Spyker is not your typical sports car company. To give you an idea of what sort of outfit we're talking about, Spyker's motto, which dates back to 1914, is Nulla tenaci invia est via. Translated literally, this means, “For the tenacious, no road is impassable.” Or to put it another way, anything in life is possible – so long as you've got the stones for it. And the new $190,000 euro ($258,000), 395hp V8-powered C8 Aileron certainly has plenty of cojones.
Yet beneath its strikingly aggressive, aircraft-industry-influenced styling – complete with jet-turbine wheel design and jet-engine-inspired air intakes – the C8 Aileron is, in fact, an extremely credible machine. Its 4.2-liter engine and 6-speed semi-auto gearbox have been lifted out of an Audi S4 and then tuned to suit Spyker's needs accordingly, while its mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive, space-frame aluminum chassis has been designed – and set up – by Lotus specifically to Spyker's brief.
These are seriously strong credentials for a seriously strong car, produced by a company that, until recently, most folks will either never have heard of or, at the very least, have probably not quite understood. In the past 10 years, Spyker has, after all, been reborn, entered and then dropped out of F1 somewhat ignominiously, bought Saab and, in the meantime, produced some of the world's weirdest-looking sports cars.
And now comes the Aileron. It's miles better-looking than Spyker's previous machines – mainly because it has a much longer wheelbase and doesn't look so stodgy as a result – and it touts a specification that, while not class-bending, is right up there among the very best.
Power is 395hp at 6800rpm and torque 354lb-ft at 3500rpm, and if you think these numbers seem somewhat underwhelming in return for $258,000, you need to understand two key things about the Aileron. One, it's made mostly from aluminum and weighs an impressively lithe 3,142lbs. Two, although it's meant to be a quick car, the Aileron's prime motivation is not to destroy its opposition with raw speed.
Instead, says Spyker, the Aileron exists in order to charm its audience with a unique combination of style, grace, pace and exclusivity. The fact that it's not as fast as similarly priced rivals from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin doesn't really matter, as far as Spyker is concerned, because Spyker knows its customers aren't interested in pure speed.
What does matter, according to Spyker, is how the Aileron will feel, sound, look and satisfy its small band of wealthy owners, of whom there will be just 80 to 100 each year, all of whom will already own a small fleet of much faster supercars. The current client base includes Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott, which gives you an idea of the sort of audience that the Aileron is aimed at.
Having said that, the Aileron is not just an exquisitely made pose-mobile, designed to rumble the streets of L.A., even if it is a car in which you do get gawked at just about everywhere you go. Climb inside and the sense of quality is almost overwhelmingly obvious, despite this particular example being a mere prototype. The turned aluminum dashboard looks breathtakingly gorgeous, as do the numerous rocker switches that sit within (and which cost $70 a pop to produce).
The cabin itself takes nearly two days to make and the whole car takes around 270 hours to build from start to finish. Considering that it's handmade almost entirely from aluminum – only the engine hoses, the tires, the carpets, a few bits of plastic within the engine itself and the leather that adorns much of the interior aren't made from aluminum – that's not such a long time to put together.
The Aileron, in fact, takes a little less than half the time it took to build Spyker's previous cars and, what's more, it's built in Coventry, England, not Holland, which gives it a genuinely international heritage.
What's it like on the road? In most respects, the Aileron is a quite peculiarly beguiling car to drive, even if it doesn't feel quite as quick as you'd expect, given its impressive power-to-weight ratio. Mostly, it's a pretty impressive car dynamically, with great steering, a very well-sorted chassis and strong, if not heroic, performance.
The best bits include the thunderous noise it makes, the quite extraordinarily exquisite cabin design, the way it steers (which is to say quite beautifully) and its handling and ride (in which you can detect the Lotus influence pretty much from the moment it starts to move).
The ride is especially excellent and probably provides the biggest single clue as to what sort of car the Aileron really is. Namely, a pleasantly rapid, surprisingly civilized GT machine – and therefore not an out-and-out sports car.
Hence the reason Spyker is also rather proud of being the first car company in the world to persuade Louis Vuitton to make luggage for its cars as an option. Bugatti has tried and failed, so has Ferrari, but only Spyker has actually succeeded in pulling it off, mainly because of an historical link:
Originally, in 1880, Dutch brothers Hendrik Jan and Jacoan and Jacobus Spijker built coaches for the Dutch royal family, among others. And, in 1898, they made their first car. In 1907, a Spyker 14/18HP Tourer was driven into the history books by Frenchman Monsieur Godard. He competed in the grueling Peking-to-Paris raid – with luggage branded by Louis Vuitton. Not only was this the first example on record anywhere in the world of branded sponsorship in rally/racing, it also provided the precedent for the supply of current Louis Vuitton luggage for the Aileron. The rest, as they say, is history.
Then again, the Aileron's Louis Vuitton luggage option does add 18,500 euros ($25,000) to the cost. More than anything, this tells you what sort of customer the Aileron is aimed at. Only the very rich need apply.
The bad bits are the brakes – which are grippy yet powerful at the moment, but due to be reworked by AP before the car goes on sale – the slightly un-fantastic straightline performance, the poor rear visibility and, of course, the seemingly bonkers showroom price.
But if and when you “get” the Aileron – when you discover just how beautifully made it is inside and out, and appreciate how much craftsmanship has gone into its creation – its price no longer seems quite so silly. In fact, it almost starts to seem like good value. Almost, but not quite.