Friday, 2 November 2007

Spyker D12 Peking-to-Paris

Having children is, I’ve heard, quite a life-altering thing. For the first year or two you won’t get any sleep and you’ll be up to your elbows in dinky little faeces. The next few years will be consumed by irritably correcting their rubbish grammar and packing them off to school where they can be mercilessly bullied for the cheap shoes you bought for them in the market because, hey, kids are expensive. Their teen years will herald a relentless pursuit of stealing from you, hating you and mocking you in the presence of their grubby little friends. Sooner or later they’ll move out, leaving you to consider quite how disappointed you are that they didn’t grow up to be neurosurgeons or beekeepers or something worthwhile. The most annoying thing, of course, is that you yourself have to grow up and be sensible. Urgh.

Well… this isn’t strictly true. There’s nothing to stop you getting your mid-life 911 once they’ve flown the nest with your Barclaycard and your plasma telly, but isn’t it tedious having to ferry them around in some soulless Espace or Previa while they’re growing up? You could squeeze them into the back of your cheeky little coupe, but you’ve got nowhere to store the toys. And they’ll probably damage the tilt mechanism on your front seats through overuse as well, the little bastards.

A depressing inevitably of parenthood? Nonsense. You need to think laterally. What’s big enough to transport the family, but sufficiently rapid to scare them into being quiet at the same time? It can’t be the Zafira VXR, because then you have to drive a Zafira. The Cayenne’s out of the question because people will spit on you in the street (and rightly so). Ditto the ghastly BMW X5 and ML-class Mercedes-Benz. But wait - what’s this rearing it’s odd-shaped head, open-mouthed and looking a bit like a diver’s watch? Why, it’s the snappily-monikered D12 Peking-to-Paris from Dutch aeronutters Spyker…

Bit of an odd entity, Spyker. The company motto – ‘Nulla tenaci invia est via’ – is Latin for ‘For the tenacious, no road is impassable’. Right. Like to see how far their tenacity gets them on a Welsh forest stage in a C8 Laviolette. Still, they’re interesting folk, handbuilding their sumptuous little masterpieces under the name of a Dutch coach-building and aeronautical company founded in the 1880s – a company that Spyker Cars, founded in 1999, actually has nothing at all to do with. But don’t let the details get in the way of the perceived heritage. It’s a lovely excuse to sprinkle the cars with little propeller symbols (rather more effectively than BMW do).

The D12 is an unusual mix of contrasts and contradictions which really shouldn’t work as a cohesive whole but somehow, well, does. It’s a substantial and surprisingly large SUV, but with all the character and styling cues of a coupe. It’s capable of tackling rugged terrain, yet is so intricately and exquisitely formed that you’d feel a tremendous sense of guilt even taking it out in the rain. It weighs nearly two tons, yet will accelerate to sixty miles per hour in five seconds dead and power on to the saucy side of 180mph. The interior is a mind-boggling blend of the sporty and the luxurious, with individual competition-spec bucket seats trimmed in sumptuous cream leather.

In short, it’s a pretty weird piece of kit. Named for the Peking-to-Paris race of 1907 – one of the most ridiculously unlikely motoring events ever, in which an original Spyker competed and took second place – the hyper-SUV is a riot of absurdity. Power comes from Volkswagen’s 6.0 W12 engine in a 500bhp state of tune, whilst final drive ends up at the gigantic 24” Aeroblade wheels. The steering-wheel is an almost F1-esque multifunction affair, and lurking behind it is a triple-faced dashboard styled to resemble an airline cockpit. Paddle-shift, air suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes… and a price tag of €230,000. Of course, the kids will probably smear their chocolatey hands all over your gorgeous creamy seats. Best to get a Golf for the missus and keep this little treat all to yourself.

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