Christian von Koenigsegg is standing next to a 2009 CCXR Edition outside of his factory. We're about to head to his company's runway test track for some photos. He looks at me. "Do you want to drive?" I said yes before he finished saying "do."
(Full Disclosure: After driving the 2015 Porsche Macan, I grabbed a 2014 Porsche Panamera 4S and ace photog GF Williams (seriously, GF is the absolute best photog I've ever worked with. Just look at these shots) for a trip to Koenigsegg in Sweden where they were giving us all access. I didn't expect that access to include driving a car. This is what we call a "pleasant surprise.")
For those of you unfamiliar, Koenigsegg builds purely ridiculous super cars. Owner and namesake Christian von Koenigsegg says that they might have invented the term hyper car, and they build cars that deserve the name. Christian started the company in 1994 when he was 22, releasing his first prototype just a few years later. The original drawings of his first car maintain a number of hallmarks, like a wraparound windshield and removable roof, that are still seen in the cars that they build today.
What Koenigsegg wanted to do was create a concept like the Porsche 911. An idea that could be honed and evolved over time. And while the very first Koenigsegg CCS might look a lot like the current Agera R, they don't share any parts. Constant refinement and evolution of the breed has effectively created an entirely new car.
The car I'm about to drive is a 2009 Koenigsegg CCXR Edition. There are four of them in the world with a bare carbon body, stiffened suspension, big wing, unique wheels, and a manual transmission (!!!!!) to work all 1,018 horsepower (!!!!!) from a twin supercharged (!!!!!!) V8. It's also not cheap. We're talking something like $1,500,000 plus.
In other words, if I hurt this car, I'm losing a lot of money. I don't even make $1,500,000 in a week.
The first thing you notice when getting in are the super trick doors and the wide sills. It's an inelegant entry, a contortionists act that would get Britney Spears back in the news.
So it has 1,018 horsepower and weighs just 1,280 kilograms. You'd think that it would be incredibly difficult and intimidating to drive. It's not. The wrap around windshield makes the cabin feel very airy. The transaxle gearbox has rather short throws and feels very direct, and the clutch isn't a massive calf workout. The flywheel feels relatively light, which makes rev matching and smooth shifts a piece of cake. The CCXR is wide, but not fat-guy-in-a-little-coat wide. It's not as wide or as intimidating as a Lamborghini Aventador.
The drive to the Koenigsegg runway is a short jaunt along a couple Swedish B roads. On these roads, the car really has no problem just going the speed limit. Yes, you're sitting very low, but other than that, it feels just like a car, not an angry animal that needs to be flat-out always.
The road to the runway is rutted and bumpy, littered with potholes. I drive slowly and try to avoid the holes. Then Christian says something interesting. "Aim for the potholes. Hit them." I don't want to, but hey, the man who has his name on the car just told me to. It feels very solid (a lot of carbon fiber will do that) with no rattles or shakes. That also means that it feels nothing like a kit car, which is something people say when they just don't want to believe that Christian has created an undeniably real and cool company.
So we get to the runway, and Christian tells me to line up on the left side if I want to make a run.
Yeah… I want to make a run.
I step on it in first, the rear tires, which are 345s, instantly break traction on the slightly damp surface and the car bounces off the rev limiter. I ease off, fearing, y'know, ruining the car, but Christian says the traction control (which Koenigsegg did not farm out and designed in house) will work, stay in it. So I do.
We bounce off the rev limiter in second and then get it into third. The CCXR makes more power at the top of its range thanks to the twin superchargers. Each gear starts to fly by. I get into fifth and then realize I will run out of runway very soon. I start to get on the brakes, but, once again, Christian tells me to really test them.
It's almost as if he didn't realize why I was taking it easy on his mega-expensive super car. But I'm not going to not listen to him. I slam on the brakes.
Holy crap. My eyes were on the floor. Literally. They flew out of my head. Threshold braking in this car is a whole new level of stopping. If I had realized they were this spectacular I would have kept accelerating.
I'd be lying if I said I knew how fast I went on the runway. See, my focus was not on the speedo, but on the road itself. But the thought seems to be we hit around 290 kmh. That's quick.
I drive it back down the runway and get out. Christian then says he wants me to hear the car from the outside, so he hops back in and takes a full throttle run down the strip.
Even though the car is getting further away, under power it doesn't sound like it's getting further away. The most amazing part is that I see the brake lights go on, but can still hear it accelerating.
We take a few more photos and then it's time to head back. Christian wants to give GF Williams a ride back to the factory in the car, so he asks me to drive his personal car back: A Tesla Model S.
Here's Christian's run with GF sitting shotgun. Just watch how he stops the car. It's nuts.
Talk about driving two opposite cars back to back. The Tesla is a fast, impressive machine, a great sports sedan. But it is no Koenigsegg.
There are very few cars that have this level of sheer brutality yet are this tractable. Every moment, from driving slowly on the road to accelerating at full speed to full on braking to a runway slalom is a shock and surprise and delight.
A truly incredibly feat of engineering from Sweden that uses far more than a set of terrible allen keys to come together. This is a company and a car Ikea could learn from.
Photo Credits: GFWilliams Photographer