It’s no secret that Spyker is looking to become into a more grown-up automaker, what with its unprecedented bid to take control of Saab from General Motors. But even if that effort fails, we can expect to see more from the plucky Dutch sports car builder in the form of the new C8 Aileron.
Spyker calls the Aileron the second generation of the C8, which debuted in 2002 and has since had a production run of about 250 units. That’s a bit misleading. Though the Aileron follows the same basic formula as the original C8 Spyder with a mid-engine layout, aluminum frame, and Audi-sourced, 400-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 (an older, non-direct-injected version of the engine found in the R8), it’s an entirely new car with a very different mission. Whereas the original C8 might be best described as the Netherlands’ answer to the Shelby Cobra and Dodge Viper, the Aileron is meant to be a relaxed grand tourer, more comfortable cruising briskly along a two-lane highway than storming around a circuit. The length has been stretched by 17 inches and the track considerably widened, resulting in a weight gain of more than 400 pounds. Though the cabin is still delightfully free of touch screens and black plastic, there will be modern amenities, including windows that power all the way down and navigation. All Ailerons will be fitted with a six-speed torque converter automatic transaxle. “We took a look at what the customers wanted next, and what they were saying was they wanted the power options, they wanted a different feel,” said dealer relations manager Vinny Russo.
Just starting the Aileron is a thrilling process. First, flick up a red cover in the middle of the gorgeous, engine turned aluminum dash, which reveals a toggle switch that must be switched on. Then, and only then, can you press the start button. Yet more switches operate the windshield wipers, hazard lights, and exhaust baffles. Despite this sort of drama, the hand-built Aileron hardly feels like a one-off custom car. Though our test car was only the fourth Aileron to come off the line in Coventry, England, it exhibited commendably few squeaks and rattles. Even when set to bypass the mufflers, the Audi V-8 is civilised and reasonably subdued at highway speeds. Overall, the Aileron is comfortable and accommodating enough that it’s not hard to imagine an owner — no doubt accompanied by his blond trophy wife – going off on a long, luxurious road trip, a desire Spyker will happily accommodate by offering custom-built Louis Vuitton suitcases costing $27,000.
But we didn’t travel all the way to Arizona just for cruising. Drop the hammer, and the 3185-pound Aileron shoots forward with impressive (if not mind-blowing) authority. Russo says the car is capable of the same 4.5-second sprint to 60 mph as the short wheelbase C8, thanks largely to better traction. It also feels right at home on a winding mountain road. The marvelous, Lotus-tuned suspension, combined with a perfect, 45/55 percent weight distribution and sticky 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, make the Aileron an easy car to drive fast, though the lack of any stability or traction control tends to dampen the temptation to explore its absolute limits. In the midst of all this fun, the automatic transmission feels decidedly out of place. Even in paddle-controlled manual mode, the Aileron can be slow to downshift and won’t hold gears to redline. There’s room for improvement, as Russo says our test car’s transmission had not been updated with the latest software, but we hope there will be a manual available at some point down the line to complete the Aileron’s unfiltered experience.
That said, the Aileron ultimately is not about the way it drives, even though it drives quite well. Those looking for impressive performance numbers or razor-edge dynamics can find several quicker Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis for the Aileron’s $219,190 base price. In fact, the average Spyker buyer owns several of those cars already. Instead, the Aileron is about its very real uniqueness. As we pulled through the Barrett-Jackson auction, where Testarossas and are about as common as Corollas, heads turned and the beer-drinking masses barraged us with questions and appeals to “light ’em up.” Spyker believes that this sort of exclusivity, coupled with the Aileron’s somewhat broader appeal compared to the original C8 (which will remain available for special order), will attract about 75 buyers per year. That would be enough volume, the company says, for it to achieve profitability for the first time and continue work on future projects, which include a large SUV.
Base price: $219,190
On sale: Late 2010
Engine: 4.2L V-8
Power: 400 hp
Torque 354 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 3185 lbs
0-60: 4.5 seconds (est)
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 235/35Y-19 (Front) 295/30Y-19 (Rear)