Driven: 2010 Spyker C8 Aileron

Barry Hathaway

Spyker, the ten-year-old Dutch automaker, is one part plucky and four parts crazy. Its first effort, the C8 Spyder, was something of a rich Dutchman's Dodge Viper - a rough-edged brute of a sports car with an interior inspired by World War I fighter planes. Having built about 260 cars without showing a profit, Spyker went out and bought a notoriously troubled premium car company, Saab.

In the context of this certifiable insanity, Spyker's latest homegrown effort, the C8 Aileron, is shockingly well adjusted. Although it shares its name, mid-engine layout, and Audi-sourced 4.2-liter V-8 with the original C8, it's an entirely new effort with a very different mission. The new car's length stretches seventeen inches longer and its front and rear track measurements are 8.9 and 2.6 inches wider, respectively, resulting in a weight gain of more than 400 pounds. Whereas the short-wheelbase car came only with a six-speed manual gearbox and very few power options, all Ailerons will be fitted with a six-speed automatic transaxle and will be available with options including navigation. The result is a grand tourer more in line with an Aston Martin - with which it shares more than a passing resemblance - than a Ferrari.

Around town and cruising on the highway, the Aileron feels like a commendably professional effort, despite the fact that our test vehicle is only the fourth example to be handbuilt in Coventry, England. Much of the professionalism owes to that Audi V-8, which hums along with German proficiency. The cabin is positively gorgeous, with a turned-aluminum dash, comfortable Sparco seats dressed in quilt-patterned leather, and exposed, polished gear linkage. More than a dozen tremendously satisfying toggle switches operate everything from the ignition to the windshield wipers. There's also a reasonably large trunk in back, which Spyker will happily fill with custom-made Louis Vuitton suitcases costing $27,000. Our car featured a fixed glass roof. A convertible will be available later this year.

Drop the hammer, and the 3185-pound Aileron shoots forward with impressive, if not mind-blowing, authority. Spyker says that the car is capable of the same 4.5-second sprint to 60 mph as the short-wheelbase C8, thanks largely to better traction off the line. It also feels right at home on curvy mountain roads. The Lotus-tuned suspension, combined with a 45/55 percent weight distribution and sticky nineteen-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, makes the Aileron an easy, almost relaxing car to drive fast, although the lack of any stability or traction control tends to dampen one's temptation to explore its absolute limits on public roads. The only letdown is the torque-converter automatic, which can be slow to downshift and won't hold gears to redline. Spyker says it's still fine-tuning the shift programming, but a manual gearbox - under consideration for this model - would better complement the Aileron's refreshingly unfiltered dynamics.

Spyker hopes to sell about seventy Ailerons in its first year - about three times the short-wheelbase C8's annual volume. Given the Aileron's honest performance, relative practicality, and very real exclusivity, we'd say that's a reasonable goal, even considering the fact that its $219,190 base price is nearly double that of an Audi R8 with a similar engine. Solid Aileron sales should allow Spyker to focus on other things, such as turning a profit, restoring Saab to prestige and prominence, and introducing its next Spyker model, a large luxury SUV called the D8 Peking-to-Paris. To all that, the only analysis we can offer is, "Oy vey."

The Specs
On Sale: Now
Price: $219,190
Engine: 4.2L V-8, 400 hp, 354 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-wheel

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