The newest member of the Swedish supercar kingdom known as Koenigsegg was unveiled today. It employs new cutting edge technology developed in-house, but still looks back toward the past.
Celebrating twenty years of the company’s founding, and paying homage to its first production model, the CC8S, this is the Koenigsegg CC850: a driver-focused, 1385-horsepower piece of extreme engineering that’s operated via a manual transmission… sort of. There is a clutch pedal with hydraulic force feedback and a gated six-speed shifter, but that’s all just a simulated analog interface for the cutting edge digital system doing the work behind the scenes.
As we’ve all come to expect from Christian von Koenigsegg’s eponymous car company, its latest work is pushing the boundaries of technology. That’s a given. What makes the CC850 unique amongst the other mad-scientist home-grown inventions is the fact that this new technology is in service of fun more so than outright measurable performance.
A computer can shift gears better than any human, but driver involvement matters. Koenigsegg isn’t the only company that understands this concept—listen to the “exhaust” on the all-electric Dodge Charger Daytona SRT prototype for example—but, it is one of the first to make an appeal to the analog faithful without compromising the its potential.
This is not just an old manual gearbox adapted to a modern motor. Koenigsegg calls this new system the Lightspeed Transmission; with seven clutches, a total of nine forward gears, and a potential to change between them in a matter of milliseconds (two, to be precise), the name tracks. Drivers can opt to shift through six speeds via the traditional clutch and shifter layout, or they can choose from a number of automated modes that let the car decide how to change nine gears.
In the manual setting—or the “Engage Shift System”—drivers can even stall the car if they aren’t paying attention; “You can operate it just like a normal clutch, there’s no difference,” says von Koenigsegg. But while it might feel like fully mechanical linkages, the inputs from both the pedal and the gated shifter are all converted to digital signals. It’s not necessarily a brand-new idea seeing as how paddles and Tiptronic-esque systems have been around for decades now, but Koenigsegg takes the idea much further. It is basically a neatly executed trick that only exists so the driver can have a bit more fun. That’s the cynical point of view, though.
As transportation continues to trend towards automation, any effort to preserve the pleasure of driving should be celebrated, and especially so when its pulled off this well. Koenigsegg lets you have your hypercar and shift it, too. If you don’t to play with the clutch pedal and prefer to bury the one on the right as the computer bangs through nine speeds, go for it. It’s fun to shift. It’s also fun to ride rollercoasters. This car will let you do both. You can even change the gear ratios between Road and Track, presumably with much shorter ones for the latter.
The “car for drivers” philosophy continues beyond the gear changes. The CC8-inspired design is largely uncomplicated by aerodynamic appendages. It’s a sleek, almost volumetric bit of 2000s design language, and a refreshing break from the ongoing trend of turning everything into a track weapon littered with canards and wings. There is a rear wing on the CC850 that can generate 455lbs of downforce, but it usually resides flush with the bodywork, preserving the clean, curved lines of the early Koenigsegg shape.
All that said, this is still a modern car. Whereas the original Koenigsegg CC8S shipped with a then-record-breaking 655hp, the CC850’s flat-plane-crank, five-liter, flywheel-less, twin-turbo V8 can churn out 1385 ponies and 1020lb-ft of torque when running on E85, and revs to an 8500-rpm redline. Shaving off the immense speed capabilities are some serious brakes; 16.1” carbon ceramic rotors with six-piston calipers in the front, with four-piston 15.5” versions in the rear. The wheels are staggered front to back—20” and 21” respectively—and wear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires as standard equipment.
Production will be limited to just 50 units, and is scheduled to sometime next summer.