Bold Styling Decisions: Spyker C8

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Almost more fashion statement than car, the C8 never fails to impress.

Supercars occupy an almost unfortunate position in the marketplace. Their job is to be the best at both performance and styling at the same time. But not everybody who buys a supercar particularly needs it to be blisteringly fast. These people don't need Ferrari's confusing mess of electronics all over the interior, and even having a "race" setting for the car is a total waste. For these people, there is a perfect car in the Spyker C8.

Ok, so the Pagani Huayra is also a work of art, but we already covered that in a previous series. You also shouldn't get the impression that the C8 is all form and no function; it's still a perfectly respectable performance machine, just one that isn't as track focused as those from Maranello. But its real purpose is to be cool, and we could endlessly go over the performance specs, rating them against competitors, but this would be completely missing the point. The name Spyker has been associated with luxury custom coach building since the days when that meant building actual horse-drawn coaches. Now the modern version is also all about the coachwork.

But that coachwork is light, being made of aluminum, and the car weighs just 2,750lbs. That's lighter than just about everything it competes with. Power comes from an Audi-sourced 4.2-liter V8. This is tuned to produce 400 horsepower, but there is also a twin-turbo version that produces 525 hp. Zero to sixty is accomplished in 4.5 seconds, and the F1-style pushrod-actuated front suspension makes for very precise handling. But this is still a car which requires concentration to drive at the limit, and reviews have loved to point out how easily it goes sideways.

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Half separate model and half offshoot of the C8 is the C12. This is similar to the C8 is most ways, but the mid-mounted engine is a 6.0-liter W12, the same one that has been found under the hoods of the Bentley Continental, Audi A8 and Volkswagen Phaeton, to name but a few. This produces 500 hp, and a bigger fuel tank is fitted for the thirstier engine. The appearance of the car remains the same, with the exception of the C12 Zagato, which is a different model altogether. A race version was even dreamed up, and two cars were built. These raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as other endurance races.

Their performance wasn't especially noteworthy, but the fact that they were able to compete at all did give the brand just enough performance credibility to be allowed to stay in the supercar club. After all, looks alone won't keep you in. It is important to note that those looks are exquisite. Both inside and out, the C8 is breathtaking. Much of the styling is intended to hark back to the days when Spyker made fighter planes during the First World War. This even includes a propeller design for the steering wheel, something Spyker isn't allowed to sell the car with in the US, due to its lack of an airbag (they will, however, give you one in a box if you want to fit it yourself).

The quilted leather interior with its exposed gearshift will certainly impress your date if the car's strangely beautiful exterior styling doesn't. The $239,000 base price isn't going to threaten Toyota's Camry sales, but this is nothing compared to what you can option it up to. Sure, you can get them to paint the brake calipers or mix you a custom shade of paint, but for Spyker, this is kid's stuff. Should you prefer a wide body to the standard one, you can order that right off the list, or an "aerotail" style back end for car, meant to resemble those of the Le Mans prototype racers from the Seventies.

If you find that the short wheelbase isn't to your liking, you can order it with a long one. They'll even throw in a special edition Chronoswiss watch to match the motif of the car, for an additional $36,000. Spyker is hardly the only car company to sell watches, but this still goes to show how many people view their supercars not as performance machines, but rather as fashion accessories. Spyker was sure that the C8 was as head-turning as possible, and it is therefore a supremely good car for this niche. It is capable of going fast, but is a car best suited to cruising, and for being seen in.

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