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Great rides, private moments at '08 auto show

       "There are times when I just want to hug it... spend a few private moments with the car."

        Those words were spoken, unashamedly, by Jeffrey Ehoodin, a marketing manager with Maserati, as he peered at the Italian carmaker's Gran Turismo S, available for your own private moments at the South Florida International Auto Show. Plenty of time left, too -- it runs through Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

         Ehoodin said these feelings are not exclusive to men, either. He claims an actual study revealed women experienced a 100-percent boost in testosterone when exposed to a Gran Turismo. Your call on that one. But zero-to-60 at 4.7 seconds and top speed of 183 mph likely can do that.

         My special moment, though, came with the Spyker, a phenomenal Dutch supercar whose nameplate was reborn in 2000. The exotic sports car is making its first appearance this year at the Miami Beach show.

         I know what you're thinking: Wait a minute, this car is called a Spyker and the Driven column is written by a Spyker. How much you getting paid?

Spyker_lowrez          Well, I can't think of a sportier, sexier car to carry my name. But I know of no particular relationship between us -- yet. I shall pursue that further. This, however, is an amazing car and company, one I grew up learning about. I still have a Matchbox-type model, cigarette lighter and mug bearing a picture from its Model T-like days.

         The company dates back 1903 and, believe it or not, is credited with the first six-cylinder engine and first four-wheel drive car. Later it merged with an aircraft-engine maker and built fighter planes and aircraft engines. Its logo to this day is a wheel with a propeller across it.

         The company stopped trading in 1925 but current Spyker CEO Victor Muller brought back the iconic name in 2000 and with it some sensational models. On display at the show is the C8 Spyder (pictured), capable of top track speed of 187 mph -- even a couple tenths of a second faster than the Gran Turismo in 0-60 at 4.5 seconds.

        The manual shifter is accented by its exposed tranny linkage, and a row of toggle switches inside remind you this car was truly born from airplanes.

        Spokesman Hans Van Rennes said it takes 600 man-hours to handcraft one of these C8s, featuring scissor doors and dual air scoops on both sides. It is powered by Audi's 4.7-liter aluminum V-8, same one that's in the A8. "It's an extremely low-maintenance engine, which is rare for a supercar," Van Rennes said.

        Also on display is the C8 Laviolette. And Spyker expects to begin production in 2010 of another super model, the C8 Aileron.

        Of course, there are PLENTY of other vehicles awaiting that private moment with you, even a couple more that have been reborn:

Show_car_2010_camaro         -- The highly anticipated 2010 Chevy Camaro is the official show car and, while it has made some appearances already, it is pleasurable to see it again nonetheless. It bears a resemblance to the 1969 version, but is even racier looking. Three engines are available, 20-inch aluminum wheels and four-piston Brembo brakes to bring you back to earth.

        -- Camaro's prime competition and a personal favorite of mine already: The 2009 Dodge Challenger. This thing is pumped with muscle-car DNA from yesteryear but loaded with today's technology. Yes, it has a Hemi if you want it (and who doesn't?), but the practical minded this year can downshift to a 3.5-liter V-6 SE, or at least the 5.7-liter R/T. And this year the badly missed manual transmission is available with the 5.7. (More on the Challenger here real soon).

        At the Mercedes stable, the new star this year is the 2010 GLK-Class, the smallest of Mercedes SUVs. This boxy little thing complements Mercedes' SUV lineup and will be priced "well under $40,000," says a company spokesman. "The GLK will attract new buyers, bring new people to the dealerships," he predicted. It's due in showrooms Jan. 5.

       Porsche is showing off its new 911 Turbo Cabriolet, a 480-hp beast that can jet you to 60 mph in a neck-jarring 3.8 seconds. Top track speed is 193 mph. But can you believe an EPA -rated 24mpg on the highway? Very sweet.

       Cadillac has converted its popular CTS, one of my favorite sport sedans on the road, into a sport wagon. It is treated to hand-stitched leather seats and Sapele wood accents.

       Hyundai is boldly taking on the big boys of luxury with its 2010 Genesis coupe, a car that rivals the likes of Mercedes and Lexus when it comes to its list of niceties. Due out early next year, it is available with a big V-8, 3.8-liter V-6 or a sporty 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that gets 210 hp.

       And sure to make some noise at the Beach is Kia's new SUV flagship, the 2009 Borrego. It is good looking, seats seven adults in comfort, and is loaded with amenities like 10-speaker Infinity sound system, voice-activated navigation system, wide-screen entertainment system and rear-camera display.

       Truck lovers will want to check out Ford's F-150 pickup for '09, which comes in seven trim levels from Workhouse to Premium Platinum. Ford says it is quieter than ever, filled with fender baffles and dash absorbers to silence the beast within.

       And Dodge has improved Ram's ride this year with coil springs instead of the leaf springs. But don't worry, it can still tow 9,100 pounds with the 5.7-liter Hemi.

       The auto show is always an an entertainment and educational experience, too, Ford has a cutaway of a direct-injection system, which sends fuel directly into the combustion chamber of each cylinder, and a turbocharger, which uses normally-wasted exhaust to turn a turbine wheel. At GM's display, watch an engine hit full throttle to measure fuel flow, exhaust gases and engine efficiency.

       And when the kids get raucous, take them to Subaru for a spin in their Gran Turismo driving simulator.

       This year's auto show may be short on major vehicle debuts, but it is not short on fun and fantasy. Never is. So go locate a car for that special moment. We promise not to look.

       To see more cars at the show, visit http://www.miamiherald.com/photos/gallery/768828.html

       For show details, visit sfliautoshow.com



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I want that new Camaro!!!

Car Fan

Tell the truth, Barry. The ZR1 blows all those other sports cars away. Want to see the Porsche and the Spyker? You can see it from your ZR1 rearview mirror.

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