Lopsided home brew furniture and Elin Nordegren might be Sweden’s most lauded exports, but as I round the final corner of the Dubai Autodrome on the first major track test of the new Koenigsegg Agera, I know that’s going to change.
We’re in Dubai by happy coincidence, as Michelin arranged the drive as part of its launch of the new Super Sport tire; so expect some gratuitous talk of just how sweet these tires handle shortly. But it’s kind of fitting, too, that our first drive of this $1.34 million creation takes place in this oasis of pure money and nuclear-style power.
The first production Agera left the factory just last month with 898 bhp, courtesy of its monstrous 5-liter V8 twin-turbo engine contained within its 2,844-pound pre-impregnated carbon-fiber and Kevlar chassis, The one we are driving is the prototype, armed with 800 bhp, but as the V8 fires to life and settles in with a stuttering, angry idle, it seems like more than enough.
The Agera has only two real rivals if we discount the SSC Utimate Aero, and most do. It competes with the most exclusive variants of the Pagani Zonda and the all-conquering Bugatti Veyron. That’s about it, and when they collide it’s like those weird Discovery Channel mock-ups of a shark fighting a crocodile. They have different strengths and it would come down to who wanted it more and that particular day.
The Swede is a different driving experience from the moment I nudge the starter button and the ceramic-coated Inconel exhaust, similar to Pagani’s system, lets out a throaty roar. But it need not back down from either one.
It’s a more muscular experience than the detail-intense and slightly fussy Zonda, from the design through to the drive.
Visually it’s a big, bluff boxer of a car, with a smooth, curvaceous front end, powerful haunches and, when it’s in place, a low-slung double bubble roof that gives the car a real stealth fighter look. Until the dihedral synchro helix door opens, swivels and pivots into position. Honestly, they’re the most pointless addition to a car since the roof scoop to nowhere, but they are seriously cool.
Christian Von Koenigsegg is a designer at heart and loves these kind of touches, in fact he might not even have had time for cars if someone had taken his previous inventions seriously: a replacement for the walkman that held music on a computer chip and glueless click together laminate flooring. He’s surprisingly sanguine about the iPod and, well, Click laminate flooring, both of which are billion dollar industries. I would be pissing blood.
Now he has several patents on the engineering side, including a response charge system in the turbo system to improve the throttle response, and deserves more credit than he perhaps receives for innovation.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of this particular car is the visual similarity to the CC it replaces and, let’s be honest here, it’s serious evolution over revolution. For the record, it has a wider track, totally revised aero, a new interior and the infinitely cool Ghost Light. This uses carbon nanotubes to hide interior lighting until the car is turned on, when the lights appear to shine through solid aluminium. The ghost on the rear, by the way, is a tribute to the Swedish air force squadron that was based at Koenigsegg’s Angelhom HQ.
It looks better with the roof on, but under the blazing Middle Eastern sunshine it’s only right to go alfresco, remove the hardtop with a spanner and stow it under the front clamshell. This is a neat trick that even the Veyron cannot match, with the Grand Sport you have to make a choice and leave the roof at home, taking a ridiculous emergency umbrella out with you to guard against rainstorms. The Koenigsegg doesn’t only fit the roof in that front end, it can even take golf clubs and wins the practicality war by a mile.
Venturi tunnels underneath the car and a rear diffuser ensure it is not adorned with excessive visible aero tricks on the surface. But even the wheels are designed to create a vortex at speed and reduce aero drag. The car generates 661 pounds of downforce at 155 mphmore if you opt for the robotized rear wing.
Inside, the neat, minimalist feel continues, with the trademark round center console and an LCD screen that lends a futuristic feel, even if it’s hard to read in the blazing Dubai sunlight. Then there is the driving experience, which will simply empty your brain.
I roll out of the near-deserted pit-lane at the Autodrome and plant the throttle for the first time. The Agera, which is the Swedish verb meaning to act, just goes mad. All that power ploughs through the rear wheels and sends the Koenigsegg scorching to 60 mph in 3.1 sec, way faster than the Zonda; 125 mph falls in 8.9s and the Agera will go from 0-125-0 in just 13.7s, which will leave you with internal bleeding.
It won’t run out of steam until well beyond 245 mph, although the top speed isn’t fixed yet and the Veyron could have a sleepless night or two. But it’s not just the numbers; it’s the sheer violence of the turbo-powered delivery that sets this car apart. The engine starts out as a crate Ford, but by the time it leaves the Koenigsegg production line, if you can call it that, the powerplant has been reimagined into a violent, sadistic, crack-fuelled nightmare.
It’s an absolutely docile creature until the revs hit 3500 rpm and then it bolts forward with a jolt and I’m at the next bend. Then on lift-off, as I prepare to hit the ceramic brakes and flick down two gears on the paddle-shift seven-speed, a fireball erupts from that cannon of a central exhaust and the whole car shimmies as it takes real muscle to steer it into the bends. Whereas the Zonda and Veyron can be trained on the apex with the fingertips, I’m using shoulder muscles with the Agera and, for a while, I’m actually scared of the thing.
That’s a legacy of grip and physical force, rather than weight. It can produce lateral cornering forces of 1.6 g thanks to epic levels of grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports and a setup focused on cornering speed, while the Veyron Super Sports will give 1.45 g. That means, theoretically, that the Agera will destroy almost anything on track if the driver can find the very limit of the grip without barreling through that fine line.
I jest, of course, about the tires, but Koenigsegg himself waxes lyrical about the Super Sports. As grippy as Cup rubber in the dry and yet usable in the wet, the new Michelin is a game-changer and make this thing feel like it’s running on race rubber.
I can still feel the car tugging to the outside of the circuit understeering ever so slightly on a constant throttle. Of course, you can balance the rear slip angle with a delicate right foot or push straight through into lairy, sliding oversteer with a hefty application of throttlewith the traction control switched off. But then with a turbo-powered car it makes sense to make it nose heavy. When a tail-happy car comes on boost mid-corner, in the wet, people die.
The brakes, meanwhile, are pin sharp ceramics mated to six-piston calipers and the car’s stability under heavy deceleration is a testament to the engineering throughout the car. The engine and gearbox combo can still snap it out of line, but over time I learn it’s an illusion, a character trait, rather than a ragged edge exposed.
It’s still a hard-core car and only a few special souls can truly appreciate its skills, but then Koenigsegg only sells 15 cars a year and only needs a few elite souls that truly get it.
Customers tend to be heads of states or self-made billionaires on the lookout for something different, more extreme and more hard-core than they can find elsewhere.
And now, Sweden has more to offer than just practical furniture and model/ex-wives.
The Agera has only two real rivals if we discount the SSC Utimate Aero, and most do. It competes with the most exclusive variants of the Pagani Zonda and the all-conquering Bugatti Veyron.
Longitudinal, mid engine rear-wheel drive
4.7-liter V8, dohc 32-valve, twin-turbocharged (1.5 bar), 8.9:1 compression
Seven-speed sequential with paddle shifts, torque-sensitive LSD or E-diff clutch, dual-plate clutch
Double wishbones, 2-way adjustable shocks and antiroll bars front and rear. Electronically adjustable ride height
Six-piston calipers with 15.4-inch ventilated ceramic rotors (f), six-piston calipers with 14.9-inch ventilated ceramic rotors (r)
Wheels And Tires
Forged alloys with center-locking nuts, 9.5x19 (f) and 12.5x20 (r) Michelin 255/35 (f), 335/30 (r)
Curb weight: 2,832
Peak Power: 910 hp @ 6850 rpm
Peak Torque: 811 lb-ft @ 5100 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.1 sec.
Top speed: 245+ mph (estimated)