Owning a 911 or 360 shows means and desire but little imagination, and most of us car nuts like to think we could have found a much better place to spend that money, or even a little less. Now you'll know where the ultimate connoisseur would go. It's the little backwater of Hamilton, Ohio, home to a population of 60,000 and, more significantly, 1g Racing.
This is the sole U.S. importer of the Noble M400, a UK export that's fast building an army of fans around the world. Nothing outside of the carbon-bodied hypercars from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche can provide more thrills, and those cost six times as much.
This silver-blue rocket is a development of the M12 GTO-3R that got a thorough workout in last year's european car, and looks ostensibly similar. There have been a few cosmetic touches and more aerodynamic tweaks to the GRP body that's outsourced to South Africa's giant car production facility High-Tech. But under the skin it's a total rework, and this time Noble has produced the finished article, one of the finest thoroughbred sports cars on this planet.
It's the best thing Britain has to offer right now; this car is better than Jude Law, The Office and even British military assistance. The M400 just might be Britain's greatest gift to America in recent years. It looks like a proper sports car, with dramatic styling and a big wing; it's mid-engined; it's lightweight and looks the business from any angle. The M400 oozes fighter-jet style cool, and from every angle it shows other road users it would be foolish to start anything.
The Noble hits 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, 100 mph in 8 and tops out at 185 mph. The power comes from a Roush Technologies-prepped Ford 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that delivers 425 bhp and 390 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm. Its name refers to the power-to-weight ratio of 400 bhp per metric ton.
Acceleration throughout the range is a match for anything on the road; it will seriously edge out a Murcielago and stick with an Enzo. On the test track we managed to touch 170 mph down the straight, the crescendo in a series of gut-wrenching surges of torque-driven acceleration launched with each flick of the wrist as the deceptively light and easy lever finds the next gate in the Getrag six-speed.
The kick in the back just doesn't let up until you get on the other side of 150 mph, and the Noble never threatened to snap sideways as the turbos kicked in. Instead, it found each groove like an oversized Scalextric set. There's an added kick at the 5000-rpm mark, with peak horsepower coming at 6500 rpm and the redline set at 7300. The last 2000 revs can be used to provoke the car on the exit of slower bends, if you're so inclined.
There is no traction control but practice makes perfect, and Noble's own marketing director/test driver Simon Hucknall took a starring role in our shoot. It's possible to stroke the tail out of line at the apex and hold a graceful slide, tires smoking under a steady right foot. Long throttle travel helps here, as it allows sensitive input at the limit and around town.
But it was at high speeds that its true skills shone through and the Noble M400 carved itself into the supercar ranks. The beefy rear wing, sculpted bodywork, side cooling ducts and venturi all combine to create genuine downforce, and beyond 120 mph it feels planted to the tarmac in a way most drivers only dream about. While other cars float, the Noble cuts into fast sweeping bends, and there are few road-legal cars that work so effectively.
A lightweight frame and Lee Noble's 20 years of experience in building supercars like the Ultima GTR and Ascari Ecosse have produced a super-stiff steel spaceframe chassis heavily reinforced with alloy panels, a full roll cage and beams that make their presence known under the carpet of the sparse cockpit. It's not all about safety; it's about removing even a whiff of body roll, so the Noble can cut left and right like a skier at speed and avoid pitching in bends.
A rather serious suspension setup from Dynamics Suspension helps with the cornering capabilities, as do the Pirelli P Zero Corsas that resemble cut slick racing tires. It all adds up to a car that is absolutely geared to the apex, one that exists only to scythe through bends at abnormal speeds before howling down the straights. The mechanical grip from such an extensive suspension revision is inevitable, and this car corners so well it could give you whiplash.
The 3R had potential on the circuit, but there were problems. The seating position was crippling, the gearshift was awkward, the steering wasn't quick enough to save a big slide and the interior was, frankly, cheap. With the M400, Noble has gone back and corrected each of those faults, and this car now ticks all the boxes. Both cars are still on the sales list, with the M400 listed as a more track-oriented machine and the 3R for fast road use. The truth is that the M400 is superior in every way.
A new steering rack now means that you don't run out of lock when trying to catch a quick slide, as happened to some 3R owners. It also helps maneuverability at low speeds. It can undergo three-point turns in the road with ease and is just as easy to drive as any Ferrari. Porsche still has an edge in accessibility, but the Noble is no harder to drive than any other moderately powerful saloon.
The black Alcantara interior and embossed Sparco bucket seats, together with both standard seatbelts and a four-point race harnesses for track use, is now a fine working environment that can handle long distance driving since Noble has taken the opportunity to relocate the seat and reduce the pedal offset. It's no longer a case of sliding into a chiropractor's nightmare.
It's not too noisy either, despite the ferocious horsepower exploding just inches from your head. Our guide could offer no explanation why, as the exhaust is exactly the same and this car has 73 bhp more, but I wasn't the first to comment on the relatively mellow engine noise as we tackled the road part of the test.
Heavy attack on the circuit, though, bought a harder, more urgent growl from the V6. It's downright dirty as it heads for redline, instantly explaining why so many English fanatics have parted with their cash and helped transform Noble from a cottage industry to a genuine force in the UK car manufacturing.
Despite being firm, the ride is well tuned to British roads. The Noble maintains absolute composure under heavy braking, too, even when shedding 70 mph for the corner at the end of Bruntingthorpe's landing strip. On a concrete surface with numerous expansion joints that could send it out of shape, the Noble simply soaked up the bumps and slowed thanks to race-style calipers clamping down on 330mm ventilated discs front and rear.
To avoid the extreme cost of full federalization, Noble ships its cars in as rolling chassis, already equipped with suspension and brakes, and 1g arranges for an engine to be dropped in. None of this should matter to you, though. Just order your machine, turn up and drive it away. You'll get what amounts to a factory warranty, too.
If you're looking for a Sunday afternoon road ripper, or are working out how you can justify reducing your daily driver's luggage space to six small bags, this is arguably the best driver's car in the world. Before you put a deposit down on any other, go to Ohio, drive the M400, change your mind and buy it instead. It's that damn good.
DrivetrainTransverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine3.0-liter V6, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, twin turbocharged and intercooled
SuspensionDouble wishbones front and rear, coil springs and alloy uprights, Dynamics Suspension dampers, front anti-roll bar
BrakesNoble/AP Racing calipers, 13-inch ventilated discs
PerformancePeak Power: 425 bhp @ 6500 rpmPeak Torque: 390 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm0-60 mph: 3.5 secTop Speed: 185 mph