Agility and composure are the M400's virtues, as William Whey finds out
A Noble drive Noble M400

DEEP in the heart of Changi, the spine-tingling exhaust boom of yet another rare sports car can be heard. Automobil Manufactur is the exoticar importer best known for introducing the $1.8 million Pagani Zonda. Today, it unveils its latest gem - the Noble M400.

The M400 is the brainchild of Lee Noble, a British specialist sports car designer and engineer with more than 20 years' experience. In 1999, the former racing driver finally felt confident enough to lend his name to his very own car - the Noble M10.

It was followed a year later by a restyled coupe version, the M12. In 2004, Lee Noble whipped the covers off a more powerful evolution of that car, called the M400 - so named because it features a magical power-to-weight ratio of 400 hp per tonne. As a comparison, Ferrari's spanking new F430 has 338 hp per tonne, give or take a few horses.

As a lightweight, two-seater, mid-engined car, one of the M400's party tricks is its ability to scramble from standstill to 100 kmh in a little over 3.5 seconds. Another is reaching 160 kmh in less than nine seconds.

The same twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine found in the standard M12 has been extensively modified with a high-lift camshaft, larger turbochargers and revised fuel injection for the M400. The end result is a whopping 425 hp at 6,500 rpm and 530 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. The Ford-based engine is stuffed with goodies such as forged pistons, engine oil cooler, a larger baffled oil sump and extra cooling ducts.

Poised and civilised

A drive around the Changi area in the M400 with black jaquard fabric-trimmed Sparco race seats demonstrates that this Noble is extremely poised and civilised. But because of the adherence to speed limits, only the blow-off valve chirping away gives a hint of its powerful capabilities.

The engine and drivetrain are synergised into a complete package to provide linear and torquey forward acceleration. The turn-in from the 2.5 turns lock-to-lock power-assisted steering is precise without being fidgety. This means that on the track - for which this car was made - the driver should feel at ease when it comes to committing his right foot to some serious driving.

Yet the supple ride provided by the use of high-end Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres makes the M400 practical enough for city driving (of course the sleek Alcantara-lined interior helps too). Because agility and composure are the true virtues of the M400, this Noble is set to put the 'drive' back into 'driver's car'.