With the introduction of a convertible prototype for its indomitable M600, appropriately named the Speedster, Noble is stepping into unknown territory. The English automaker is famous for creating low-production, rear-wheel-drive, mid-engine sports cars that express pure driving experience, and despite the lack of a roof, this drophead is expected to be no different.

Like the regular M600, the Speedster should offer its passengers very little beyond a total immersion in speed. The only driving assists you’ll find on the hardtop are a rudimentary traction control system and the fear of death. There isn’t even ABS. The handling is hairy, taking a Stig-like touch to drive well. Mounted directly behind the cabin is a 4.4-liter V-8 with two turbochargers strapped to the exhaust manifolds, yielding a total 650 horsepower and 654 pound-feet of torque.

Plumbed into the 2,645-pound body of the current M600, that’s a power-to-weight ratio of 541 horsepower per ton, a figure that bests even the mighty Bugatti Veyron. Properly motivated, we expect the Speedster to emulate its hardtop twin, blasting from a standstill to 60 mph in three seconds, running a standing quarter mile in 11 seconds flat, and hitting a top speed of 225 mph.

Given the uncompromising nature of the Speedster, it should come as no surprise that Noble’s managing director, Peter Boutwood, is a Ferrari F40 owner and former racing driver. According to Autocar, Boutwood says Noble has no immediate plans to produce the Speedster, but rather calls the prototype a “research gathering exercise.”

"If it makes production, our aim is for it to be one of the fastest cabriolets in the world," he said. Considering the long development period required for the small Noble team to actually put an idea into production, a customer-ready Speedster might not appear for some time. We’ll eagerly await the results.

Typically, when a roofless version of a sporty car is released, the overall performance is nerfed. With no material at the top to hold it together, the chassis loses a substantial amount of torsional rigidity, which yields a serious penalty when it comes to cornering prowess. Automakers often attempt to fix this with addition bracing lower in the body, but that creates weight. And weight, if you didn’t already know, is the sworn enemy of any performance measurement. It makes everything worse — acceleration, braking, lateral grip, even fuel mileage.

Given this fact, you may be surprised to hear that Noble chopped the top on its hardcore, driver-oriented M600. However, the company says it’s happy with the current stiffness of the carbon fiber body, and thus consequently left it structurally unaltered in the Speedster prototype.

The question remains: can Noble really offer all that speed in a car with unlimited headroom?

Updated 01/09/2015: Noble unveiled the M600 Speedster at the 2015 Autosport International show. The model revealed at the show is still a prototype version and the company announced no plans to come with a production version, but we have big hopes.

Click past the jump to read more about the Noble M600 Speedster.

  • 2015 Noble M600 Speedster
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    650 @ 6800
  • Torque @ RPM:
    604
  • Displacement:
    4.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    200 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    350000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

Noble releases picture of M600 Convertible, calls it a “styling exercise" Exterior
- image 462157
Noble M600 Convertible

Image is of the roadster "styling exercise" that Noble released in 2012

Compared to a Ferrari 458 or Lamborghini Huracán, the M600 Speedster looks a little subdued. Sure, it’s low and wide, but you won’t find the same extreme curves and striking angles that you would on similar vehicles in this segment. I won’t go as far as saying it’s bland, but compared to its main rivals, the Noble is definitely simpler. Without the roof, that minimalist design is only enhanced. It’s a look that connotes a seriousness about driving, which fits perfectly with the inherent Noble philosophy.

Noble M600

2011 Noble M600 Exterior AutoShow
- image 497323

Interior

2015 Noble M600 Speedster Interior
- image 609768

We fully expect a production version of the Speedster to come equipped with a cabin that mirrors the current M600, a model that offers customers copious amounts of carbon, Alcantara, aluminum, and leather to touch. While not as luxurious as some of its higher-volume competitors, Noble usually provides all the infotainment and comfort you’d expect from a car at this price.

Like the exterior, the layout is simple and straightforward. There are enough gauges, switches, and buttons to make you feel like Spaceman Spiff, including three different horsepower settings and a traction control switch plucked from a jet. While nice, anyone who might actually buy this car will be far more interested in the next section of the review.

Drivetrain

2011 Noble M600 Drivetrain
- image 390485

Vehicle pictured is not Speedster version.
One thing that Noble has consistently maintained over its rivals is total driver involvement, which equates to a row-your-own manual. However, it appears as though the marque would like to open up the accessibility of its sports cars by introducing a single-clutch, six-speed, semi-automatic gearbox in the Speedster. According, to Boutwood, the new transmission is designed “to keep the raw feel that is associated with Noble cars.”

“People still love manual-shifting cars, but we have to keep up with other markets while keeping that gutsy, visceral sensation with the car, similar to the Ferrari F430 Scuderia,” he said. Boutwood is adamant that a stick shift will remain an option, and the new automatic should do a great deal to widen the convertible’s appeal. We’re curious to see if additional electronic aides (like, I don’t know, ABS maybe?) will eventually make it into the Speedster.

We’re surprised Noble isn’t adding weight to its convertible with additional bracing, but if they say it’s stiff enough, who are we to argue? Still, we expect to see at least a little extra heft when prototyping ends, and it doesn’t take much to muffle the cornering tenacity of a car that weighs just a tick over one and a quarter tons. For the meantime, we know the Speedster is equipped with plenty of tire, with 255/30 R19 rubber in the front, and 335/30 R20 rubber in the rear. When in doubt, add more footprint.

Prices

2011 Noble M600 Exterior AutoShow
- image 497328

Vehicle pictured is not Speedster version.
While nothing official has been announced, the Speedster’s hardtop roots offer a good deal of material for speculation. At $320,000, the M600 is anything but cheap. But, that lofty price includes enough performance to rearrange your organs, plus considerable exclusivity considering Noble’s low-production volume.

With the convertible, we expect there to be a few options listed to upgrade over the base model M600. We’d venture that the six-speed semi-automatic transmission will cost around $7,000, while the roofless top adds a substantial $25,000. Throw in a few extra electronic comforts, like ABS, upgraded infotainment, and carbon fiber doodads, and you’re looking at another $10,000, giving a round total of $362,000. Ouch.

Competitors

Ferrari 458 Spider Speciale A

2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale A Exterior High Resolution AutoShow
- image 571291

Usually, when Ferrari makes a roadster version of one of their super cars, the result is quite good. That’s absolutely still the case with the gorgeous 458 Speciale A. Powering this open-top Italian job is a 4.5-liter V8 putting 596 horsepower to the rear wheels. That mid-mounted engine is Ferrari’s most powerful naturally aspirated powerplant to date, which translates to similar performance figures as those associated with the Speedster. Ferrari was able to keep the Spider’s weight a scant 110 pounds over that of the hardtop, and with a limited production run of only a few hundred units, there’s exclusivity there as well. Noble will be hard pressed to draw customers from this Maranello stunner.

Lamborghini Huracán

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Spyder Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 536958

While we haven’t heard anything official about a convertible version of the Huracán, history is on our side. Like Ferrari, Lamborghini is known for creating convertible editions of its coupes shortly after release, and there’s nothing to indicate that isn’t the case with the Huracán. With the traditional mid-mounted, V-10 engine and power running to all four wheels, the angular coupe version goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds and will rampage all the way to a top speed in excess of 200 mph. Like the Gallardo, the Huracán shares a platform with the Audi R8, which means it’ll be much more user friendly than the arms-and-elbows Noble. In a comparison test, we expect the Speedster to walk away from the Huracán roadster at the track, but you’ll still want to arrive in the Lambo.

Conclusion

Turning any car into a convertible is no simple task, especially with a high-performance sports car. Although visually similar, there’s a lot of engineering needed under the skin to keep the same standards of ride quality, safety rating, and of course, performance. If Noble intends on making the Speedster more user-friendly, but maintain the same hard-core performance as the coupe, it certainly has its work cut out for it. At the same time, if the plucky Brits had the wherewithal to compete with the established supercars from the get-go, maybe they can pull this one off.

  • Leave it
    • Stiff competition
    • High price
    • Might muddle hard-core philosophy

Source: AutoCar

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: