A flying dutchman for the 21st century.
September 2009 By Tony Swan Photography by Marc Urbano
Whatever its credentials as a sports car—and they seem to be impressive—the Spyker C8 Aileron is an attention-getting device of pretty intense wattage. It even draws stares from the pilots of Ferraris, Lambos, and other exotics. We know this from an early-morning blast down California’s spectacular Highway 1, south of Carmel, where the Spyker loped confidently at naughty speeds in straight places, and Lamberrari drivers, engaged in the same kind of dawn frolic, acknowledged the C8 with headlight flashes and the occasional wave.
This is a good omen for Spyker because its buyers generally own a Lambo or a Ferrari already, plus three or four other cars.
But wherefore art thou Aileron? Spyker literature uses numerous aeronautical allusions, including a propeller logo, citing an aviation heritage. This seems to be a reach. It’s true that the original Dutch company was involved in aeronautical endeavors as well as automobile production, but Spyker Automobielfabriek shut down in 1925. The current company was established in 2000.
Still, the Aileron’s various air intakes do give the car a look reminiscent of early jet warbirds. And all the vents are functional—the scoop jutting from the roof feeds the 4.2-liter Audi V-8 grumbling away just behind the cabin, all muscled up with 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an optional ($10,000) six-speed ZF automatic, that’s enough to thrust this 3150-pound, aluminum-intensive (wheels, control arms, space frame, bodywork) mid-engined coupe to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, if the manufacturer’s claims are correct.
Inside, the cabin is slathered with padded leather. Everything that isn’t leathered is aluminum, including the instrument panel, enhanced by an optional engine-turned finish in this car. Various secondary gauges are arrayed ’50s-style across the flat IP, a classic look enhanced by an aircraft-style toggle sheltered by a red flip-up cover, the master switch for all electrical functions.
Though it’s quite noisy inside, it’s all very stylish, and the Spyker people freely concede that style is a critical component in this car’s appeal—the aerocentric Aileron is one of the very few rides capable of displacing a Ferrari from a restaurant valet’s front row.
But there’s more than mere flash. Development of the rigid chassis and the suspension tuning were handled by Lotus engineering. The 107.3-inch wheelbase of this second-gen car is 5.9 inches longer than the earlier C8’s, with a much wider front track (64.0 inches versus 57.9). The lengthened wheelbase yields more room within, and the widened track improves transient response, which, based on our short experience, seems to be quick, though somewhat muffled by a speed-sensitive steering system that’s numb on-center.
Devoid of modern safety crutches such as traction and stability control, it’s a setup that nevertheless generates driver confidence quickly. Whether that, plus distinctive design, adds up to $229,190—the base price for a C8 automatic coupe (there’s also a new C8 Aileron Spyder, and previous C8s remain in production)—is something only a privileged few will ponder in earnest.
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