Reviews

The New King of Sweden: Koenigsegg Regera Prototype Review

A first taste of Koenigsegg’s forthcoming Regera leaves us chomping for more

ANGELHOLM, Sweden — The Koenigsegg Regera pictured here is the same car that took the 2015 Geneva Motor Show by storm. This is the prototype, and we’re among the first outsiders in the world to get a crack at the hypercar that signals a new chapter in terms of design and technology for the boutique Swedish brand. This car in particular is a fair bit outside industry norms: Most auto show queens can barely eclipse walking speed; this one will reportedly touch 249 mph. The production version aims for 255.

Koenigsegg won’t begin delivering fully baked models of the Regera until September. It plans to build only 80 copies of the 1,500-horsepower, carbon monocoque monster for about $1.89 million a pop, with half of them already spoken for. The Regera is stunning to look at, but when it comes to this car, it’s the drivetrain that’s the star of the show.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype rear three quarter 01
The body openings other than the removable roof—hood, engine cover, and doors—operate automatically via remote or smartphone.

As creator Christian von Koenigsegg explains, “Right now, when reversing, the gasoline engine runs in idle; it’s only the electric motors that make the car move.” Specifically, there are three electric motors, one connected to the crankshaft and one to power each rear wheel. The prototype’s steering wheel paddles select the car’s direction of travel. Left is reverse; right is forward. Pull them simultaneously and you get park.

We pull the right paddle and the Regera moves ahead slowly, using electricity and the 5.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 internal combustion engine together. There is no conventional multiratio transmission. Instead, there is a hydraulic coupling, dubbed HydraCoup, which is part of a patented piece of technology called Koenigsegg Direct Drive transmission or KDD.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype Joakim Dyredand driving 01

“The electric motors, placed after the hydraulic coupling, are major power sources up until [about 30 mph] when the [gasoline engine’s] crankshaft and the rear axle are running at the same speed. The engine [behaves as though it] is in ‘seventh gear’ from the start, speedwise,” Koenigsegg says. With no step-gear transmission in between, the engine links to the rear wheels via a 2.73:1 final drive, with HydraCoup essentially working as a torque converter as it allows for some slip. The engine rumble is muffled and it sounds similar to when it’s idling, but speed increases anyway as we continue forward. The hydraulic coupling is supposed to lock fully at 30 mph under normal acceleration. But Koenigsegg senses something isn’t quite right.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype rear three quarter in motion 01

“My team installed new software late last night, and I think it locks the ‘clutch’ a little too late,” he assesses. “And that little twitch you felt at the lock, we intend to remove that completely.” The jerkiness is barely perceptible, but certainly at some points during the run, I come to know when it occurs.

The Regera uses electricity when accelerating quickly, which helps plug gaps in the torque curve; indeed, the electric motors also serve as a substitute for conventional gears. At low speeds, too, the majority of the power comes from electricity, but the setup also takes energy from the combustion engine into the hydraulic coupling for torque conversion. Electric power is available all the way up to about 249 mph, but with diminishing effect above 186 mph.

Christian von Koenigsegg and Joakim Dyredand 01
Christian von Koenigsegg, left, says, “We’ve managed to develop all this new technology—much of which has never been seen before … yet still managed to retain all that is important about the functionality of a Koenigsegg.”

Koenigsegg urges me to push the throttle harder, and the Regera—Swedish for “to reign” or “to rule”—gallops immediately, in a blaze. Compared with other transmissions, manual or automatic, this one allegedly reduces powertrain losses by about 50 percent. For an already massively powerful, 1,100- horsepower engine like the Regera’s twin-turbo V-8, that means about 50 additional ponies reach the rear wheels instead of disappearing into a gearbox. With additional power from the electric motors, Koenigsegg says the car can generate a combined peak output of 1,500 hp and 1,560 lb-ft, as the individual power curves of the V-8 and electric motors intersect.

As we continue down the road, the progenitor makes a request. “Don’t pay too much attention to the engine noise. Some fasteners have been shaken loose in the prototype for our ‘fishtail’ end pipes. I will ensure that these are screwed on tight for your afternoon driving. In addition, we lack catalytic converters and exhaust valves for the moment, so this is straight pipes.”

Koenigsegg Regera prototype front view in motion 03

The new bits arrive later in the day, and Koenigsegg beams as he feels the ultralight titanium parts. The exhaust system, constructed by Slovenian specialist Akrapovič, terminates in two narrow pieces forming a part of the car’s venturi tunnel. The flat side shape creates rapid exhaust pulses, desirable because the engine runs mostly at low revs. The center-located chrome exhaust is something of a dummy; sitting inside are cooling fans for the electric motor package. “It’s only when the car stops after a hard driving session that some hot air will come out of here, a little backwards and funny.”

I approach a roundabout and brake, charging the batteries. In this prototype, that doesn’t mean the regenerative drag “brakes” the car as sharply as you feel in something like a Tesla Model S or BMW i3. However, massive regeneration will be created with the production battery pack in place, actually far more than in the Model S and i3. The Regera’s battery pack is a water-cooled, 620-volt, 9.27-kilowatt-hour unit Koenigsegg says is “the most power-dense battery pack ever created for a road-going car.” It can momentarily power the three electric motors to produce a combined 704 hp during hard acceleration, and the battery pack can absorb more than 150 kW under braking for energy regeneration with the engine in generator mode.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype rear view in motion 04

We head toward Ängelholm, Koenigsegg’s hometown. A positive effect from the previous slowdown is that the batteries are fully charged. Sadly, this confuses the new software, and red numbers appear on the digital display among telemetry visible only on this prototype. I accelerate slowly; the Regera moves erratically. The batteries need to drain slightly, so we activate all-electric mode. “We intend to offer EV mode on customer cars, but it’s mostly designed to be used in garages, or maybe if you come home late [and want to be quiet],” Koenigsegg says. Production Regeras will feature a battery-drain mode to ensure drivers arrive at their final destination with batteries ready for quick plug-in rejuicing.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype testing 02

Upon arrival at the manufacturer’s airfield test track, engineer Alex Olsson only needs a minute to rectify the software issue, something he could also have done remotely through the car’s 4G network. The Regera has been running around 20 to 30 hours per week since returning from last year’s Geneva show; how many miles it has covered is hard to say because the trip computer has been reset or replaced several times. Regardless, the driving experience is a new sensation, perhaps a combination of the feel you get from electric cars like the Model S, which also has no conventional gearbox, and a combustion-engine vehicle with a continuously variable transmission. But while a CVT sends revs to the sky and waits for road speed to reach the corresponding level, here we have drive straight from the crankshaft fairly early during acceleration.

From about 30 mph and 2,000 rpm, it is possible to sit back and wait for 249 mph—with the support of the three electric motors. The power is brutal, efficient, and shockingly easy to use. The Regera is smooth in town and smooth in its pursuit of centrifuge-like speed. Koenigsegg promises the production version, which was presented at this year’s Geneva show, will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds, 0 to 124 mph in 6.6, and 0 to 186 in just 10.9, with only 3.9 seconds needed to go from 93 to 155. Find enough open space and the Regera, he says, will do 0 to 248 in 20 seconds.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype front view in motion 04

Trouble is, rain is now falling. Not to mention the car is on winter tires. The Michelin rubber measures 225/45R-19 at the front and 285/45R-19 at the rear, but the Regera’s regular carbon-fiber wheels use wider tires measuring 275/35R-19 and 345/30R-20. Still, the long asphalt strip ahead of the heavily curved windshield looks tempting. I floor the gas pedal, though not fully since the three-mode traction control system is not yet incorporated. After the car predictably leaves two lines of black rubber behind, Koenigsegg mentions it is possible to spin the rear wheels all the way to 174 mph on dry surfaces. Thanks, then, for the Koenigsegg-engineered, oversized carbon-ceramic brakes that measure 15.63 inches up front and 14.96 in the rear, with six- and four-piston calipers, respectively.

The Regera, however, isn’t about its astonishing brakes. It’s about bone-crushing acceleration. Koenigsegg is developing launch control, naturally, that will hold the gasoline engine at around 4,000 rpm before the car lights off. And as the wind pushes raindrops across the windshield, the Regera’s exhaust fills the hybrid hypercar’s cabin with a noise just short of the sound of thunder. In its unfinished state, the exhaust is superlative, broadcasting deafening booms from the twin-turbocharged V-8. Although, when the final system is installed, Koenigsegg states that the tone will be quite different. Its euphony, then, can’t be quantified. Yet.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype digital instrument panel

From 30 mph and 2,000 rpm, it is possible to sit back and wait for 249 mph—with the support of the three electric motors.

While Koenigsegg’s CC8S and CCR provide a more reclined seating position, like in a Formula 1 car, the CCX and onward are spacious and ergonomically better. Sure, it still requires some exercise and agility to enter or exit the cabin, but Koenigsegg refines its cars more with each installment. This prototype rolls on a medium damper setting, which works fine over uneven ground and leaves your kidneys intact. A hydraulic lift system, both front and rear, can raise the Regera for crossing a speed bump—if you remember to press the button. (Koenigsegg forgot once. He laughed. I cried.)

Koenigsegg Regera prototype rear view in motion 02

After some hefty acceleration runs, I make some sharp turns to feel the chassis balance. The hydraulic steering is heavy and has little power assistance, but it feels mechanical and genuine. But it’s difficult to discern its ultimate communication with the driver, as the car is wearing winter tires, and engineers are still finalizing the weight distribution.

Meanwhile, other improvements are in the pipeline. Wheel housings will receive soundproofing mats made from an allegedly never-before-used material; engineers are finalizing additional damper settings; the small storage compartment in front of the passenger will feature inductive charging for external devices. The electrically actuated, hydraulic mirrors and doors will have parking sensors and cameras, making sure you don’t accidentally open them into obstacles.

Ah, that last point elicits a chuckle. Obstacles? Er, no. As the Regera testifies, that’s not usually a noun in Koenigsegg’s vocabulary.

Koenigsegg Regera prototype front three quarter 03

2016 Koenigsegg Regera Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $1.89 million (base)
Engine: 5.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/1,100 hp @ 7,800 rpm, 944 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm plus two electric AC motors mounted on rear axle/285 hp, 575 lb-ft; and one electric motor mounted at crank/238 hp, 280 lb-ft; 1,500 hp, 1,560 lb-ft combined peak output
Transmission: Direct drive
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD convertible
EPA Mileage: N/A
L x W x H: 179.5 x 80.7 x 43.7 in
Wheelbase: 104.8 in
Weight: 3,505 lb
0-60 MPH: 2.7 sec (est)
Top Speed: 255 mph (est)

 

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