Theoretically, in the three hours that I recently spent with the 250+ mph Koenigsegg CCXR I could have driven from New York City to Indianapolis, with time to spare.
Had I already been in Indianapolis, it would have been easy to head over to the speedway and complete one Indy 500, and half of another.
I did neither of those things.
Sadly, my date with this piece of Swedish automotive erotica took place on New York's Long Island, where the only thing more crowded than the roads are the shopping malls, and both are teeming with security. A fact that I was reminded of when I was pulled over by a friendly law enforcement officer while doing 35 mph in a 35 mph zone about 10 minutes into my drive.
Apparently the car was so fresh off the boat that the dealer plates from Universal Autosports, one of just four outlets handling this ultra exotic brand in the United States, weren’t properly affixed. Somehow I doubt that if I was behind the wheel of the Kia Spectra rental car that brought me to this rendezvous anyone would’ve noticed if it was missing four wheels let alone tags, but after rectifying the situation I was free to continue on my way…gingerly.
Suddenly aware that the hip-high, red and black sled must have looked like the Batmobile to passersby, I pulled away wondering what in the world I was going to do on public roads with the 806 horsepower I had at my disposal. But I wasn’t complaining about it.
If you’ve never heard of Koenigsegg (and since there are only 9 of the company’s cars in the United States and just this one CCXR you’ll be forgiven if you haven’t) it is the brainchild of Christian von Koenigsegg, a Swede who set out to build his vision of the perfect car in 1994 and was fortunate enough to have the means to do so. His first effort hit the road in 2000 and for a time was the fastest car in the world. The CCXR could one day retake that title, along with another.
Koenigsegg bills the CCXR as the world’s first ‘green’ supercar, citing its flex fuel, twin supercharged V8 engine that runs on gasoline or ethanol, the same stuff IndyCars use. In terms of carbon emissions, the debate is still open as to whether ethanol is actually better for the environment fields to wheels than gasoline is wells to wheels, but only one is a renewable fuel so the claim is as good as these get in the world of automobiles.
As fun as it is, the all-electric Tesla Roadster is not even close to qualifying for this kind of super-status with its paltry 124 mph top speed and bargain rack $109,000 price tag. The CCXR costs $1.2 million, making it a bit more precious than the Tesla and just about every new car ever made. And it’s a price that may be justified for more than just the exclusivity of this beast.
The CCXR is handcrafted by a staff of only 45 that is closer to a racing team than a run of the mill automaker. From subframe to seat frame, nearly every part is custom made or modified for the mid-engine two-seater, and the stitched leather and quilted fabric-coated interior is fit to order for the owner. The doors don't swing open like the ones on your car, or up like a DeLorean’s, or scissor like a Lamborghini’s, but twist out the way one of those canisters holding the plutonium in a spy thriller does. Fitting, as even the engine is a unique and precious piece of machinery, designed and built in house, an unheard of extravagance for a company that produces just 20 vehicles a year.
Fire up the mid-mounted 4.7-liter powerplant and you'll think you've been transported to pit lane, or a rocket pad. It explodes to life with a fury that announces its arrival to the townsfolk in neighboring towns. Motown with a European accent, the exhaust note is what a NASCAR motor would sound like if Jean Girard was an engineer instead of Ricky Bobby's on-track nemesis.
In a car that lives in the rarified air that the CCXR does, rear-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission seem almost archaic, but are surely welcome to those brave few who value driving purity over electronic assurances that the value of their investment will not be jeopardized by an unscheduled meeting with a Jersey wall. Alas, a paddle-shifted automated manual is in the works for billionaires not cut from that cloth.
The stick is precise, but shifting it requires the kind of heft you would expect of a piece of machinery designed to deal with tractor trailer levels of torque. In this case, 678 pound-feet of the good stuff. Astonishingly for a vehicle of this magnitude, the clutch pedal is relatively light and engages without much fuss, eliminating the red-faced fear of stalling the CCXR in front of the starry-eyed teenagers in the souped-up Honda Civic that just pulled up next to you at a red light.
Likewise, the power delivery is smooth, linear, and so easily controlled by the throttle pedal that the inclusion of a traction control system with five adjustable levels of intervention almost seems superfluous. This coming from someone who noticed it was in the highest setting and decided that was probably the best place to leave it on a first outing.
While I was hardly able to scratch the surface of what the CCXR is capable of, I did my best within the limitations of this test drive and the letter of the law to taste as much of it as I could. An Absolut martini is sewer water in comparison.
Flooring the accelerator is plainly cataclysmic, and something I couldn't do for very long at any one time since the CCXR can reach 60 mph in 3 seconds and best the top speed of the Tesla, 124 mph, in less than 10. The power is aided in this quest for velocity by a chassis that is largely constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum, keeping the overall weight of the car to 2,821 pounds, fully 503 pounds less than the Corvette ZR1.
The lightness pays added benefits in curves and corners where the electro-hydraulic power steering and Flintstone-series tires toss the CCXR around like a laser pointer, while the double-wishbone suspension keeps it on an even keel. For a car with such a prodigious amount of rubber and less than four inches of ground clearance, the CCXR offers a remarkably comfortable ride on roads in serious need of some stimulus money, too.
The brakes are as firm as granite, with no play in the pedal. When you step on it the 15-inch front and 14-inch rear Brembos slow things down faster than running into that Jersey barrier you've been trying to avoid.
But what is most remarkable about the CCXR is not what it does, but what it is capable of doing.
Unlike a flex fuel Ford F-150 pickup or Chrysler Town and Country minivan, the CCXR isn't content just doing its part for the environment when it’s running on the yellow stuff. Taking advantage of the higher octane rating of E85, the Koenigsegg's computer ups the boost on the superchargers which produces a bump in output to 1018 horsepower and 740 lb-ft of torque.
No, you read that correctly, and yes, OMG is the correct text message to describe your reaction to it.
Unfortunately, E85 is still pretty hard to come by in the Northeast, and the CCXR didn't have any in the tank the day I drove it. That's probably for the best as I may have been too intimidated to ask her to dance if she did. But mark my words, if she ever returns my calls, the next time we go out we will be drinking corn juice, even if I have to drive her all the way to Indiana to get some.
It shouldn't take too long.
2009 Koenigsegg CCXR
Base Price: $1,200,000
Type: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-door
Engine: 4.7L twin supercharged V8
Power: 806 hp, 678 lb-ft torque (gasoline)/1018 hp, 740 lb-ft torque (E85)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Estimated Fuel Economy: 11 mpg combined (E85)
What do you think of the CCXR?
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