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.