Koenigsegg has a vision of the future. In it, 1,500bhp hypercars have cloaking devices. They’re not only massively effective, rendering the car utterly invisible, but also activate almost instantaneously. Ingeniously, the system is linked to throttle position. So, say you’re being pursued through a dystopian city by a rampaging gang of social-media supercar baggers, all you have to do is briskly take the throttle to ooh, about 30 per cent, a puffy white cloud appears and all they’re showing on Periscope is the inside of that thick, choking cloud while, somewhere off in the distance, a plainly furious T rex is bellowing in pursuit of a hapless triceratops.
I have never experienced anything that bonfires its tyres like the Koenigsegg Regera. Anything. Despite the best tractive efforts of the vast 345-width Michelins, they’re as nothing in the 1,475lb ft torque deluge that descends on them from a twin-turbo V8 and triplet of electric motors. They act like they’ve hit ice, the revs spike and, a second or so later, Christian and I can barely see each other across the cabin (although given what we must look like in here – a pair of naked fleshy orbs – perhaps it’s best to keep the smoke screen deployed).
What do you know about Koenigsegg? It’s a question worth asking, because it’s often hard to look beyond the power figures and top speeds. They do tend to stop you in your tracks. So you might not know that Koenigsegg does almost all its own carbon-fibre work, was the first to equip a production car with carbon-fibre wheels, that it assembles its own ECU circuit boards, develops its own infotainment software, even. In the engine test cell sits a revolutionary 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that has no camshafts (see page 127). And there’s only 110 people working there. As Christian says: “If we can’t find the right partner or solution for a problem, we basically bring it in house.”
The confidence required to do this is immense – you’ve got to be prepared for a vast amount of trial and error and be sure you’ll get the right solution at the end of it. But it does mean the solutions perfectly match the needs. Compromise, as anyone who has watched one man assemble 750 carbon pieces to create one “bio-hazard” wheel as used on the new Regera can attest (it takes a week), is not part of the equation.
So that, in brief, is the mentality at Koenigsegg. It’s about learning and investing and creating, and it’s about one man’s clarity of vision. Which brings us on to the Regera (pronounce it with a hard g, it means “to reign”). First, a quick recap: since the CC8S first appeared in 2002, Koenigsegg has only produced around 120 cars. There may have been around 15 different models, but on the whole each has been a development of the one before, the steps between them relatively small.
Broadly speaking the Regera is a development of the Agera RS. It uses a very similar carbon chassis, has the same 5.0-litre V8, except fed by slightly smaller, faster turbos, and the temptation is to believe this gives no more than a passing nod to hybrid power, a quest to prove that if Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari could, so could Koenigsegg.
But they don’t think like that in Ängelholm. There are two key things to know about the Regera, one comparatively simple, the other ludicrously complicated. Let’s deal with the easy stuff first: as well as the 1,160bhp internal combustion engine, the Regera is powered by a pair of rear-wheel electric motors. Designed and built by Yasa Motors in the UK, each weighs 32kg but develops 240bhp. There’s a third one mounted on the engine that helps to recharge the battery, operates as a starter motor and generally smooths things out. All in, we’re talking around 700bhp of electric force alone. Or, expressed another way, more than the electric power of the P1, 918 and LaFerrari combined.
But that’s not the interesting bit – we need to talk about the gearbox. Because there isn’t one. “I bought a Tesla Model S,” Christian tells me, “and what interested me was how fun it was and how little I missed shifting. Even with a double-clutch, things have to happen before you overtake. So I was getting more and more pissed off – saying, ‘Damn, this Tesla is good.’ And conventional gearboxes are wasteful: you’re only in one gear at any given point in time, the rest are laying around, adding weight, rattling maybe.”
So wanting to do a hybrid, but not wanting it to be ludicrously heavy and complicated, they looked at obvious solutions: “CVT? No. Horrible. You have heat generation and it’s continuously slipping, so it’s inefficient where a gear is efficient. And the feel – I haven’t driven one that feels good.”
The answer, according to Koenigsegg, was to have no transmission at all, just direct drive from the engine through an open differential and out to the wheels, aided on either side by the torque-vectoring electric motors. However, as we all know, one gear has its limitations. It’s why gearboxes were invented. So they invented the Koenigsegg Direct Drive (KDD) system, which at its heart is essentially a torqueconverter that allows clutch slip. “But a torque-converter sounds like something from 1922, so we call it HydraCoup, and what’s different is that compared to its diameter it can convert much more torque than any other and weighs half as much.”
So both electric and internal combustion powerplants are managed by one, slightly flexible gear with the whole lot, a combined 1,479bhp and 1,475lb ft, controlled by your right foot.
The figures are bananas – the one that truly blows my mind is the 3.2secs it takes to accelerate from 90mph to 155mph. Top speed? A little over 250mph, which it’ll hopefully hit in around 20 seconds flat. “The thing we’ve realised is that chasing the ultimate top speed is starting to become a nonsense,” Christian tells me, “so our philosophy is more like this: whoever gets to 250mph first wins.” That’s a philosophy I can get on board with.
The Regera intends to rain on the Chiron’s parade, to make you question why Bugatti hasn’t done something this radical for the Veyron’s replacement. Of all the hypercar firms out there, Bugatti is the only one I can think of that might view a gearboxless 1,500bhp hybrid as a good brand fit. In line with that, the Regera is intended to be a gentler experience than the Agera. The engine is rubber-bushed to lessen vibration, the rear wing whirrs up and down hydraulically, as do the doors and front and rear clams. The cabin is a work of art, the side sills massively wide, the carbon-shelled, memory foam seats built here from the ground up, the batteries contained in the transmission tunnel.
A quick word on the battery pack – it’s the same spec as those used in F1 (a first for a production car), weighs only 75kg, yet Christian expects it will deliver a 20-mile range. The power density is massive and running at 800 volts (another world first, the Porsche Mission-E will eventually catch up…), the recharge and discharge rates are colossal.
This candy apple red Regera looks sensational, there’s real beauty in its long tail and taut curves and, like all Koenigseggs, the roof panel removes to store under the nose. Do so and the car’s look changes totally, but sitting inside I prefer it with the roof on: it exaggerates the wrap-around widescreen view forward. The A-pillars are tucked right round the sides, and you sit so far back that I doubt the tips of my toes reach to the base of the screen. It’s like looking out of a visor. And the materials, the look and feel of the cabin – I thought it was only Pagani that could make a cabin look and feel this good, but I was wrong.
Driving this production prototype is simplicity itself. Pull the right paddle for Drive, left for Reverse, both together for Park. It’s weird, initially: electric and internal combustion work together from the word go, when I’d expected it to creep around on e-power alone, after all, there’s 700bhp of the stuff, so you might as well make the most of it. You can select electric drive, but at the moment Christian has it set up to run both simultaneously.
So, with both engaged and the clutch slipping, it feels like a lazy American V8 as we pull out of the factory onto public roads, the engine is throbbing away, but drive takes a second to catch up. At 30mph, the torque-converter stops slipping and gives you direct drive, the V8 at about 1,000rpm. Then I start to love the Regera – the connection is natural and the lowrev thrust unearthly as electric motors add their bite. “See, like a Tesla, but half a tonne lighter and with another 1,000bhp!” comes the voice from the other seat.
It’s about then that Christian reminds me that this development car “has no traction control, none whatsoever”. I back off and concentrate on how it’s behaving. The steering is heavy, but delicious to use. It’s hydraulic, with no slack, but real meat and reward. If anything, the ride is even better. Long wishbones, in-board dampers and reduced unsprung mass thanks in part to the carbon wheels, mean the Regera rides beautifully, precise and polished. How does it manage that? Look at the wheelarch clearance – where do the wheels go?
I admit I’d expected a car that felt compromised by its vast vmax, that failed to come to life until well into three figures, but the Regera is instantly alert, corners flat and tenaciously, actually feels like it wants to attack a good road. Christ knows how you approach full throttle on a twisty road with this much twist on tap, but the car feels keen, even if this particular driver feels moderately… apprehensive.
We head to the Koenigsegg’s runway where there’s room to play. The force… oh my god. As we discovered at the start, the Regera is viciously traction-limited, so full throttle… well, Christian believes it might wheelspin up to 150mph, so actually getting a picture of what full chat feels like is tricky.
Let me have a go, though. The revs spike as the torque-converter opens, the noise crashes in, guttural and savage through the fabulous upright flattened pipes. You’re aware of some initial electric assistance, but that’s then lost in the torque torrent as the pressure wave builds, a relentless, urgent push onwards. I think I was on top of it, could just about keep pace with my eyes and mind – but then I looked down, tore my bewildered eyes away and saw how fast we were actually going. I thought 150, the speedo said 180. Shock and awe, that is all. I’d driven a P1 a few days before (see page 48). This was vastly faster.
There’s still development work to be done. I think the electric motors need to do more work from the word go, to hit harder and faster, and there needs to be more of a handover to the internal combustion engine as they tail off. That was the single thing I loved most about the Porsche 918 Spyder. At the moment, it feels too much like a CVT – the response isn’t quite quick enough and the drive not direct enough, so revs and speed don’t quite correspond.
Although it defaults to direct drive, a pull of the paddle or simple press of the throttle opens the HydraCoup and gives the system control. It often chooses to slip the clutch a little, which feels CVT-ish and it’s that disconnect between noise and speed that disguises the rate of progress. Which, when you have 1,479bhp at work, is alarming.
But the basics are there, and during the day laptops were occasionally plugged in and settings altered so I could try it with more electric influence low down, different throttle response. For a day I got to play at being a Koenigsegg development driver, and days don’t get much cooler than that, do they?
So some tuning is needed, but the mechanical package is complete. That’s an achievement in itself, leaving aside the fact it’s refined and comfortable enough to drive every day. The concept works, the detail will be made to work. Because this is Koenigsegg, and they do hypercars their own way here.
Words: Ollie Marriage
Photography: Rowan Horncastle
Top Gear Magazine (October 2016)