Noble M12 GTO-3R – European Car Magazine

28 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Noble M12 GTO-3R – European Car Magazine
Noble M12 GTO

A Supercar That Should Be On Your Wish List

Having penned the Ultima and Ascari Ecosse, Lee Noble set off to do his own thing with his eponymously named company. The first of his efforts, the M10, was about as popular as a roast beef sandwich at a vegetarian party, but several evolutions down the line he produced arguably the seminal car of his career, the M12 GTO 3R. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s undoubtedly automotive art.

Noble has made only small steps from the M12 GTO with the new 3R model, the biggest alterations coming in the engine bay. The 3R makes good use of Duratec’s 3.0-liter V6 as opposed to the 2.5 liter that powered the GTO. According to Noble tradition this powerplant is fettled by John Noble, who isn’t a relation, in Chesterfield. The exact nature of his work remains a secret, but a brace of Garrett turbochargers are among the more obvious moves.

The new engine and a revised twin-exit exhaust system push power up to 352 bhp at 6200 rpm-compared to 310 bhp in the GTO. Torque is up from 320 lb-ft to 350 lb-ft, and it’s not a V6 that needs to be wrung, although obviously it works best when the turbos have thoroughly kicked in.

This mid-engined beast now scorches to 60 mph in 3.7 sec. and Noble has added a six-speed Getrag gearbox to handle the extra power and ensure a marked improvement in the acceleration, at any speed, up to its top end of 170 mph. It’s a muscular gearbox, but it certainly feels like a driving occasion when clunking the lever into the next gate.

The 3.0-liter feels less stressed than its predecessor, which huffed and puffed through the turbos during normal progress. The new car is much smoother, more refined, but power was just part of the equation. The handling was too far towards a knife-edge in the original M12 and Noble has invested in a most sensible driver aid-a Quaife torque-biasing limited-slip diff.

Without slides there would be no point in owning a mid-engined sports car, but Noble has added a touch of predictability that only a masochist wouldn’t embrace. And at low speeds it takes some provocation to get the back out at all.

Apart from the LSD, Noble employs a surprisingly supple suspension setup that soaks up imperfections on the road without any major traumas and a power steering system allowing fingertip control. On a dry race track the Noble could be firmer, but for the everyday demands of driving then this appears the logical compromise.

The marriage of supple suspension, a rigid chassis with a full rollcage and sophisticated aerodynamics, epitomized by the Meccano-style rear wing and huge venturi, prove a rock-solid car isn’t always the route to performance. The massive brakes, 330x30mm discs at the front and 330x26mm at the rear, don’t hurt, either.

This is a user-friendly, feel-good car that anyone can drive quickly, while in skilled hands the Noble could go from A-B faster than any car without a carbon monocoque. The lack of traction control almost cost me when a rear wheel touched the gravel while we captured a dramatic corner shot, sending me fishtailing down the road, but when kept on the black stuff the Noble’s natural balance was infinitely preferable to electronic interference. There’s no ABS, either, but in a car this light that is no real handicap.

Noble M12 GTO

It is still far from perfect. The turning circle of 10.3 meters (33.79 ft) is bus-like, the steering rack is far too loose, and by Noble’s own admission, when the back end steps out in a major way on fast bends, then it’s just plain impossible to grab enough lock to save it.

Luggage space is limited to six small bags, the driving position isn’t right and it drinks fuel.

On the aesthetics front the Noble looks like a chunkier, more imposing and less organic Lotus Elise. There are some rough edges: the front and rear aren’t necessarily in proportion and the car looks square from the front, but when form is dictated entirely by function it’s hard to criticize. Unfortunately, the interior is plain nasty, with Ford switchgear sitting on a carbon-fiber center console clad in what looks like offcuts from the red driving glove factory.

But go forward and you’ll forget this as the balance of the car takes over. This is its strength-beyond the engine, brakes and the colorful interior, it’s the chassis that leaves the lasting impression in the mind. It carves through bends at unfeasible speeds and will make most drivers feel they have suddenly gained an extra quotient of talent on twisting roads.

Noble has still stepped up a gear in terms of refinement and pure driving pleasure with the GTO-3R. There are negatives, but at the end of the day the latest Noble is a sub 50,000 supercar, bringing bionic performance into the hands of those that may never have enjoyed it before. It speaks volumes that once people buy a Noble, they tend to buy more, and the low depreciation suggests very few want to part with their cars once they have them.

It’s in the U.S. in kit form, too, thanks to 1G Racing, with the rolling chassis coming in at $75,000 and the engine extra. And those looking for a second car that will blow their minds when the conditions are right, the Noble M12 GTO-3R should certainly find itself on the list.

Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
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