October 19, 2017
Koenigsegg Crashes Bugatti's Party
I’m certain by now you’ve all heard about Koenigsegg’s new 0-400-0 record, set on October 1. It’s been a couple weeks since then and the buzz in the media has died down a bit. But surely you were wondering what your second-favorite Koenigsegg website might have to say about it? Second-favorite after the official factory website, that is!
It’s been just over two years since Koenigsegg set an official 0-300km/h-0 record in a One:1 (#106). Since then, no manufacturer has gone after their 17-second time, presumably either because they simply didn’t have the firepower, or just didn’t care. Enter Bugatti’s new Chiron. For reasons unbeknownst to anyone outside of Bugatti, there won’t be a top speed attempt with the Chiron until next year. Still, it seems the folks in Molsheim were eager to create some press for their new project, so they devised a new test: standstill to 400km/h, and back to a stop.
They even invited a retired F1 driver along to be the wheelman, because that just ups the cool factor. The Chiron completed the 0-400-0 in 42 seconds. So proud were Bugatti that along with the mandatory press release, they commissioned a bunch of “42” stickers and whatnot to affix to the car.
Now, 42 seconds to 400 and back is nothing to scoff at. Only 11 years ago the mere idea of a car that could even get to 400 was kind of a pipe dream. Surely Bugatti trumpeted their achievement so loudly because they figured it to be unbreakable, at least until their own Chiron Super Sport comes around.
Bugatti stands nearly alone as the only manufacturer currently building production cars capable of even getting to 400km/h. But as you’re aware, there’s a small company headed by a madman (I mean that in the most complimentary sense) up there in Sweden building some pretty fast cars of its own. Did Bugatti forget about them?
I’m certain they didn’t. But I also think that Bugatti believed Koenigsegg was not prepared to go after the 0-400-0 number, or at least not so soon after the Chiron had set the mark. After all, it had been over two years since a Koenigsegg had set a record of any sort, and the Nurburgring attempt didn’t end so well. I’ve been around the Koenigsegg fan game long enough to read what the detractors frequently say: Koenigseggs look impressive and have big horsepower numbers, but most of their claims are unproven, they aren’t good track cars, they have no press demos, Christian is reluctant to have his cars tested, blah blah blah. Bugatti likely reads all this too, and consequently probably felt pretty safe with their 42. And anyway, they own the world’s best (only?) sandbox for this sort of play.
I can just picture Christian reading the Bugatti press release and saying, “Hmm. Well then…” and then getting that same sort of thought train he must get when he comes up with things like a 1500hp hybrid with no gearbox. Luckily for him, he found a comrade-in-arms in the form of one of his U.S. customers, a guy so eager to see if Koenigsegg could lay the smackdown to the Chiron that he basically said, “sure, please take my car and pound the living hell out of it” (which raises the question, is a break-in period even necessary for a Koenigsegg?).
So off Koenigsegg went on a few days notice with an Agera RS fresh out of the paint shop, to a random abandoned airfield in Denmark. Just a few guys and some cameras and one serious automobile. The factory test driver gave it the beans to 400km/h, and then went on to 250mph since he was in the neighborhood, and hauled it down to a stop again with a few meters to spare. Thirty-seven seconds. Thirty-six and change to be honest but let’s round up in fairness to the Chiron.
As I stated previously, there’s only two companies in the world presently even capable of playing this game. So how do you suppose Bugatti felt when the only possible competitor took 12% off its unique record, only weeks after puffing their chest about it? And what I like even more, is the video that Koenigsegg gave the world to prove it. No glorious cinematography, no music-video edits, no F1 star, just up the gauge and back.
The Chiron is an impressive piece, I don’t mean to discount it at all. But I can’t see Bugatti coming back particularly soon with a counterpunch. This production version of the “base” Chiron is already finalized; any more-potent Super Sport version is a few years off, that’s how product cycles work. It would seem Bugatti will have to concede this one to Koenigsegg for a while. As a Koenigsegg fan, you have to admit this is a pretty fun time.
One last tidbit: Upon reaching 250mph, the Agera RS in question set a new official top speed record for a Koenigsegg of any kind. What’s even more startling is that the test driver never shifted into seventh.