Koenigsegg: Making the Hypercar More Than a Millionaire’s Toy
Koenigsegg Agera: not just another ego-stroking hypercar
By now the world has largely accepted into the ranks of the Supercar Elite the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg. The former was welcomed with fairly open arms while the latter has had a less exuberant embrace. For one, Koenigseggs are built in Sweden, so the world’s automotive journalists had to first exhaust their supply of Ikea jokes before they could move on and take a look at what was actually happening up there. Pagani, on the other hand, was not only building its cars in Italy, but in the same town as Ferrari and Lamborghini. It required very little imagination to spin a narrative that would encompass the Pagani story. The relative struggles people have had in accepting these upstart brands into the pantheon of aspirational vehicles accurately reflects the work of the companies themselves.
All supercars are trinkets and none more so than the newish subset at the top of the pile, the Hypercar. If more explanation is needed for those of you who still have Testarossa or Countach posters on your bedroom walls…those cars and their modern equivalents, the F12 and Aventador, can be purchased at the mall, next to Hugo Boss. They are bought off the shelf by merely rich folk.
But as with every club, once the membership of the Supercar Club reached some never-spoken about threshold, a break-away league of extraordinarily rich gentlemen stole off in silence to create the Hypercar Club. Go ahead, show up at your local Cars & Coffee in a Gallardo Superleggera and tell me if you still feel very special. I felt horrible one beautiful Sunday morning last year at a northern New Jersey Cars & Croissants meeting. The state’s first new McLaren MP4-12C pulled into the parking lot, resplendent in its orange metallic paint. It cut quite a swathe through the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches we’d all grown so used to seeing every other week. Well, it did for ten minutes, until the area’s second McLaren MP4-12C pulled into the parking lot, resplendent in its orange metallic paint.
See what I mean? These cars were exact in nearly every detail. You could almost hear the man with the first 12C trying to hasten the arrival of the new P1 in hopes that he could get it and one-up his thunder-stealing doppelganger. But even that is a risk. In an area as overtly rich with Supercar Club members as Northern New Jersey, it’s risky to buy into the Hypercar Club. No one really knows how many members there are and what might have been their opening gambit in the application process. So, to avoid any further social anxiety, that new P1 will stay boxed up in the garage next to the Pagani and the Koenigsegg. He knows he’s got them, and isn’t that enough, really?
Attention to detail in the Huayra’s cabin borders on obsessive
So into this world of expensive trinkets came the upstarts Pagani and Koenigsegg. Pagani seemed to instantly read the pulse of the Hypercar Club members and began producing tiny numbers of breathtaking coupes, jewel-like in their incredible detail. The cars in general, and the cabins specifically, were giant exposed Quadruple Tourbillons, Grand Complications you could drive. But more than just capture the zeitgeist, they went down the road well. Not just quickly, but silkily, with real depth of ability. A new hero was born for the automotive journalists of the world, not to mention the silently lurking members of the Hypercar Club.
At the same time, a Swedish upstart was doing almost the exact same thing, it seemed, up north in flatpack land. Like Pagani, with its figurehead, Horacio, Koenigsegg was also the vision of a single, hyper-ambitious man, Christian. Both seemed to spring from nowhere, although Horacio Pagani had some priors at Lamborghini (more on which later). Koenigsegg’s cars, while obvious hypercar material in every sense, seemed to suffer from the idea amongst the world’s journalists that, well, what was the chance that two new hypercar upstarts could both be shaking the establishment’s trees at the same time? So the narrative moved forward with Pagani as the chosen one. Again, Italian passion and craftsmanship is a pretty easy sell, nevermind that Horacio is Argentinian and the engines are from Germany.
The Huayra continues Pagani’s “less than subtle” approach
I had the chance to pour over the details of a Pagani Zonda in the paddock at Lime Rock Park a few years back. Suffice it to say, it was not to my taste. Flamboyant and excessive barely do it justice. But I could see the beauty and detail of the craftsmanship – everything was on display. In the intervening years, Pagani has allowed more access to the media and started to stoke the fires of cult brandhood. In the end, these cars, and cult cars in general, trade on their ability to capture the imagination. The over-the-top design filigree Pagani has embraced will ensure the physical lust is seen to, now they need to capture the heart with a story. Horacio has his ties to Fangio (from his days in Argentina) and Lamborghini, but he largely stays out of the limelight. He seems to be going down the reclusive-mad-scientist road to culthood.
Over at Koenigsegg, things are very different. The YouTube channel Drive has been running an excellent series of videos called Inside Koenigsegg. They are excellent not least because one does not have to endure any of the channel’s regular hosts, each one more cringe-inducing than the last, save for Chris Harris whose ease on camera matches his track record as a journalist. The series is excellent because it casts a spotlight on some very interesting things going on up in Ängelholm. Koenigsegg seems to be throwing its hat into the ring as a genuine trailblazer. The impression given is that Koenigsegg exists to develop new technologies and its hypercars are merely manifestations of its philosophies. Ah, now, that’s a hypercar I can get behind. From the “triplex” rear suspension, to the completely house-made ECUs, to work towards a camshaft-free pneumatically operated free valve system, Koenigsegg is in a different league than Pagani when it comes to transcending the status of Trinket.
For me, carbotitanium chassis aside, Pagani has not moved the game forward in any way. Open the rear clamshell and all you see is a Group C car put together by a fetishist. And getting subjective for a moment, the cars are vulgar. Let’s not forget that Horacio Pagani is responsible for the 25th Anniversary Countach. Just when you thought nothing more could be added onto that poor sad clown car, he brought out the horizontal stake cannon and opened fire. Put the Anniversary Countach next to an LP400 and weep for what had been done to its gobsmacking original form. My fear is that his namesake automobiles will age just as gracefully. Like an oversized watch.