Given $500,000, what car would you buy? Most of us already have an answer in mind, and it’s often a mid-engine, European supercar. Many will chant “458 Italia,” “Aventador,” or “McLaren 12C!”
And while these are all quite stunning, extremely capable machines, I don’t think I would take any of them. My Euro supercar of choice would be something slower, more difficult to drive, and less luxurious: the Noble M600.
You see, I don’t think many supercars are produced for car enthusiasts anymore. They are, of course, designed for enthusiasts, but then they’re run through the financing wringer and come out stuck all over with things we few don’t really care about. Things like LCD screens, computerized transmissions, and electric power steering. Lamborghini’s corporate parents at Volkswagen, for instance, have to make sure that the Gallardo is “driveable” for everyone.
I don’t know how long this has been going on. I’m not a connoisseur of supercars outside my drooling, Top Gear-fueled fantasies, and I haven’t followed the trends for the three decades that I’ve been alive. So I’ll just mark a milestone in this negative progression of livability on the Bugatti Veyron.
This isn’t to say that the Veyron isn’t an exciting, interesting car. But when the Leviathan of the Autobahn first appeared, it was not only the fastest, but also the most expensive production car in the world. It became an instant status symbol, a platform of power and opulence. Why cruise around in that slow old Rolls or Bentley when you could be driving the fastest car in the solar system? It didn’t matter if you were really into cars or not. Few Veyron owners were concerned with lap times or the perfect apex braking technique. It’s tricky to find footage of one racing anywhere. It set a standard, and supercars since became objects of boasting about rather than objects of adventure.
I’ll keep from ranting about flappy-paddle gearboxes because as much as I hate to admit it, they are often faster than the traditional stick, but there is something to be said for the fact that only one Italian supercar, the base level Gallardo, is still available with a row-your-own.
Into this ever-softening world of the compromise between exotica and luxury comes the Noble M600. And before discussing what this car can do, perhaps it’s better to cover what it can’t. It will not stop for you. It won’t steer for you. It won’t deploy an explosive bag of air to protect your skull in the event of a collision. It won’t play your favorite Ke$ha tune. It won’t cool you off on a hot day unless you roll down the windows. It won’t direct you to the nearest Whole Foods. It won’t massage your buttocks or heat your coffee cup or read you back your tweets.
But it does come with a full tank of adrenaline, and it will intravenously pump you full of it for at least ten years.
The M600 doesn’t have power steering, ABS, or all-wheel-drive. It doesn’t even have climate control or a stereo. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Because if you’re reading this, you probably want to know straight away about the most important feature: the twin-turbocharged Yamaha-sourced, 4.5 liter V8 under the clean but unassuming body. It probably sounds like one of those snake-tailed lions in the book of Revelation, it produces 650 hp, and it manhandles the M600, low-range-turbo-asphyxiated as it is, to 60 in just 3 seconds, to 120 in 9 seconds, and on to a claimed top speed of 225 mph.
But this isn’t a Nissan GT-R. You can’t just push a button and activate all this blood-shifting wizardry. That power runs through an old-school 6-speed transmission, with a clutch and everything. The traction control, which you can turn off with an actual fighter jet missile switch, is helpful, but won’t keep you from donutting at the starting line if you just mash the power, even if you “only” have the drive setting in “Road,” as it still gives you 450 hp.
This car takes skill, and that’s why I love it so much. You have to learn the thing, and that will take you years. It encourages you to spend the time getting to know it, building a deeper relationship, before revealing its secrets.
The GT-R, the Veyron, even the McLaren 12c are all wonderful cars, incredible pieces of engineering, but they’re rather like that beautiful woman who wants to take you to bed right after the first date, (which, consequently, was filled with a thorough description of her family plans, hopes, dreams, and debts).
The M600 is more like that smart, snarky woman, the one of quick but few words, with the full and varied bookshelf and a solid appreciation of jazz. The one who will dare you to jump first, not because she’s afraid, but because she’s waiting to see if you will. She has her mysteries, but it will take a ring and a lifetime of commitment to discover them all.
To wring the analogy even further out, the M600 isn’t an outlandishly pretty car. Next to a Countach, an Enzo, or the Pagani of your choice, it’s not even noticeable. Yet its design carries a dignified beauty that will weather well, a shape and proportion you’ll agree that, upon closer inspection, is quite attractive indeed, whether or not you have a preference for long fingers or big eyebrows.
If you’re going to drop a half million dollars on a supercar, you should be getting your money’s worth. I just hope they bring the M600 to the States.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.