The Spirra is willing

  • 18-Aug-2008 04:40 EDT

After nine years of development, Korea's first mid-engined sports car is available. The Spirra offers competitive pricing, performance, and creature comforts.

Mid-engined supercars: twisting Alpine roads, a V12 screaming down the Autobahn, and posters on children’s walls all come to mind. Demarcation zones and Taekwondo; not so much. Oddly though, a new handmade sports car, the Spirra, has been introduced from just such a place—South Korea.

Produced by Oullim Motors, the Spirra has been in development for nine years and is built on a steel spaceframe covered with a carbon-fiber body.

The Spirra concept, built by Proto Motors, was originally shown at the 2002 Seoul Motor Show. At the time, and in succeeding years, no money was available to move the car into production; however, in June 2007, Oullim Motors stepped in and restarted development, and the car debuted earlier this year.

Unlike typical supercars, there is no monstrous V8 or V12 growling away behind the driver; instead, there is a deceptively small 2.7 L DOHC V6, with the S model topped with an Eaton supercharger and the more costly turbo version packing 100 more horsepower to produce 500 hp (373 kW). The torque figures are equally impressive for such small displacement: 294 ft·lb (399 N·m) for the S and 423 ft·lb (574 N·m) for the turbo, both at 5500 rpm. Oullim claims to have made this engine choice to keep weight down, the car balanced, and the wheelbase short, although a V8 was considered.

The engine is sourced from Hyundai and is the same one used in the Tuscany, known in the U.S. as the Tiburon, although modified for performance use. The six-speed manual is sourced from Aichi in Japan and is usually used in Nissan and Infiniti performance cars.

The spaceframe was developed in part with Oullim Racing, a connected company. It also helped with the four-wheel double-wishbone suspension setup, with most of the development and testing work done on the track.

All major powertrain components are mounted in a separate subframe, a design feature taken from endurance racing. Oullim claims that the Spirra will be easy to repair because the subframe detaches from the rest of the structure, and in the case of an accident, the rear frame can be replaced relatively simply. Strangely though, airbags are not standard, suggesting a slim chance of seeing examples on U.S. roads.

Braking was sourced, as is common, to Brembo, who provided a front six-piston 355-mm (14.0-in) and rear four-piston 350-mm (13.7-in) setup. The forged five-spoke wheels, with the car’s logo, an ominously extinct Korean tiger, are also slowed by the standard ABS.

Inside, an air of luxury permeates the leather trim, as creature comforts have not been excluded; power windows, A/C, parking assist, and lane warning programs are offered, and many computer capabilities are accessible through the centrally mounted onboard PC.

The touchscreen controls the HVAC system through a graphical user interface developed by Oullim Information Technology and Oullim Networks, both sister companies. The system is based on Microsoft Windows XP and, as well as climate control, operates the navigation, MP3, radio digital multimedia broadcasting, and wireless Internet. A Momo steering wheel and Recaro bucket seats round out the performance feeling in the cabin.

Oullim Motors is touting the hand-built quality of the car; every car is built to customer specifications and colors. It also claims that existing foreign supercars in Asia suffer a lot of downtime waiting for parts to arrive and service to become available. Oullim expects local markets to enjoy much more driving time at reduced expense from a domestic vehicle with local parts and service.

In a direct comparison between the Spirra and a Ferrari 360 Modena, the Spirra claims less than a quarter of the maintenance costs per year and less than half of the total operating expenses over three years for Korean customers.

Despite being more cost-efficient, the car still performs in a comparable fashion. The S model with 400 hp (298 kW) weighs just 1080 kg (2380 lb) for a power-to-weight ratio of 336 hp/ton (276 kW/t) and a 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) time of 4.8 s.

The turbocharged model, boasting 500 hp (373 kW), weighs slightly more at 1130 kg (2490 lb) but offsets this with a power-to-weight ratio of 401 hp/ton (330 kW/t) and a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.8 s. Maximum speed is 305 km/h (190 mph) for the S and 332 km/h (206 mph) for the turbo model.

A naturally aspirated version with the same V6 is planned for introduction in 2009, as is an automatic model.

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