What is this?
This is the latest and greatest hypercar from the substantial mind of Christian von Koenigsegg. It’s called the Jesko – named after his father, who helped him get the company off the ground 28 years ago – and you can order it in Attack (as driven here) or Absolut spec.
The former is all about downforce, cornering speeds and lap times, the latter is slightly softened off, features aerodisc rear wheels and ditches the wing and massive front splitter for less drag and more vmax. Only 125 Jeskos (both Absolut and Attack) will be built, at a rate of around 30 to 40 a year, costing around £2.85m. And you guessed it, they’re all sold out.
How did you get your hands on one?
A moment of opportunism at Monterey Car Week. We’ve been pestering Koenigsegg for a go relentlessly ever since we visited the factory to see the original Jesko show car being built, way back in April 2019. Eventually they cracked and threw us the keys in one of the most unlikely situations.
Essentially, we were on logistics duty, driving the Jesko away from the chaotic Exotics on Broadway event and back to Koenigsegg’s HQ for the week in the hills behind Pebble Beach – a stolen 30-minute stint on a combination of motorway and wiggly bits.
Not that we were complaining, any chance to have a go in something this rarefied and packed with experimental technology is one worth taking. Consider this an amuse bouche, not least because we had speed limits to think about… we’ll be back for a bigger bite of the Jesko soon.
Experimental technology you say?
This is a Koenigsegg isn’t it? The basics are as you’d expect for a £2m+ land rocket: carbon bodywork, carbon tub (with some of the most beautiful exposed carbon weave we’ve ever seen, despite this being a development prototype), hollow carbon wheels (less than 7kg per corner), carbon ceramic brakes clamped by in-house designed calipers, 1,000kg of downforce at 171mph (compared to 150kg of max downforce on the Absolut) and an interior that’s fairly sparse: a portrait screen in the dash, a couple of cup holders, an instrument screen attached to the steering wheel that stays level even as you wind the lock on, and more space for two than any Koenigsegg that’s gone before.
But there’s nothing basic about the powertrain. The 5.1-litre, twin-turbo, flat-plane crank V8 is an absolute monster, producing 1,578bhp (on E85, you get 1,262bhp on standard super unleaded), 1,106lb ft of torque and revs to its redline of 8,500rpm in 0.2 seconds, faster than any other production engine in the world for reasons that will soon become clear.
A proprietary air injection system that livened up the turbos instantly to reduce lag was in the initial spec, too, but was scrapped when they decided turbo response was plenty sharp enough.
And the engine isn’t even the most impressive bit – that award goes to the new nine-speed Light Speed Transmission (LST) that laughs in the general direction of a twin-clutch ‘box. It features six individual clutches for the forward gears and a seventh for reverse, so all gears are constantly engaged and ready. And the benefits are many. Not only can you jump from one gear to any of the others, but it’s also smaller and two-thirds the weight of a comparable double-clutcher, plus it means the engine doesn’t need a flywheel, hence its appetite for revving like a superbike. Hit the throttle in neutral and the way it smashes into the limiter then plummets back down to idle has to be seen to be believed.
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Let’s start with the engine, shall we?
It would be rude not to. Close the always-entertaining, motorised dihedral synchro-helix actuation doors, place the shield-shaped key into its magnetic holster in the dash, fire it up and the engine rips into life before settling to an over-caffeinated idle. We slot it into manual, pull the paddle for first and roll away, trying not to flatten the dispersing crowd and supercar spotters jogging next to us.
Right away, you can tell this car is a whisker away from full production because the low-speed behaviour is spot on, easy as anything to crawl around in and the throttle beautifully mapped so you can sense its razor sharp readiness, but it's easy to keep things smooth up to 30mph. Unglamorous stuff, sure, but worth noting when the Jesko’s theoretical top speed sits north of 300mph. The bandwidth is astonishing.
A sliproad. First chance to rev it out in second gear and, wow, this is an engine with anger issues that revs every bit as hard, and responds almost as quickly, as a naturally aspirated motor, but with all the punch of a twin-turbo slugger. CvK appears to have looked at the drawback of every available engine technology in turn, then found a way to circumnavigate them. The gearbox does its job brilliantly, indecipherable from the very best twin-clutch boxes at these speeds, although the paddles could do with a longer-stroke and more satisfying action. We’re assured that fix is already on the way. The steering is rapid ratio and whipcrack light – an appropriate match for the zingy V8.
And in the corners?
Nimble, lobbable, really good fun despite its substantial width, but then US roads are more forgiving in that regard than UK B-roads. Not sure we were troubling the front and rear triplex dampers (designed to eliminate squat and dive under hard acceleration and braking) but it’s an immensely satisfying car to thread down a road. Comfy too, relatively speaking, although we’ll need to get it on some really terrible surfaces first to confirm that one.
A great big thumbs up?
Double thumbs from us, because in a world awash with new super and hypercars wearing multi-million-pound price tags, Koenigsegg still stands apart. Its combination of technology that challenges the norm, gorgeous craftsmanship, performance numbers to scramble even the most sceptical minds and useability, is unique. And on first acquaintance the Jesko appears to be the best of everything Christian von Koenigsegg has built his brand on. Hopefully we can confirm that hunch with an extended road and track drive soon.