Noble M500 review: More sensible than the M600, but is that a good sign?

Less hardcore, more hard rock

You may vaguely remember the Noble M600. Now that I think about it: even the brand name Noble will not be popular with everyone. So let's start there. The company made its name in the early 2000s, when it produced mid-engine sports cars that stood out for the flexibility of their chassis.

Being such a typically 'barn-born' British brand, it stuttered and faltered somewhat; until it made a comeback about ten years ago with a supercar, the aforementioned M600. Once again with a friendly chassis, but this time the twin-turbo V6 from Ford had made way for a 4.4-liter V8 from Volvo and Yamaha, also equipped with two turbos. The 350 hp of yesteryear had been exchanged for 650 hp.

He was powerful. It may have looked a bit simplistic, and not many more than a few dozen were sold. A shame: it was one of those cars that are much more than the sum of their few exotic parts. It was fearsome, thundering fast, chattered your ears with feedback, but wasn't the kind of car that would hold your hand. You had to know what you were doing. And with its carbon fiber body, it was also quite expensive to make.

Noble has learned from the M600

And so Noble has gone away, regrouped and returned with this here: the Noble M500. The aim is to deliver a similarly immersive driving experience, but at a lower price point, which will hopefully be somewhere around £150,000 in the UK. It is still a prototype at the moment, but it uses much of the technology of its bigger brother: the same chassis with a steel space frame and double wishbone suspension, the same wheelbase and not electric but hydraulic power steering.

The engine is of course a different one, again from Ford. Only now not the one from the Mondeo, but the brand new 3.5-liter twin-turbo from the Ford Raptor. This has caused Noble quite a few problems, as Ford recently changed the engine specifications and moved the manifolds, causing them to get in the way of the beams of the rear part of the chassis. That's all part of the development process of a small manufacturer.

No one has to complain about a lack of power with this engine, by the way. 510 hp and 745 Nm is quite a feat for a car that will weigh approximately 1,200 kilos in its final form. At this point it is still a few hundred kilos heavier, due to the body panels not yet being made from the final fiberglass. That stuff is still heavier than carbon fiber, but infinitely cheaper.

Noble M500 is an old school sports car

The best news isn't even the engine, but the gearbox. It is a manual transmission, the Graziano six-speed gearbox from the original Audi R8, complete with that click-clack open splitter. Of course, the M500 is rear-wheel drive, and the production version will have a limited-slip differential and traction control. What the M500 will not have: ABS. That could be a point that is difficult to dismiss for people who like the 'natural driving experience' that the Noble M500 claims to offer. Time will tell.

It is a more elegant, beautiful car than the M600. Sharper lines emerge from the nose, rising from behind those somewhat Ferrari-like headlights. The cabin and the lower part of the body are connected by a 'freestanding' pillar that directs the wind to the rear of the car at the top, and guides air to the radiators at the bottom.

With its C-shape it looks a bit like the Bugatti Chiron. The hood may be a bit high, but otherwise it comes across as what it is: a light, small, agile car. And a versatile one. Under the nose there is a luggage compartment that can easily compete with what Porsche passes for on the 911, and it is beautifully finished too.

The cabin of the M500 is full of Alcantara

And the interior: you have to be able to see through windows, otherwise they would have also covered them with Alcantara. The steering wheel has a flattened bottom, which should simplify entry, but looks a bit strange. If you have big feet, you might find yourself scraping your toes against the bottom of the steering column, and the driver's seat (in this right-hand drive car) should actually have been moved a little more to the left to be really nice, to be right in line with the to sit on the steering wheel. Or the steering wheel slightly to the right.

Then the good news – and there is plenty of it. The seating position is excellent, the all-round visibility is excellent and the seats are great. And the M500 is a joy to drive. There's a little bit of lag, then the turbo kicks in quite hard and fast, but the way the power is delivered isn't intimidating; it doesn't feel like the torque will overwhelm the traction. And if that does happen, you can deal with it, because you have long felt that the chassis and steering will support you at the limit instead of testing you.

The final verdict of the Noble M500

The M500 is not the 'men with beards' car that the M600 was with its excess of power. What it does have is a similarly flexible chassis; it rides light and nimble and is a breeze to operate. That open R8 gearbox is a pleasure, the lever clicks wonderfully through the gears. The controls are accurate and bursting with information; at most it is a bit sharp just outside the center position, which is not always useful on bumpy roads.

I suspect that the Noble M500 will have a hard time appealing to a large audience because it isn't really technologically advanced. But think of it as a McLaren with a manual gearbox, or as a Lotus Emira with a lot more power (and lighter weight) and you can see where its appeal lies.

Specifications of the Noble M500 (2023) Engine 3,496 cc V6 biturbo 510 hp 745 Nm Drive rear wheels 6v manual gearbox Performance 0-100 km/h in 3.6 s top nnb Consumption (average) nnb CO2 emissions nnb Dimensions nnb (lxwxh) 2,540 mm (wheelbase) approx. 1,200 kg fuel capacity nnb luggage space nnb Prices approx. € 175,000 (excl. taxes)