The world of supercars must be puzzling to the average, drive-to-get-there license holder. Loud, flashy, expensive to buy, costly to maintain, obscenely exorbitant to insure, and downright difficult to drive, supercars come from places with funny names like Maranello and Angelholm. To the everyday, Hobbit-like commuter, it doesn’t matter if a car can beat a fighter jet to the end of a runway.
But to gearheads, things are different. There is a huge distinction between a supercar that can pull a top speed of 200-220, like the new Lamborghini Aventador, and a car that can go 250-270, like the Bugatti Veyron SS. It’s not because we’ll ever own one, get to ride in one, or probably even see one in the carbon fiber flesh, because chances are, we won’t. Supercars are sort of like the bits of Cold War era metal that now sit on the very surface of the moon. We take comfort in knowing that they exist, that human engineering can accomplish such feats.
The aforementioned Veyron SS currently holds the record for the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed of 267.85 mph. But like some perversely expensive game of King of the Hill, it’s a record constantly in the crosshairs of new challengers, ranging from California-Based SSC to the latest offering from the frozen fjords of Sweden: the Koenigsegg Agera R.
Like a stoic Musashi dueling only with a wooden sword, Koenigsegg has been on the understated periphery of the supercar market for years, quietly taunting and prodding the mainstream, flamboyant contenders like Ferrari and Pagani.
That speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick philosophy is what made the Agera R such a big surprise when it showed up earlier this month at the Geneva Auto Show. It was a cartoony splat on the conference center floor, sporting a Darkwing Duck ski box option and a red and white paint job homage to the 1960’s anime-turned 2005 Wachowski Brothers acid trip feature Speed Racer.
That’s what you would have noticed first in Geneva. Then you would have noticed–for several extended moments–the theoretical top speed of 275. Now, that’s only a mathematical figure, a factoring of the Agera R’s numbers, like the 5 liter, E-85 powered, V8, whose twin turbos are constructed of a weight-saving metal Koenigsegg and Borg Warner developed called Gamma-Ti, a concoction probably capable of killing Superman.
That means 885 lb ft of torque and 1,115 horsepower. Triple the latter figure, and you’ll already have crested the Agera R’s curb weight of just over a ton and a half. Three pounds per horse is something of an easy draw. So when you put your foot down, you’ll get to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds, making the Agera R handy for climbing on-ramps and inducing cardiac arrest.
Aerodynamics obviously play into that imagination-stretching top speed. Most hypercars use a dynamic rear wing to increase downforce around the corners without the addition of speed-compromising drag in the straights. A “dynamic” spoiler means that it moves, like those on 2011 F1 cars. (And it also means you have a “dynamic” blender in your kitchen.)
The Agera R is no exception, but instead of using a hydraulic system to raise and lower the wing, it takes advantage of the natural wind, letting the buffeting air push down the flexible bit of carbon fiber and tuck it into the car’s profile. It’s a weight and cost saving mechanism. The Veyron, in contrast, has an entire radiator just to cool the hydraulic fluid moving its own wing.
As with all Koenigseggs, the targa roof pops off and stows neatly into the trunk. And the Swedes have kept their trademark “dihedral synchro-helix actuation” doors, whose motion might remind you of a West Point marching trombonist’s horn positions. The body styling is characteristically Scandinavian in its straight-faced smoothness, much more conservative than the Hot-Wheels Pagani Huayra, and slightly less so than the Veyron SS, the Agera R’s main competition.
“But wait!” you exclaim. “The Veyron SS holds the price record too! It will set me back $2.6 million, and we’re in the middle of a recession! That Swedish car can’t cost that much.” Well, when your only real competition is the fastest car in the world, and you’re claiming to be faster, you can price your car “competitively.” It is estimated that the Agera R will cost between $1.6 and $2.1 million.
No, it isn’t exactly a hypercar for a thrill seeker on a budget, but here’s where I retreat behind my thesis and the title above. I know I’ll never get to drive it. Few copies, if any, will even see American shores. But I don’t care. I’m intensely interested in the Agera R’s yet-unannounced release date, because I want to see someone drive it faster than the Veyron. I want to see a new production car record.
The Koenigsegg Agera R is almost in a class of its own, a veritable milestone in the achievements of human engineering. Even if I only ever get to read about it, I’m glad it’s there.
Images provided courtesty of Koenigsegg.