Noble M14 (2004)
Having conquered the specialist sports car market over the last five years, Noble Automotive is now launching an all-new model, which will firmly establish it at the quality end of the supercar market.
The British Noble M14 is set to take on rivals, such as the Porsche 911 Turbo and Ferrari 360 Modena, with a tantalising mix of class-leading dynamics, prodigious performance, a finely crafted and well equipped cabin, and levels of practicality that will appeal to owners who wish to use their car every day.
Head of design, Lee Noble, said of the M14: "We aim to catch an entirely new audience with this model, one that cares as much about the grade of leather used in the cabin as how fast the car will accelerate to 100mph. We also anticipate that M14 buyers will demand 'jump-in-and-drive' convenience, without any sacrifice in exclusivity or sophistication. I'm satisfied that these criteria have been achieved without any compromise."
Priced at £74,950, the M14 will be the flagship of the Noble range, falling into place above the existing M12 models. The new line up looks like this:
Noble M14 £74,950 (new)
Noble M400 £55,995 (new)
Noble M12 GTO-3R £49,950
Noble M12 GTC £44,950 (new)
Noble GTO-3 £47,950
The 2004 British Motor Show will see the Noble M14 unveiled for the first time. Far from being a mere concept, the show car's styling, interior, drivetrain and chassis represent what will reach production when the car goes on sale in October this year.
From the M14's conception, Lee Noble has focused on creating a form that eschews current design trends, and majors on a far more emotive shape, led by broad, sweeping curves along the car's flanks, an aggressive front treatment and a graceful - yet imposing - rear end.
"Passion has dominated the M14's design philosophy," says Lee, "but we've also ensured that the car has a thoroughly bespoke feel in its detailing."
This fact is obvious when you look more closely at the car: beautifully engineered door handles, hewn from billets of aluminium; six circular rear light lenses, which make reference to legendary supercars from the past; the rear screen, which reveals the engine's plenum chamber protruding above the perforated aluminium engine cover; and the body-coloured rear diffuser, which cuts deep into the rear panel, highlighting the twin exhausts which exit from its centre. Overall, 95 per cent of the components which make up the M14 (excluding the drivetrain) are distinct from the current M12 series of cars, and an additional 70 per cent of components are now made in house, compared with previous Noble models.
While the M14 retains the current M12's wheelbase, its length has grown by 178mm to 4267mm and its width by 50mm to 1935mm. As a result, more space has been liberated in the cabin, compared with the M12, and there are now two luggage compartments, one behind the engine, and one at the front of the car. This increase in size has also helped Noble incorporate significant crash protection in the doors, and deformable sections at the front and rear of the M14, with a view to it achieving full European Type Approval in the future.
Lee Noble's provenance as a designer of performance cars has been well-documented, and it's this experience which has ensured that the aerodynamics of the M14 will create exceptional stability, as well as an estimated top speed of 190mph.
DRIVETRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Noble has chosen again to adopt a highly-modified version of Ford's 3.0-litre V6, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, for use in the M14. The unit, which in base form also powers certain Jaguar cars, has proved particularly durable in five years of Noble M12 development and production.
Like the GTO-3R and M400 models, the engine employs twin turbochargers, but uses an engine map developed specifically for the M14. In common with the 425bhp M400 model, the M14 will gain forged pistons to ensure durability. Maximum power will be 400bhp at 6100rpm, with a wholesome 385lb ft of torque at 4750rpm. Estimated performance will be 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds, 0-100mph in 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 190mph.
But crude benchmark figures tell only half the story. The Noble M14's power delivery has been fine-tuned to exploit much of the engine's potential with minimal effort. In-gear acceleration should be class-leading, with over 90 per cent of the engine's torque available at just 2750rpm. And in typical Noble style, the engine will be placid and tractable from as low as 1000rpm, highlighting the M14's versatility in every day driving conditions. A cultured exhaust note has been engineered to excite the senses under acceleration, but remain civilised at cruising speeds.
Twin intercoolers now feature in the M14, and are mounted behind each rear wheel arch. This location has two clear advantages: it creates vital space at the back of the car for a luggage compartment; and cooler air can now be ducted over each internal wheel arch cover, rather than above the engine, improving the efficiency of the intercoolers.
The ratios in the M14's six-speed gearbox have been designed to specifically match its power and torque characteristics, complementing the engine's linear delivery. In top gear the M14 pulls 26.5mph per 1000rpm, giving it a remarkably relaxed cruising gate, with 70mph registering just over 2600rpm. This gearbox, which is mated to an automatic torque-biasing differential, has received extensive development in Noble's even more powerful M400 model, and has proved exceptionally durable. A completely new gearshift mechanism, offering drivers slick, finger-light changes, completes the package.
INTERIOR & PACKAGING
One of Lee Noble's design briefs was to create a cabin for the M14 that conveyed a feeling of expensiveness, by paying special attention to textures, finish and feel.
Trimmed in the finest Italian leather (Noble uses the same supplier as Ferrari for the M14) there is no mistaking the M14 cabin's aura of quality and luxury. The padded leather extends throughout the cabin, and is complimented by grey Alcantara roof lining and a gear tunnel and centre console formed in a gunmetal-coloured composite material. The floor and some lower sections of the cabin are trimmed in deep, 80 per cent wool carpet. There are even leather sill pads, incorporating the 'Noble' logo, for drivers to lean against while exiting the car.
The stunning and sumptuous seats, which will be standard in all M14s are manufactured specifically for Noble. They feature a carbon fibre frame, for strength and lightness, and are trimmed in the same top-grade leather seen elsewhere in the cabin. Both seats incorporate fore and aft adjustment, as well as reclining backrests and tilt adjustment.
More occupant space has been created in the cabin by reducing the width of the gear tunnel and re-designing the floorpan. As a result, the M14 has a maximum 1160mm of legroom for driver and passenger (up 30mm on that found in the current M12) and 950mm of headroom (M12 + 20mm). We would expect occupants of up to 6' 5" to sit comfortably in the M14's cabin.
Equipped like no other Noble, the M14 will come with the following:
Electric/heated door mirrors
Heated windscreen with integral aerial
Satellite Navigation (option)
Multi-function dashboard display
Noble's key objective when designing the control layout of the M14, was to allow the driver to focus on the road ahead, and not on a plethora of switches outside of his/her peripheral vision. For this reason, the most frequently used functions are performed by a bank of six buttons located on the steering wheel boss. From here, the driver can operate the hazard warning lights, heated windscreen/mirrors and multi-function display housed in the instrument cluster (which in turn gives data on water temperature, turbo boost, oil pressure and trip mileage). The remaining buttons control the front and rear boot, and fuel-filler cap releases.
As a result, the main dashboard and console area is clutter free. A distinctive cylindrical air vent sprouts from each corner of the dashboard, in addition to secondary face vents mounted on the centre console. Above these are the three air conditioning controls and a CD-tuner, which can also incorporate satellite navigation as a cost option. Two column stalks take care of windscreen wiper/washer and indicator functions.
The instrument cluster comprises a speedometer and revcounter, the graphics and needles of which glow blue when the ignition is switched on. As the engine revs rise, the revcounter's needle changes from blue to pink as it sweeps past the 4100rpm increment, and from pink to red from 6100rpm to the 7200rpm engine cut out. All illuminated controls dim automatically when the headlights are switched on.
A total of seven, trimmed storage areas are spread around the M14's cabin, reinforcing the car's remit as a practical, everyday device. There are two leather-covered bins located on the inside of each sill (rather than on the doors, where belongings are prone to rattle more) a deep open shelf in front of the passenger and driver, and a central cubby behind the handbrake lever.
In addition to cabin stowage, the M14 has two, carpeted luggage compartments, one at the front of the car, and one behind the engine bay. Each compartment holds approximately 150 litres, offering ample capacity for two people's luggage, with access being gained to each via electro-magnetic switches on the steering wheel.
CHASSIS & CONSTRUCTION
The M14's chassis has been adapted from that used on the highly praised Noble M12. Despite the change in design emphasis with the M14, it was felt that the inherent suppleness in the M12's ride, combined with its class leading levels of grip and composure, would lend itself perfectly to the new car's design philosophy. Consequently, the existing chassis has been refined - rather than significantly changed - to suit the M14.
All M14 bodies will be made from vinylester GRP composite (Noble may also consider carbon fibre in future), built over a steel spaceframe, which is reinforced with bonded and riveted alloy panels. A full roll over cage extends around the inside of the M14's cabin, adding strength to what will be our stiffest production structure to date.
Suspension is by double wishbones all round, with coil springs and alloy uprights. Rack and pinion steering, with hydraulic power assistance is geared to 2.5 turns from lock to lock, offering a far tighter turning circle than the current M12.
Since the weight of the M14 has only grown by 70kgs to 1150kgs, it is anticipated that the immensely powerful braking system from the M12, comprising 330mm ventilated discs all round, with four-piston callipers, will be more than adequate for this application. A switchable traction control system, working through the car's ECU, will provide security when the car is being driven in adverse conditions.
For the M14, Noble has adopted a completely new design of ten-spoke wheel. Rim size at the rear has increased from 10 to 11J and at the front 8J rims are used. Tyre sizes also increase from 265/35 x 18 to 295/35 x 18 at the rear and from 225/40 x 18 to 235/40 at the front. The show car wears the latest Bridgestone SO-2 rubber, which Noble hopes to employ when the car reaches production.