NOBLE M 600 Speedstar

The Carbonfire –Bodied M600 Speedster is the first new model from Noble since the M600 coupe debutedwa.y back in 2010 and its tasked with lifting the company’s output to 20 units per year.

The Speedster is expected to cost around $900,000, which is some $200,000 more than the fixed-roof model. In terms of open-topped, upper-supercar competition, the Noble M600 Speedster is really only playing against Lam borghini’s 515 kW, $795,000 Aventador Roadster (and 552kVV, $925,300 SVvariant). Of course, Ferrari’s $526,888 488 Spider is just a single kilowatt shy of the Noble’s output.

Peter Boutwood, Noble Automotive’s managing director, is quick to address any concerns that the conversation to Speedster has had a detrimental effect on the M600’s torsional rigidity. “In terms of rigidity, the Speedsters chassis is within tolerance for the coupe chassis,” he says.,”WS very stiff.” Both versions of the M600 are built around a sheet-steel tub with a tubular spaceframe, which gives much of the rigidity of a full carbonfibre tub but at a fraction of the cost.

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Moreover, decapitating the spaceframe chassis makes little difference to its stiffness, Boutwood assures me. Like the coupe, the Speedster uses a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that develops 494kW, although a. switch within the cabin allows you to drop that output to 410kW or 335kW. Weighing the same flyweight 1198kg as, the coupe, the Speedster is monstrously quick, much more so than is suggested by a 0-100km/h time of 3.6 seconds. Though largely academic, the top speed — an estimated 362km/h, just like the coupe — more accurately captures the performance promise of the Speedster. As standard the Speedster is fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, which in this day and age puts it in a class of one.

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With the launch of the Speedster, however, Noble is also introducing an automated gearbox option — a first for the small firm. Its the same Graziano paddleshift sequential gearbox that featured in the 2002 Ferrari Enzo — a single-clutch unit, then, albeit heavily updated for 2016. Boutwood, a purist at heart, admits he’d rather not have to offer an automated-manual gearbox, but he concedes that the sales opportunities in regions such as the Middle East are too great to ignore. The optional gearbox is expected to carry a circa $45,000 price tag.

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Noble has long offered the M600 with exposed carbonfibre bodywork, but it can now tint the resin with ink to offer that same exposed carbon but in one of five hues. At $100,000 it’s a tremendously expensive option, but the effect is quite spectacular.

With tan hide, flashes of carbonfibre, and precisely engineered chromework, there’s more than a little of the Pagani Zonda about the Speedster’s cabin. The roof panel is a single carbonfibre piece, and although there’s nowhere to store it within the car, Noble does provide a get-me-home fabric hood should the weather turn unexpectedly. It’s an evocative cabin and the seating position is good, although in this early prototype there’s nowhere comfortable to leave your left leg and the gearshift paddles are too tight to the steering wheel. The factory is working on solutions.

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The Noble M600 is a firm favourite — an analogue masterpiece in a world of increasingly digitised performance cars. It isn’t just the M600’s pure and honest character that makes it so beguiling, though, but also the sheer quality of the  driving experience and the sensational straight-line performance. Happily — with a caveat relating to this car’s automated gearbox — the Speedster is every bit as impressive.

There’s a certain tension to the ride quality at low speeds, but over 80km/h the car just transforms. The pliant, fluid ride combined with the taut body control that has distinguished Nobles for many years now is present and correct, giving the Speedster the most remarkable composure on even the bumpiest of roads. Combined with hugegrip and traction, wonderfully direct and feelsome steering and a sweet, natural balance, the Speedster is spectacularlygood to drive. It’s staggeringly fast, too.

Relatively longgearing and plenty of throttle-pedal travel giving a sense of relentless, unabating acceleration, the sort that you have to build up to over time. The twin-turbo V8 doesn’t have the most electric top end, or the most immediate responses, but it truly is a powerhouse of an engine.

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The most remarkable thing about the M600 Speedster, however, is that there’s almost no indication from the rear-view mirror, windscreen surround or steering column that the chassis has had a great hole cut out of it. Whereas the Lamborghini Huracan and Aventador feels compromised by having its roof sliced away, the Speedster is close to undamaged.

Bout wood reckons there’s still six months of calibration work to do before the automated gearboxwill be ready for sign-off, and as it stands there are some significant issues. Low-speed refinement is poor, for instance, and the onlyway to smooth out upshifts is to lift heavily off the throttle pedal.

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This single-clutch transmission will never have the speed or precision of a twin-clutch one, but if there’s room for improvement in this gearbox, Noble will surely find it. For our tastes, though, the six-speed manual remains the transmission of choice.

Noble has long been a company that has punched well above its station and in the M600 Speedster it has built one of theworld’s finest open-top supercars.

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