The news broke earlier this week that the tiny Swedish supercar
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manufacturer Koenigsegg with the slogan: "If you haven't seen the future, you haven't driven fast enough", which makes the beautiful and ferocious CCX supercar, has purchased the ailing SAAB, which is also a Swedish automaker but has been under the ownership of GM since 1991.
This is big news. An unprecedented "merger" in all of automotive history.
In every previous example of automakers changing hands and answering to new owners, it has always been a large automaker that typically mass-produces cars for the general public that buys out the smaller and more obscure automaker that produces exotic or quirky cars that appeal only to a small part of the driving population.
In this case, Koenigsegg, an automaker which employs all of 45 people, which builds cars that exceed 320 km/h that cost over 1 million USD each, at a rate of 18 units per year has bought SAAB, an automaker that employs over 3,000 people.
Nevertheless, if Koenigsegg injects some of its own remarkable automotive insight and engineering prowess into SAAB, then I truly believe we will see one of the greatest resurgences of intelligent and progressive automobile manufacturing of the 21st century.
I like SAAB. Well, I did anyway. I liked SAAB when they used to build quirky, anti-status-quo, and well-engineered cars. I admit that the original SAAB 900 of the 80s and early 90s was a bit too idiosyncratic with its backwards engine (yes, the engine was backwards.
The clutch was easier to change than the drivebelts, but I like the things that made SAAB unique: for example, their dedication to turbocharging technology (which has been proven time and again to not just boost engine power but overall efficiency as well) and their center-console-mounted ignition switches (since many front-impact injuries occur from the driver's knee hitting the ignition switch, A unique SAAB safety feature).
Unfortunately, under GM's horrendous leadership, SAAB is forced to rummage through GM parts bins and blueprints, slap their own badges on them, and claim they're "born from jets."
The only SAAB design remaining in their current lineup is the 2.3L four cylinder "Ecopower" engine in the 9-5. That is actually a very old Saab design that hearkens back all the way to the aforementioned SAAB 900. Although a 2.3L 4cyl engine doesn't sound like much in a high-end car like the 9-5, it's healthily turbocharged to 260hp. While a 9-5 doesn't post quite as good of 0-100 or top speed numbers as its BMW and Mercedes competitors, it is notorious for one thing: midrange power. A Saab 9-5 can accelerate from 65-115 kph in 2nd gear faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo. If your commute to work involves merging onto the highway, no luxury sedan is more capable of the task.
Unfortunately though, that's the only shining star in Saab's lineup. The 9-5, regardless of its magnificent engine, is built on a European GM chassis, the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra, which is known as being one of the worst-handling front-wheel-drive cars of all time. The 9-3 is a GM Epsilon platform, shared with the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura.
Decent cars they may be, but they're no world-class sports sedans. The base engine in the 9-3 is a 2.0L turbo four cylinder engine which is essentially an GM Ecotec engine; the Aero has a 2.8L turbo V6, again a GM engine, and an old one at that. The now-defunct 9-2X sports wagon was just a rebadged Subaru Impreza, reminiscent of GM's interest in Subaru a few years ago.
Clearly, Saab needs help, and it's not going to come from Government Motors.
Koenigsegg was founded in 1994 by Christian von Koenigsegg, a 21-year-old entrepreneur who was inspired as a child to manufacture supercars by a puppet film about race cars. In 2002, Koenigsegg introduced its first supercar, the CC8S. Powered by a supercharged 4.7L Ford 'Modular' V8, it accelerated to 100 kph in 3.5 seconds and achieved a staggering 389 kph, which made it the fastest supercar in the world until the 407 kph Bugatti Veyron was introduced in 2006.
But Koenigsegg wasn't out of the game by any means. It did something virtually unheard of in the modern automotive world: it developed its own engine. The new 4.7L V8 is designed from valve covers to oil pan by Koenigsegg, is force fed by twin centrifugal superchargers, is lubricated by an externally-cooled dry-sump oil system, and is capable of producing an astounding 806 horse power on US-issue 91-octane pump gas. Even more impressive, however, is its ability to run on an E85 ethanol blend, which increases its horsepower figure 25%, up to an unimaginable 1018 horse power. That's no typo. One thousand eighteen horsepower.
That engine appears in the CC8S's replacement, the CCX.
BBC Presenter Jeremy Clarkson's comment on hte On the Koenigsegg CCX: “I think Koenigsegg is Swedish for: Oh no, my head has just exploded!”
The CCX's body is a composite of carbon fiber and Kevlar, and its chassis is an aluminum honeycomb structure that boasts extraordinary strength while being extremely lightweight.
The entire car weighs less than 1,3 metric tons, and is extremely aerodynamic with a 0.30 drag coefficient. Much technology from Formula 1 racing is utilized, including using the engine and transmission as a stressed weight-bearing member of the chassis, and traction control borrowed straight from F1 that helps the driver keep the car under control without detracting from the driving experience.
The CCX is currently the world's third-fastest supercar, behind the Bugatti Veyron and the SSC Ultimate Aero. But only the CCX can claim that it is designed from start to finish in-house by its parent manufacturer, as Bugatti is owned by VW and uses a VW engine, and the Ultimate Aero uses a heavily modified Corvette engine.
Clearly, Koenigsegg has the expertise, resources, and technology to be one of the world's greatest supercar manufacturers.
Now, with its new Saab subsidiary, it has the opportunity to pass down some of that automotive excellence to everyday cars that you and I can afford