Celebrating his 50th birthday, Christian von Koenigsegg dispensed with the traditional champagne and mid-life crisis 911, and instead revealed a totally new form of gearbox technology.
Truly, nobody parties like Koenigsegg.
Yet there’s much to celebrate. It’s been 20 years since his company launched its first car, so for its anniversary – and his golden birthday – he reimagined the now rather timeless CC8S as the CC850, bringing it bang up to date.
And we do mean bang. It shares the same underpinnings as the Jesko, replete with Koenigsegg’s own 5.0-litre twin-turbo V8 barking out 1,380hp and a tonne of torque. But the engine is a known quantity. The gearbox? Deep breath.
Based on the company’s ‘Light Speed Transmission’ and dubbed ‘Engage Shift System’, the relatively lightweight and compact unit – weighing just 90kg and about the same size as a regular 6spd gearbox – features three sets of compound gears with three gears on each set, so nine in total. It does without the traditional flywheel and clutch betwixt engine and ‘box.
“But you don’t want to have nine forward gears,” Koenigsegg explained to TopGear.com, “that would be way too confusing. Six are for forward motion, and as we have nine gears to choose from, we have different gear ratios in ‘Track’ mode than we do in ‘Normal’ and ‘Comfort’.” That’s right – different ratios depending on which mode you select.
Select ‘Track’ mode and ‘first’ is actually third gear – “you’re not going to be stuck in a traffic jam so it’s like a tall gear in a race car”, CvK explained – with the remaining 2-6 very tightly spaced for whipcrack acceleration.
‘First’ gear in ‘Normal’ mode then starts off in the second of the nine gears “because first is super short on the nine speed”, while ‘second’ gear is actually the fourth of the nine, “which perfectly matches the second gear in a ‘regular’ 6spd manual”, and then it’s a little bit more openly spread from there. You keeping up?
“It’s the first manual with different gear ratios, and the reason that is possible is because there is no mechanical link from front to back,” CvK said. “There is sort of a direct hydraulic link from the clutch pedal to the clutches – there are six clutches – but when you move the clutch pedal, it’s exactly one-to-one of pressure on these clutches like you use in a manual.”
In practice and execution, it’s just an open-gated manual hiding a vast network of clutches and gear sets and programming and a generous sprinkling of actual witchcraft to provide the feel of a “classic manual”.
Indeed, CvK says the feel of the clutch is “completely natural” to the point where you can deploy your fists of ham and stall the thing, or jump it, even do a massive burnout.
“There are a lot of intricacies, so if you shift fast you have the sensation of the synchros holding against you and you have to push harder. Same with the clutch, if you push it hard, it’s a little bit heavier due to the inertia you would have.”
Should the mood arise, you can of course just slide the lever all the way to the right and down, and it turns into a 9spd automatic... and should you quickly tire of this mood, just fling it back and row up and down the ‘box to your delectation.
Koenigsegg’s been working on that gearbox for nigh on two years now, and the one in the showcar at Monterey’s Car Week was the first preproduction version. “This will later be updated to the latest production spec in a year or so. It’s a sample. And then we go to the ‘B’ sample and then ‘C’, and then production.
“But it’s a very, very good starting point.” Good enough to have sold out: just 50 production CC850 models will be built and all have been accounted for. Even this very first preproduction prototype has been taken – Christian's keeping it for himself. It is his birthday, after all.
STORY Vijay Pattni