinary, and is one of the reasons the Nobles are so fast.

Definitely a pair of compact supercars that make you think again about what you need to drive fast. The answer could be a Noble!