A 1.6-LITRE Opel Mokka rental (a Holden Trax to you and me) is an entirely inadequate way to prepare yourself for the 1000kW Koenigsegg One:1.
Especially in Sweden, where setting the baby SUV’s cruise 3km/h over the 110km/h limit feels like a daring act of law breaking. Victorians get it.
For those Koenigsegg buyers who don’t park their private jets on the runway next to the company HQ, the journey to Ängelholm starts with a flight to Copenhagen (the nearest airport, though it’s in Denmark) and a drive north over the magnificent 8km Øresund Bridge, familiar to fans of Nordic noir.
The drive through the low-lying farmland of the Skåne region is becoming part of Koenigsegg folklore, a parallel to long ago tales of piloting small Fiats through villages on the way to Maranello.
It’s a fair comparison, because Koenigsegg has now made the transition from wannabe to genuine player at the ultra-exclusive end of the market. Tiny even by the standards of supercar makers, its 85 staff have built just 125 cars since it started – Ferrari makes more in a A
week. But it’s built an extremely loyal following. Seven One:1s will be made, each costing US$2.8million (hope you ordered yours when our dollar was at parity as that’s now A$4million) before options and taxes, yet all sold within weeks of the car being announced.
The owners are buying bragging rights – Koenigsegg claims it is the world’s fastest production car. And I’m in Sweden to drive it. In the rain.
Its performance figures are hard to digest.
Koenigsegg claims zero to 402km/h in 20.0sec and recently proved it can do 0-300-0 km/h in just 17.95sec.
On paper, it makes a McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder or LaFerrari seem underpowered or overweight.
The name sums up the car – it’s read as ‘one-toone’, expressing its 1PS per kilo power to weight ratio. That’s 735kW per tonne, at least when the twinturbocharged 5.1-litre V8 is running on its preferred E85 ethanol, which is common in Sweden. Running on super unleaded, engine output drops from close to 1000kW to ‘just’ 865kW, although that’s still a pretty compelling physics lesson.
Koenigsegg’s factory is impressive. There are no fripperies or elaborate sculptures, just work, and lots of it – the place is a hive of activity. Founder Christian von Koenigsegg was once described as being a white cat away from playing a Bond villain, but in person he’s affable and happy to talk about the company. He also apologises that the prototype I’ll drive lacks the active noise cancellation system the company has designed for production versions.
Almost every part of every Koenigsegg is made on site, from carbon fibre monocoques to body panels, seat frames, even wheels. The engine block is cast in the UK but the motor is assembled and dyno-tested here. It was designed to deliver 1120kW (1500bhp) then detuned for driveability. Assembly and painting takes about 5000 work hours for the One:1. That’s about two and half years, solo.
And then I see the prototype One:1 and it becomes hard to concentrate on anything else. With the gullwing doors, front and rear clamshells open, it’s being fettled for my drive. It looks like a blinged-up LMP1 racer. Not beautiful, but devastatingly effective. That rear wing helps to deliver up to 750kg of downforce.
A passenger ride comes first. It’s raining hard as the bloke charged with showcasing the One:1 drives us to the test track, a mile-long former military runway.
The cabin is noisy – there’s no rubber anywhere in the suspension, bushings replaced by needle roller bearings – but it’s possible to talk in normal tones.
A neat trick as we leave the factory, it automatically raises its ride height for the speed bumps on the exit road. GPS sensors also allow a battery of active systems to be adjusted corner by corner on tracks that the car has learned or have been downloaded via its internal 3G data connection.
On the sodden runway, open warfare erupts between the One:1’s engine and its stability control system, the engine fluttering as the 345/30 R20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup rear tyres struggle for grip. I glance at the digital speedometer as it passes 200km/h and can still feel the rear end squirming. Then, with jarring suddenness, the runway is passing sideways and the driver is frantically winding on opposite lock. For a second he holds the slide, but then the pendulum swings the other way and the One:1 spins towards the green edging the runway. Fortunately, we encounter nothing more than wet grass as we scythe 50 metres to a stop, the cabin filled with nervous laughter.
The car is blameless – walking back to where the spin started, there’s a deep pool of water across the runway. All the downforce in the world couldn’t stop us aquaplaning. Still, with an expert at the wheel we nearly crashed in a straight line. Could the One:1 earn itself a ‘widow maker’ moniker?
My turn to drive and my pulse is racing even before starting the engine. The driving position is intimate; a tight-fitting seat and pretty much every surface is carbon fibre or Alcantara. You won't find any partsbin switchgear on any Koenigsegg – everything you see and touch has been made by the company itself.
Three VDU instruments sit behind the steering wheel, the temperature display incorporating a ‘power’ gauge in PS that reads to 1500. The speedo goes to 450km/h.
Neither is exaggerating.
A sighting lap proves the One:1 is the proverbial pussycat at everyday speeds. The engine is tractable, with decent torque well before you reach the boost zone. The steering feels great – nicely geared, with positive reactions and well-weighted feedback. The automated gearbox has a single ‘drive’ clutch and a second that acts as a brake to improve high-speed up-shifts, but at trundling pace there’s a hesitation between ratios and a forceful clunk on upshift.
But nothing is going to change the laws of physics. A trial throttle prod at around 100km/h in third produces a stab of acceleration until the turbos spool up – then our back end starts to struggle for grip. The stability control works well to keep everything straight, but this is only a taste of the One:1’s performance. Pushing the throttle harder delivers a storm of noise and fury from behind the cockpit that carries on to 200km/h.
The acceleration feels immense, yet the power gauge doesn’t rise above 600PS. I’m experiencing less than half of what the car has to offer.
We give up on the runway – for today at least – and move to some of the local roads. Considering it’s the ‘turned up to 11’ version of what is already a track-focused car, the One:1 copes well in the real world, even the narrow roads here. There’s surprising compliance in the rubber-free suspension and the steering remains pin-sharp at everyday speeds – apparently the Lotus Exige was the steering model.
The transmission still swaps gears with a pause reminiscent of BMW's SMG ’box, but even using minimal throttle pedal travel, the One:1 drives safely at the sort of pace almost nothing else could touch.
The next day the rain has stopped and the runway's standing water has gone, but the surface is still greasy.
Test driver Robert Serwanski is now on hand – he wasn’t around yesterday. He returns from a sighting run to report, although traction is limited, 321km/h should be possible with enough room to stop in the mile we have. Time to swallow the brave pills.
After a gentle rolling start, I floor the throttle as I select second. The back squirms as the torque arrives, but yesterday’s juddering is gone and response is far stronger. Through third, into fourth, the engine is still flaring as the stability control cuts in.
But as the One:1 passes 200km/h, the aerodynamic package starts to press the car hard onto the track. It’s the strangest sensation – acceleration increases.
A glance at the power meter shows it’s pointing to just over 1000PS as the engine approaches the 8000rpm redline and the upshift bangs in quickly as the second clutch does its thing. There are only a few seconds to experience the One:1 in full flight – the end of the runway is starting to look very big and it’s time to get hard on the vast carbon-ceramic brakes – but it’s enough time to know how special this car is.
It’s elating and frustrating. Doubtless, this is one of the fastest cars ever to wear a registration plate; one of the most exciting, too. On a dry open road, it would be astonishing. The thought of taking it flat-out around the Nordschleife in pursuit of a record is terrifying.
What’s most impressive is the company promises the forthcoming Regera will be even faster. M
THE KOENIGSEGG ONE:1 is one of the fastest production cars in the world. The firm believes the One:1 is the one, and wanted to prove it at the Nürburgring.
The track was booked, the car and crew were in place and confidence was high. Testing at the ’Ring last year led Christian von Koenigsegg to predict taking a “substantial chunk” out of the Porsche 918’s 6min 57sec time from 2013.
But then the Nordschleife’s new owner, Capricorn Nürburgring GmbH, announced that speed limits would be imposed after a fatal crash during a VLN endurance race. However, with the limits due to be lifted soon, hopefully Koenigsegg will return for a crack.
BODY 2-door, 2-seat coupe DRIVE rear -wheel ENGINE 5066cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo BORE/STROKE 92 x 95.25mm COMPRESSION 9.0:1 POWER 1000kW @ 7500-8250rpm TORQUE 1371Nm @ 6000rpm POWER/WEIGHT 735kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 7-speed sequential WEIGHT 1360kg SUSPENSION (F) double A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION(R) multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4500/2060/1150mm WHEELBASE 2662mm TRACKS 1700/1650mm (f/r) STEERING Electro-hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 397mm ventilated/drilled ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 380mm ventilated/drilled ceramic discs, 4-piston calipers WHEELS 19.0 x 9.5-inch (f); 20 x 12.5-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 265/35 R19 Y (f); 345/30 R20 Y (r) TYRE Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 PRICE AS TESTED US$2,800,000 RATING