Is it a car? Not really. Is it a motorbike? Definitely not. So what is it? Only the best thing to come out Canada since Celine Dion, the Can Am Spyder F3-S.
Beneath the outlandish bodywork sits a grunty 1330cc 3 cylinder engine pushing out 115bhp through a 6 speed gearbox. While 115bhp is a bit underwhelming in a car, the Spyder weighs less than 500kgs complete with this particular rider. That translates to 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds or about the same as an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, happy days. Cranking the hand operated throttle open fully for the first time confirms there’s some lead in its pencil. Keep it pinned past 4500 rpm and things get plain silly. I’ve never driven or ridden anything that can overtake as quickly as this.
To keep you safe with all this performance, Can Am have added their Vehicle Stability System (VSS). It knows when you do something stupid and then sorts it out with electronic witchcraft. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t suddenly become impervious to harm but at no point during the test did I feel any sense of impending doom. This included one near brown trouser moment involving a mountain road, a sheep and a hard stop from the far side of 60mph. Even with plenty of bumps the F3-S stopped perfectly straight and with plenty of time to spare. Brake fade was never an issue either. Having two wheels up front also means the Spyder won’t topple over under heavy cornering.
One thing you have to get used to quickly is being the centre of attention wherever you go. Sitting in traffic, cars travelling the opposite direction were slowing and stopping just to catch a better look while pedestrian’s heads spin round wherever you go. If the standard looks aren’t individual enough, there are a range of packages to customise the look of your machine. The test vehicle pictured has the ‘Muscle Attitude’ package bringing matt black stripes, Akrapovič silencer (particularly epic in tunnels), a small spoiler, additional lights and a couple of other trinkets.
To ride/drive/pilot, the F3-S never fully feels like a bike due to the width and the fact you don’t lean it into a corner. It never fully feels like a car either due to the handlebars and riding position. What you do get is the feeling of openness you get on a bike but with a feeling of increased security thanks to the two front wheels and VSS. For cruising this is ideal as the great visibility coupled to the comfortable and fully adjustable riding position means you can ride for hours with surprising ease. Even after a day of riding on a mixture of dual carriageways, country lanes and mountain passes I still felt I could jump back in the saddle and do it all over again.
Naturally there are some downsides. The VSS is barely noticeable 99% of the time but can be intrusive if you’re really on it. On track the brakes could come on abruptly and almost stop the F3-S if your corner entry was too ambitious. Wannabe drifters will be disappointed too, some wagging of the tail can be felt but never enough to warrant much more than a twitch of opposite lock before the traction control stepped in. If I’m nit-picking, the horn button was also too close to the indicators, causing the odd embarrassing honk in towns. It’s not cheap either, the RRP of the F3 starts at £15,999 while the F3-S model tested was £18,399 including the optional and very good semi-automatic gearbox.
So, what to make of it then? To compare it directly to a car or bike seems a bit unfair as at the end of the day it is more of a weekend toy than serious transport solution. Take practicality out of it and the Spyder does start to make sense. At £18k, no other new vehicle will turn as many heads or be as crushingly rapid in a package that could be handled by a relative novice. As for the on limit handling and electronic intervention, I think it’s fair to say balls out is not the Spyder’s preferred pace. Back things off a little and it impresses with its combination of acceleration, comfort and stability. As a totally unique, well made, surefooted cruiser that just happens to be mind scrambling fast in a straight line, the Can Am Spyder F3-S is a hell of a machine.