Watch Christian von Koenigsegg Explain How The CC850 Has Both A Manual And An Automatic

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The ESS is lighter and stronger than just about any transmission on the planet, and that's not even its party trick.

This past weekend, Koenigsegg unveiled the CC850, an homage to its first production car, the CC8S. It looks absolutely amazing, and the explosive engine in it is similar to that of the Jesko, just with smaller turbos for even more shocking throttle response and acceleration. Producing 1,363 horsepower on E85, the 5.0-liter V8 engine is mated to an evolution of the Swedish hypercar manufacturer's Light Speed Transmission (LST).

The system in the CC850 is called the Engage Shift System (ESS), and it's been so named because it acts as both a fully autonomous nine-speed automatic and a gated six-speed manual that you can shift yourself using an engaging clutch pedal. What's more, you can switch between manual and auto on the fly and as you please, simply by moving the shifter where you want. The last two gates that the manual lever operates in allow access to reverse and drive, or automatic mode.

So how does it work? The below video follows company founder Christian von Koenigsegg as he explains.

Naturally, CvK is not giving us all the details of his proprietary new technology, but there's enough to give us a broad understanding. Before we get there, some background.

The existing LST is a nine-speed super-quick automatic transmission. There are three shafts in here, each with three gears that are all permanently engaged. Seven wet, multi-plate clutches handle gear changes, and each of these has its own pressure sensors and hydraulic actuators to open and close as required. The entire system is very complex, but the gearbox only weighs 198 pounds, making it lighter than a manual, which is already lighter than a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) or a torque converter automatic. It's also half the size of a DCT but can handle more torque than pretty much any manual or DCT out there, bar perhaps that of the Bugatti Chiron and its variants.

In this gearbox, jumping from sixth to third, for example, is possible without over-revving. The transmission perfectly matches the revs and can instantly jump to the lowest possible gear without damaging anything. These innovations have paved the way for the ESS transmission of the CC850.

Gearbox Controls Koenigsegg Driver Seat Koenigsegg
Gearbox Controls
Driver Seat

The system is essentially a "clutch-by-wire," says CvK. You have a clutch pedal that provides the exact same pressure that unloading the springs in Koenigsegg's older, traditional manual-equipped cars would require. When you use your left leg, a sensor tells the transmission when the clutch pedal is depressed and by how much, which means that the system could have been developed to provide no resistance or without a pedal at all. However, that would rid you of the authentic feel of a real manual.

Similarly, the gated shifter, which we'll get to in a moment, has been developed to provide force feedback that perfectly mimics what you'd experience in a conventional manual car. Koenigsegg wants this gearbox to provide an experience that is like a mix of a Ferrari gated shifter and a Mazda MX-5 Miata's natural-feeling, intuitive shift engagement. Basically, he wants it to be the finest shifting experience on the planet.


In a regular manual transmission, engaging the clutch/releasing the pedal too quickly gives the drivetrain a bit of a jolt and causes the system to feel lethargic as inertia, the transfer of heat, and the friction of pressure plates all become blatantly obvious. In addition, it's possible that you could stall the car if you get it wrong. In the CC850, the car is intentionally designed to include those perceived flaws in the operating experience, further enhancing that authentic feel. Yes, you can stall this hypercar, and it's by design.

Moreover, you cannot pull the shifter out of gear unless the clutch pedal is depressed enough and/or the car detects that your revs are low enough to sustain a downshift to the next gear. Basically, this means that the car will lock the shifter in place if the engine is revving too high, but the moment it feels that you won't break anything, it will allow you to force the shifter out of its current slot without using the clutch pedal, just as you can in a traditional manual. If you've ever roasted a clutch and don't have roadside assistance, you understand what this feels like.

Dashboard Koenigsegg Instrument Cluster Koenigsegg
Instrument Cluster

But hang on, wouldn't a nine-speed automatic have totally different ratios to a six-speed manual? Are we looking at two gearboxes with some sort of mechanical switchover linkage? You're using the nine-speed LST auto at all times, but when you're in Normal mode and using the manual side, "1st gear" is actually the LST's 2nd. Interestingly, this 2nd gear is shorter than 1st is in Koenigsegg's traditional manuals of previous cars. Moving up, 2nd is actually the LST's 4th gear, 3rd is 6th, and the final three ratios are the same for both manual and auto modes.

But when you're not in Normal mode and switch the car to Track mode yet still want to row your own gears, the ESS becomes more aggressive. In Track, the manual's 1st gear uses the LST's 3rd because the taller gear allows you to get up to speed in the pit lane without necessitating a gear change. And it does all this with an engine that doesn't even have a flywheel.

Whichever mode you're in, you won't catch the gearbox sleeping. The gated shifter's movements signal to the ESS which set of clutches to prepare those for 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th, or those for 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th.

Front View Driving Koenigsegg Rear View Driving Koenigsegg
Front View Driving
Rear View Driving

This is yet another technological marvel that once again puts Koenigsegg at the forefront of automotive innovation, but guess what? Christian explains that the team back in Angelholm has already found improvements to make and is on its third version of this gearbox. According to Christian, "it's already unbelievably close to the perfect manual experience." Don't worry - production cars will get the latest version.

Another cool feature is that, in manual mode, you need the clutch when you select reverse. But if you're already in automatic mode and want to back the car up, you don't, perfectly mimicking both a traditional manual and auto.

Clearly, Koenigsegg has found a way to reset the bar for hypercars, despite putting it at stratospheric heights already. We can't even imagine what's next, but we'd bet Koenigsegg will melt our brains again soon.

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