Shaali Motorsports N360 is a no frills, all thrills sports car from Dubai, for Dubai
Minimalist roadster features a manic 360-horsepower engine with Suzuki Hayabusa roots.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
With the amount of wealth and the sheer number of supercar-crazy driving enthusiasts in Dubai, you'd think someone would've thought of a homegrown hardcore sports car before. A handful of small-volume specials have been assembled in the city, but according to the folks at Shaali Motorsports, their N360 roadster will be the first car to be thoroughly developed and built in this market.
The N360 is Shaali Motorsports' first car, and this startup's minimalist trackday weapon made its debut at Tuesday's Dubai Motor Show, right alongside cars like the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. And while the N360 shown here is still rough around the edges, it already has the sort of hardware that should make the hair on the backs of driving enthusiasts' necks stand on end.
Right now, the car is a track-only proposition, but the company is investigating what it will take to make it street legal.
Weighting in at around 1,400 pounds, the N360 is powered by a custom-built 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that utilizes the head from a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle and features a purpose-built block. The US-made engine is supplied by John Hartley (he designed the tiny V8 found in the bonkers Ariel Atom 500), and it's paired to a six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox. Output is quoted as 360 horsepower at a sky-high 10,000 rpm. In other words, this thing ought to be seriously rapid.
(Shaali officials say a Ford-sourced 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder shared with the Mustang will also be made available at lower cost, but it weighs twice as much as the Hartley engine).
The N360's chrome-moly chassis is fabricated locally, as is the fiberglass composite body that clothes it. The whole car appears surprisingly large compared to something like a Caterham 7 or a KTM X-Bow, but those cars are notoriously tight inside, and Shaali's car looks comparatively roomy inside. Weight distribution is pegged at 40/60 front to rear.
The interior is as spartan as you can imagine, with a pair of racing shell seats with five-point Sparco belts, a digital instrument cluster and a screen to keep tabs on the side cameras, which act as rearview mirrors.
As is typical for an early-development small-volume car, the N360's fit and finish isn't particularly pretty at this stage, but I spoke with Shaali Motorsports co-founders Rashid Alshaali and Dr. Mostafa Al Dah at their show stand, and they seem to understand that more work needs to be done.
In fact, this is the second bodywork iteration for the N360 -- the first prototype featured headlamps borrowed from Chevrolet's C7 Corvette, as well as a markedly different rear-end treatment. This iteration features smaller two-piece headlights and a rear exhaust and light package heavily influenced by the Ford GT.
Shaali Motorsports N360 sports car is by Dubai, for Dubai
Development of the new body is ongoing -- it looks like it could use additional cooling vents for Dubai's scorching heat, and the company is developing an optional windshield as well as a roof configuration.
Shaali Motorsports is certainly not skimping on components -- commissioning their own engine had to have been very costly, and components like the Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes aren't exactly inexpensive, either.
Production is planned for early 2018 and pricing is pegged at the equivalent of $120,000 US. That feels steep at this stage of the game, but it may not by the time the car is fully developed. Besides, in a country where driving enthusiasts routinely spend more than that to modify their cars, it probably won't seem like a crazy asking price for the uniquely patriotic opportunity to purchase something built, marketed, and sold by Emirati nationals.