Even beyond the sports car world, manuals aren’t dead yet. At least, they’re not dead outside of the rarified world of supercars. That’s the price for the lightning-quick reactions required to extract every last bit of performance. However, one boutique British brand is bucking this trend with some help from Ford’s own supercar, the GT. But the new Noble M500’s dedication to being extreme might be too much for US roads.
The Noble M500 mid-engine supercar finally goes hard with Ford GT power
Noble isn’t particularly well-known in the US, though with its past portfolio, it arguably should be. The British company has a reputation for lightweight, simple sports cars like the M400, as well as the similar-in-spirit M600 supercar. Think Lotus or Caterham but taken up about 10 notches.
And just like its fellow Brits, Noble doesn’t make its own engines. Rather, it uses other OEMs’ powerplants. The M600, for example, uses a first-gen Volvo XC90’s Yamaha-developed 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. Meanwhile, the M400 has a 3.0-liter V6 from a Ford Fusion. However, both of those Nobles make quite a bit more power than stock. The new Noble M500, which the company calls the M600’s ‘little brother,’ breaks that tradition slightly, though.
When Noble first showed the M500 off as a concept at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, it said the production version would use a Ford 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, Road & Track notes. Now, almost four years later, those claims have held true. The M500 does indeed have a mid-mounted 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged Ford V6. Specifically, the Ford GT’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6.
In the GT, that V6 makes 647 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Or at least it used to; in 2020, Ford bumped it up to 660 hp. However, the M500’s version makes 506 bhp and 594 lb-ft of torque—in its current state. According to Autocar, Noble wants its new supercar to make 550 bhp by the time it hits the street.
It may have fewer horses, but the Noble M500 also packs fewer pounds than the Ford GT
While 550 bhp is nothing to sneeze at, that still makes the Noble M500 less powerful than the Ford GT. But the British supercar has two advantages.
First, it weighs less. The GT weighs about 3400 lbs, while the M500 prototype weighs just under 3090 lbs. If that doesn’t sound impressive, note that the M500 doesn’t have a carbon-fiber chassis or body panels. It has a steel chassis and fiberglass-composite panels. In addition, that’s the prototype’s curb weight. Noble plans to add some carbon-fiber parts to bring the production M500 down to roughly 2760 lbs.
Based on the automaker’s past achievements, though, that’s a feasible goal. Remember the M600, the M500’s ‘big brother’? Autocar weighed a fully fueled one at 2877 lbs. And keep in mind, the M500 is roughly the same size as the M600.
The Noble M500’s other advantage over the Ford GT is related to the British supercar’s lower curb weight. It may have the GT’s engine, but it doesn’t have the GT’s transmission. Nope, this featherweight supercar throws it back to the earlier GTs and rocks a six-speed Graziano manual. A gated six-speed manual, to be specific.
That’s right, this is a 500-plus-horsepower, mid-engine supercar with a stick.
Noble goes old-school with the M500, and we don’t just mean with a gated manual
Going with a manual instead of a DCT isn’t the only way that the Noble M500 stays light, though. That earlier Caterham and Lotus comparison also applies to the rest of this supercar’s performance ethos. Namely, the M500 sheds weight by eliminating unnecessary complexity and equipment.
For example, the Noble M500 has double-wishbone suspension and coil-overs, but no active dampers. It has power steering, but it’s hydraulic, not electric, which should mean significantly better feedback. There are no active aero features, just a rear wing and diffuser. And while the M500 has Recaro seats, plenty of Alcantara, a center screen, and a digital gauge cluster, it won’t have launch control.
Speaking of that, the Noble M500 weighs as little as it does because it also lacks some usual safety suspects. Chiefly, it doesn’t have airbags or ABS. And that’s where the bad news comes in—at least for potential US buyers.
It’ll take a miracle for the M500 to come to the US
Although Lotus recently discontinued them, the Exige and Elise haven’t been available in the US since 2011 due to their airbag exemptions expiring. Those expired exemptions also prevented fellow British automaker, Morgan, from selling most of its lineup here until recently. And seeing as it lacks both airbags and ABS, Noble likely won’t offer the M500 in the US, either.
Still, if Lotus was able to get an exemption, that doesn’t entirely rule out the M500’s US chances. And at roughly $206K, while it’s not cheap, it is cheaper than a Ford GT, not to mention the Ferrari Roma and Portofino M. Plus, with annual production capped at 50 cars—Noble only has eight full-time employees—it would certainly have an exclusivity factor. Furthermore, Noble did sell the M400 here as a road-legal kit car.
For now, though, all US enthusiasts can do is daydream about what a Ford GT with a gated manual would be like.
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