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Thread: Drove a Noble and an NSX

  1. #1
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    Philip
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    Default Drove a Noble and an NSX

    I went down to Plans Motorsport to get the Elise serviced and have a few bits done yesterday. They are based just on the side of the Top Gear track and they, with McLaren Mercedes and the BBC, have exclusive use of it. They had an M400 and a quite modified NSX for sale. I have been thinking for a while about buying something fast and track focused and both the Noble and NSX were on my list, so I took the oportunity to test drive them.

    The M400 was the most likely to impress me so I drove it first. I was surprised by how comfrotable it felt over the rough surface of the aerodrome service roads, I would say it even felt a lttle soft! On turn-in however it stayed prety level and gripped well. The acceleration was very smooth for the amount of boost the turbo runs. It felt fast surely (I do sometimes miss having a turbo car since I sold my supped up cossie and moved to the ferrari fold) but my big surprise was that it did absolutely nothing for me. I don't know how to describe it but there was no excitement in it, and I felt completely disengaged frow whatever thrill was going on with the physics around me. I drove back to the grage quite disapointed.

    I then drove the NSX. It was quite modified with a plate diff set to 90% so on slow turns it made horrible sounds. It had numerous other mods like close ratio box, uprated brakes (from an F50), uprated wheels, exhaust etc. It was a differnt and surpising experience form the first 100 meters. The gearchange was the best I have ever felt, from me pressing the clutch to the short through and the silky smoth re-engagenet. The steering was PERFECTLY weighted and you could feel everything that was going on with the car and the road underneath. It was not explosively fast but I felt so connected I just wanted to chuck it into the corners and kick the tail out (but I restrained myself). I have heard and read all the journo praises that have adourned this car since it was launched but i really did not appreciate this until my drive.

    I still don't think that it would tempt me to buy one instead of part-exing the 355 for a Strad (unless I try an NSX-R and fall in love with it - but what are the chances of that) but the NSX has definitely entered my dream garage. The Noble on the other hand sadly isn't even even close to my dream house perimeter, never mind the garage

  2. #2
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    I drove the Noble too and would echo your thoughts on this car. However, I wasn't quite as disappointed as you were.

    I would add that the steering lacked feel in the Noble, but the car had excellent grip and no understeer.

    Try a modded Exige. I suspect that will appeal much more to you It looks similar & smaller but has character in the way it drives and feels, unlike the Noble.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jas
    I drove the Noble too and would echo your thoughts on this car. However, I wasn't quite as disappointed as you were.

    I would add that the steering lacked feel in the Noble, but the car had excellent grip and no understeer.

    Try a modded Exige. I suspect that will appeal much more to you It looks similar & smaller but has character in the way it drives and feels, unlike the Noble.
    There was a customer Exige there that apparently had about 300bhp and was really a race car that was road legal. I was told that that was a phenomenal car and had the rawness and direct driving that I would like. Spending 50k on an exige is a bit much though. At that price an Ultima may be a better option. I need to try out one of those soon.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by 355fiorano
    There was a customer Exige there that apparently had about 300bhp and was really a race car that was road legal. I was told that that was a phenomenal car and had the rawness and direct driving that I would like. Spending 50k on an exige is a bit much though. At that price an Ultima may be a better option. I need to try out one of those soon.
    Yep, a 300bhp Exige is pretty potent. I've driven one Supercharged Honda engine conversion I imagine. I loved it.

    Mine is a mere 245bhp, again supercharged, but much lighter (200kg) than that Exige and feels close to that version.

    You will prefer the Exige to the Noble, but I agree that that's too much money. Bear in mind a standard Elise is a mere 118bhp, weighs more, and still does 0-60 in 5.6 secs.

  5. #5
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    Default Just found a review I wrote back in March 2003, for a Lotus forum

    VX Turbo vs Noble M12 GTO-3 vs Elise back to back



    I had spent the previous day in the company of a group of Elises, Caterhams, Skylines, and a few Radicals, EVO 6 and AC at Rockingham. But the motoring thrills were not quite over. Saturday morning, my birthday, and another sunny day with perfectly dry roads! And I had booked test drives in the new VX Turbo and a Noble M12 GTO-3.

    I drove off for my 9am drive in the VX Turbo (VXT) first, arriving in the Elise. For reference, my Elise has a number of modifications; the key ones being a TT supercharger and the Lotus MotorSports suspension, wheels, tyres and brakes upgrade.

    My expectations of the VXT were that it was going to be very Elise-like and have lots of power. I was expecting to be quite impressed, bearing in mind its incredible price of just 26,000 (for 200 bhp).

    I got in and fired up the engine. And was immediately a little disappointed by the dull sound emanating from behind me. The turbo really kills off the exhaust note. No matter though – sound isn’t everything after all. I accelerated off hard down the straight road, and noticed a number of things all at once.

    Firstly, I was disappointed by the power. Compared to what I was expecting, it really lacks grunt. Secondly, it has a very obvious flat spot at around 4,000 rpm where power drops. Next, the turbo lag is obvious. No matter what Vauxhall might claim, there is lag, and it is obvious if you are looking for it – or indeed, if you are used to not suffering lag when you open the throttle! The other thing is that the engine runs out of puff as it peaks in revs.

    The lag is by no means terrible, and to be honest the VXT has less lag than any turbo I’ve driven. The problem is that lag has no place in a car of this type. It simply feels odd driving an Elise-like car with lag.

    The result of that poor engine is that the car feels nothing like it should. It is unresponsive and feels like a VX220 that has been given a dose of steroids, but also been neutered where it counts! I would rather have a standard VX220 with NA engine modifications to uprate its power output than this car.

    Next came a sharp bend that I took quickly, and thereby immediately found the second major problem with this car. Understeer, understeer, understeer – lots of it! The car headed for the kerb, forcing a correction of steering and throttle mid bend. It was so bad I actually shouted the word “understeer” a few times mid-bend at the salesman in the passenger seat. Absolutely awful. The car is worse than a VX220, and certainly much worse than any Elise, and I attribute this to its extra weight. It was very manageable and the understeer was easily corrected though.

    It feels heavier and I suspect the lacking acceleration (in terms of what I expect from 200 bhp) is partly down to its weight. Even a supercharged TT190 Elise feels like it accelerates a lot faster, and the car certainly handles a lot more sharply. And of course all without any lag whatsoever, and retaining a nice exhaust note.

    The VXT’s steering was good, but felt clearly more vague than on any Elise. The gear change can only be described as poor and imprecise – and very poor compared to an Elise with a quickshift.

    One surprise was how sensitive the servo brakes are. I got used to them quickly enough, but the brakes lack feel and stopping power in comparison with any Elise. The anti-lock system is intrusive and unhelpful too, and would be a liability on track or when braking hard during general quick driving.

    I accelerated hard on a stretch of tarmac, and the car struggled to reach 130 mph before I backed off the throttle at just over 130 mph. My Elise reaches 140 mph on the same stretch, a lot earlier, and without hesitation. I have no doubts that given a long enough run, the VXT will go faster though.

    Given the excellent conditions I was able to really thrash the nuts off the VXT, and therefore to realise how lacking this car really is. In conclusion, the VXT is priced incredibly well but it’s no driver’s car. A tweaked VX220 should easily make for a better drive. You could add another 50 or 100 bhp to the VXT and it would still be a poor driver’s car. What it really needs is zero lag, a revvy engine, a suspension upgrade to stop the understeer, better brakes and to lose some weight.

    As soon as I got back in my Elise, the first sensations were of noise, a hard taut ride, zero understeer and lots & lots of power. It felt good….very good.



    I then headed off to get my hands on the Noble M12 GTO-3. I’ve been on track with one of these at Brands Hatch, and was really looking forward to experiencing the speed and power.

    I got to the dealer and parked the Elise beside the Noble. It was immediately apparent how much bigger the Noble is across all its dimensions, but it looks good. It looks very much like a big Lotus Exige in fact. To spec this car the way I would want it would cost 52-55k so it’s relatively expensive (10k more than my Elise). But it does feature a twin turbo Ford V6 that should be quite reliable and not too expensive to maintain. The car has 340 bhp and 340 lb/ft torque! That’s almost exactly the same power to weight as my Elise, but a lot more torque than my car.

    The first order of the day was to take the car for some petrol, and the car certainly attracted attention. No fewer than three “max-power” cars stopped to ask about the car! Even the Elise doesn’t attract quite so much attention.

    First impressions of the Noble were that it was quiet, very quiet. And also very relaxed. Surprisingly so for this type of car. The ride quality is harder than a VXT, and a bit harder than a standard Elise S2, but still remains comfortable. I liked it in fact. On the downside, the turbos kill off the exhaust note, so the car sounds quite dull.

    However, it does have other sound effects. Firstly there is a wonderful induction whoosh on opening the throttle, and this is followed by the wastegates puffing to release excess boost as you change gear. And all in glorious stereo behind your head. Fantastic! In this quite relaxed car, this does make up for the lacking exhaust note.

    The engine has an unfortunate drawback though. It runs out of puff at high revs just like the VXT. There’s shedloads of torque low down in the rev range, but it drops off as revs rise. This makes the car very much a relaxed cruiser, rather than the grown up Exige track tool I expected to be driving.

    The particular car I drove was geared for 140 mph rather than the more usual 170 mph. I prefer it this way, and it meant it had the same top speed as my own rev limited Elise. And it also had the same great acceleration. The car easily cruised to 120 mph, but felt different to mine in accelerating. I feel it probably reaches 120 mph faster than my car, but mine somehow feels faster – probably just through the noise and fury!

    The other thing is that the Noble suffers badly from turbo lag. There is lots of lag. I was surprised by this as I had heard this was only an issue with the 2.5 litre version, and not this 3 litre one. It does mean that you get a kick in the stomach sensation as the turbos spin up though. This kick is missing in my Elise, and I suspect many people do like to feel it as it shows off the car’s power very nicely. Personally, I’d prefer not to have it in this type of car though.

    The gearchange is a little vague as is the steering, which is far removed from the Elise’s pin sharp feel. This is probably partly down to it having power assisted steering. The car turns in well though and never displayed any tendency to understeer. The Noble generally had lots of grip and its brakes felt solid, despite being servo assisted.

    The car is very well put together, with a very nice interior and seats. The pedals are strangely offset though, and their position did not appeal to me. The steering wheel deserves mention as it is a particularly nice Momo wheel. Access to the engine is fantastic, as the entire back of the car (like the front) lifts up. Lotus should take a leaf out of Noble’s book on this design feature!

    The Noble is not a car to throw around, and is without a doubt less fun than an Exige. It definitely has less “grin factor”. It handles well but feels much heavier than its claimed 1,100 kg. I’m pretty sure it’s heavier than that in fact.

    For me personally, this is a car to consider when I feel I am too old for an Elise. For when I want to settle down with a more comfortable, relaxed, yet fast and fun car. After all, it is much more fun than a non-turbo Porsche 911 - more responsive, faster and more involving. It’s also a much better drive than a Ferrari F355 in every single way, with the exception of that glorious sound the Ferrari makes.

    In summary, the Noble is a fantastic car and is very fast indeed. However, it is a cruiser rather than a big Exige type car, and it needs a more revvy engine without lag. While you’re at it, add a better gearshift, remove the power assisted steering and lose the roof and air conditioning to save weight.

    Getting back in the Elise afterwards felt like a huge change. The Elise was much smaller, but reminded me of being in my old Caterham Superlight R. It truly felt like a light, noisy, uncomfortable little racer. And I had a wider grin than when driving the Noble....much wider!

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