Musings on the Motoring World

Why Koenigsegg Jesko’s 9-speed LST gearbox is a big deal

For the successor of a car that held five production car records, Koenigsegg’s Jesko (“Yes-co”) certainly fired up the public’s imagination with its amazing collection of figures. 1177kW from a new flat-plane twin-turbo V8, max downforce of 1400kg for a car with a kerb weight of 1420kg, and a possible top speed of over 480km/h should a capable tyre come around. All for an asking price that resembles a sovereign debt figure.

Raw performance aside, the Jesko’s chief technical achievement isn’t its glorious engine, but its gearbox. The Jesko’s nine-speed Light Speed Transmission (LST) promises to not only deliver faster shift times than a conventional dual-clutch but tips the scales at just 90kg, able to bear the brunt of the engine’s 1500Nm without turning the clutch into a metallic slurry, and is half the size of the seven-speeder used in its predecessor.

If that isn’t impressive enough, the LST’s internal machinations is a demonstration of a clean sheet design that is worth of an entire tome unto itself. Key to the LST’s design is that it doesn’t have one or two clutches to juggle around nine gears, but seven clutches that operate six forward gears arranged on three shafts. Each ratio isn’t a single gear but a combination of three gears – with drive being channelled through a gear on each of the three shafts – delivering a compounding effect.

This arrangement not only allows for a very compact package, but enables the LST to skip gears simply by switching one of the gears on one of the three shafts, instead of having to flick through the gear set like a conventional auto or dual-clutch, thus allowing the gearbox to pick out the optimal gear ratio whenever it needs.

Engineering aside, what makes the LST truly stand out in the hypercar fraternity is that it was developed and built in-house, by a boutique car maker, who is operating out of an unused military facility. That in itself is something worthy of note in today’s environment of parts-sharing.

Designing one’s own engine is – and always will be – a badge of pride for any car maker and no car of recent memory has demonstrated this better than the Toyota’s GR Supra, which whipped the enthusiast community into a frenzy of jeers at the news of its BMW-derived inline-six heart. By contrast, development of a proprietary gearbox – at least in the public eye – hardly brings much prestige to the brand or product.

Many esteemed names have long since outsourced their transmissions to various specialists, from Aisin to ZF Friedrichshafen. Some aren’t even apprehensive when it comes to naming their supplier, knowing full well that the name recognition alone would give customers confidence in their product and a certain level of expectation. Even big names like Bugatti turn to Ricardo, as Ferrari has to Getrag, for their shifters. Though such trends are no fault of the car makers.

As the twin market forces of competition and demand continue to exert pressure on car development and manufacturing cost, coupled with the rapid emergence of electric powertrains, the romanticised image of engineering titans like Jean Bugatti and Soichiro Honda building cars based on technical intuition rather than financial spreadsheets are snapshots of a bygone era as manufacturers seek synergies in partnerships and cost efficiencies. Even the symbolic significance of an in-house developed engine, the last and ultimate symbol of a car maker’s core identity and competency, is steadily fading away along with much of the stigma parts-sharing had in 1980s.

It won’t be long till the car market will be a sea of genetically-identical crossovers all dressed up in different frocks, and when such a time comes we shouldn’t be asking ourselves where did all the variety go but whether anyone notices it was gone in the first place. However, if we consider ourselves to be standing on the edge of the cliff and looking towards a bleak horizon where marketing compensates engineering substance, then avert your eyes to the Jesko and revel in Koenigsegg’s engineering achievement, because it is nothing short of the pinnacle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *