Back in 2006, I was invited down to Manhattan, NY – to test out an offering from a small, boutique car builder called Spyker. The following is my account from that test, with only minor edits:
This is the C8 Spyder. Pretty isn’t it? However, I am sure some of you must be wondering, what is it?
Well this car comes from Holland and is made by a company called Spyker, a company you will no doubt be hearing a lot more about in the future (edit: OK, maybe not a lot).
Part of the reason is the recent acquisition of the Midlands F1 (Formula-One) grand prix team from the Canadian businessman Alex Schnaider. So since the Italian Grand Prix of this year (2006), the Spyker name has been parading around the grand prix circuit.
For the last five years, the Spyker name has been parading around many international sports car racing events, such as the LeMans 24-hour race. Although not much success has been achieved in their racing outings so far, at least they are trying.
Unlike many small, European manufacturers, Spyker seems keen on racing and is putting a strong effort towards it. For sure they must be aiming for a win on Sunday, to make some more sales on Monday.
So, that is the goal then perhaps, but what about their production car, the C8 – is this pretty car any good?
To find out, I made the drive down to Manhattan, NY – to see if the beauty is more than just skin deep.
From a visual point of view, I am sure most of you will agree, this car looks stunning. Not burdened with the need to have actual bumpers (the things cars can get away with on regulations in U.S.A and most of the world, but not in Canada) the design looks like pure exotica. Sure, some of you might say the design is a bit fussy, with too many ducts, and gills, and some of you might complain that the panel gaps look a bit on the wide side. However, I think it looks great and has that wow factor that cars like the Lamborghini Countach had back when it came out. Love it or loathe it, you will look at it.
If the looks didn’t turn your head, the noise surely will. This car has a very neat party trick, a sort of volume control switch for the exhaust. Flick a switch on the dash, and you can make this car as quiet as an Audi, or as noisy as a Ferrari with the works Tubi-system.
Actually, I wouldn’t call it noise, its music to any car enthusiasts ears as the car accelerates down the road. And it does accelerate rather quickly too, how does a 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds sound to you?
It is also quite fast, according to the company brochure, this car will top out at 300 km/h – so it is much faster than you’ll ever need to go.
That performance comes courtesy of an Audi sourced 4.2-liter V8 (like the one you’ll find in an S4). Tweaked by the Spyker engineers, it now produces 400 hp instead of the 340 hp you get in the Audi.
This is then mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, that just drives the rear wheels. To help with traction to get a nice clean get away, you get a Drexler limited-slip differential, but that is it, no clever traction and stability control devices here.
Similar story with the brakes, yes they are very good, but you don’t get any servo assistance, so a firm foot is needed to stop it. Don’t be shy about pedal pressure though, since it at least has ABS, so you won’t be locking up your wheels and bald spotting the tires.
The low curb weight also helps the brakes, when all these massive (356 mm front, 330 mm back) discs have to haul down is 1250 kg (2750 lbs.). That low weight also makes it quick, and also helps the handling. On this occasion, I didn’t get to spend much time driving it, plus driving anything in Manhattan at 5 p.m. is not going to give you a true impression of what the car is like.
To its credit, I loved how supple and rattle free the ride is, I loved the feel and feedback of the steering, and I just adore the gearbox. Not only has Spyker made a real feature of the gear-lever (it’s all exposed, I think this is what some mean by automotive pornography), but the gears slot into place like you’re loading up a rifle shot. The clutch is a bit on the heavy side, but nothing to be of any concern to anyone who has driven performance cars. Plus, with a light flywheel, this car is very easy to drive. You really have to be very bad at driving manual cars to stall this one.
So, what are the drawbacks? Well, the convertible roof mechanism was an afterthought, and it shows. Not only is erecting it is a chore, but when its folded down, it renders the center mounted rear-view mirror completely useless.
You can pull the roof system clean off the car, but then you better hope it doesn’t rain.
If you plan on going out to do some shopping, just hope the store will deliver to your door, because there isn’t much space to carry things in. The trunk is small, and there is no space behind the seats for any storage either. To carry your stuff more appropriately, you can opt for the Louis Vitton fitted luggage set, which even the lady from Spyker said is “very expensive”. If you must know, that’ll be US$18,000 for the luggage set.
However, if you are buying a car that has a base price of US$269,900 then perhaps the luggage set isn’t a bad add on extra.
Considering the price, this car is not the fastest machine you can buy, but then value for money is not what cars of this type are about.
This car is for those who like to be as individualistic as possible. This is a tailor made car, and since the company is currently making less than 150 cars a year for the world-wide market, you won’t be tripping over them, even at the parties of the rich and famous.
Not at any parties in Canada I’m afraid, since Spykers aren’t sold here currently because they don‘t meet Canadian bumper regulations. However, they are working to rectify that (edit: Spyker eventually entered the Canadian market in 2008, and to my knowledge delivered just two cars).
So the story continues… soon a super-SUV called the D12 Peking to Paris (pictured to the right) will be going on sale (edit: eight years on, it still hasn’t happened), which would appeal to buyers in the Middle-East.
So, the company is expanding in every possible direction. If you didn’t know anything about Spyker until now, watch out, this manufacturer is gonna go big (edit: the company has not made it big yet, but despite some troubled times which almost lead to its bust, they are still soldiering on).
***Note: Photos used in this story were taken by me and Michael Banovsky.