I commute about 90 miles a day, and as such, I drive a Toyota Prius C. It’s a hybrid, of which there are many these days. My car gets the job done, but it’s not exactly sexy. Christian von Koenigsegg, the founder and CEO of his namesake car company, drives a Tesla S. Now, that’s a sexy car, but when you compare that to what his company builds, the difference is far more pronounced than the leap from Prius to Tesla, because Christian von Koenigsegg makes very sexy cars.
Koenigsegg founded his company in 1994 at the tender age of 22; twenty one years later, it is arguably the leader of the megacar market. What’s a megacar? Let me put it in perspective for you. There are cars, those driven by us mere mortals; these top out in the high five figures, lead by names we all know, like BMW and Mercedes. There are supercars, limited editions made by many of those same outfits, and small production runs by outfits like Lamborghini and Maserati; those can easily get into the half million dollar price range. And then there are megacars, extremely small model runs, made by folks like McLaren and Koenigsegg. These are handmade works of art; stunningly beautiful, high performance machines with price tags far, far above the ‘if you have to ask,’ range – These are cars for the One Percenters, that run well over a million dollars each, and for good reason.
Koenigsegg’s first production effort came out in 2002. It was the CC8S, a supercar that held two Guinness Records, for most powerful production car, and for the highest speeding ticket ever issued, (242 MPH, earned somewhere down in Texas). The total production run was six cars. The CC8S used a modified Ford engine, but the chassis, suspension, and brakes were all designed in-house. The car was received well, and opened doors of opportunity for the company.
In 2006, they followed the CC8S with the venerable CCX, designed and built almost entirely in house, from the engine up. Koenigsegg refined their process significantly during and after bringing out the CCX, and forged important relationships with F1 level component manufacturers.
With a price tag just shy of one million dollars, the 2013 Agera propelled Koenigsegg into the megacar level with a vengeance. 3D printing and laser scanning made their way into the design process, and the company experimented with 3D metal printing of actual parts on prototype models. Forbes called the Agera one of the 10 most beautiful cars ever made and they wouldn’t be wrong. What Koenigsegg was doing harkens back to the early 20th century, when hand-made, high performance cars enjoyed their first heyday.
As their confidence and expertise increased with every success, so did the speed and innovation of new model production. In January of this year, they released the One:1. Limited to a run of six cars, (a nod to Koenigsegg’s first production vehicle), the One:1 highlighted everything they’d learned along the way. The model name derives from the 1:1 ratio of horsepower to curb weight, a number that is frankly dumbfounding in a street legal production car.
And then, just a few months later, the company announced yet another new model, the Regera, a “Luxury megacar,” ready in early 2016, and marking the first time ever that two models will be built simultaneously, (the Agera remains in production at this time). The Regera may be called a luxury car, but it’s far more than that – shades of my Prius, this is a hybrid to end all hybrids. The Regera is, in fact, a plug-in, sporting no less than three electric motors generating 700 horsepower, coupled to a proprietary twin-turbocharged 5 liter, dry-sumped V8 engine boasting 1000 horsepower, for a combined horsepower “well over 1,500″: Yes, you read that right, no, it’s not a typo. The end result is a hybrid capable of 0 to 248 mph in under 20 seconds. ‘Stunning’ is the word. The Regera production run will top out at 80 cars, and each one will cost just a shade under two million bucks.
Speed, performance, and sexy looks is what sells Konigsegg, but to a nerd like me, what’s underneath and behind it all is where all the truly stunning stuff is. From “dihedral synchro-helix” door hinges to proprietary engine designs, Koenigsegg is a hotbed of innovation, and the Regera illustrates this is spades. The company call the Regera the “first fully robotized car.” In practical terms, this means that using either the supplied remote or a smart phone, you can manipulate anything on the car that is controlled electronically, including updating the firmware or wirelessly sending diagnostic data. There’s a proprietary direct drive transmission, and a newly designed subframe that rests on “active soft mounts” that vary the amount of stiffness they provide based on driving conditions.
They did call this beast a luxury car, and they did so for a reason. From heavy interior insulation and 8 way adjustable memory foam seats, to high end sound and entertainment systems, Wi Fi connectivity, interior and exterior cameras with recording capability, ambient lighting, and a custom designed, leather and carbon fiber trimmed interior, they pulled out all the stops – The rear wing even folds neatly into the body of the car when not needed, and yeah, you can control that with your iPhone, too.
Koenigsegg engineers have used every model as a springboard for the next. In an industry where innovation frequently loses out to homogeneity, they seems quite comfortable replacing or overhauling a system when they think up something better. The company website sums it up well, “Together we work hard, in focused teams that are agile, efficient, and together we focus on excellence. When we fail, we fail fast. We learn from our failures and improve upon them. The pace is fast. Our structure is limited. Innovation and making it work is key.” That’s a refreshingly honest and potent statement, and a testament to their success.