When gearheads talk about cars with the most powerful 3-cylinder engines, the Koenigsegg Gemera cradling a 2.0-liter twin-turbo 3-cylinder mill is bound to dominate the conversation. Why? Unveiled in the fall of 2020 via an online streaming event, the car is the Swedish luxury carmaker’s first major production 4-seater as it rocked a rather compact engine accompanied by an e-tri-motor configuration; an AWD hybrid powertrain, a first for Koenigsegg.
Why is it important? The Gemera is not your average 3-cylinder engine. It is technically more powerful than Mercedes’ 416 horsepower M139 4-cylinder – the most powerful in the world. Koenigsegg dominates the 3-cylinder pantheon with superior displacement and superior technology.
The camless engine features a Freevalve system that allows independent control of the intake and exhaust valves. It chooses, on its own, how to operate the valves based on driving conditions and when performance or fuel economy is optimal, resulting in better engine control and resulting in meaningful performance and ecological benefits. He is a very special, tiny and friendly giant.
Meet the friendly little giant: the 3-cylinder engine of the Koenigsegg
The Koenigsegg 3-cylinder in-line (3-cylinder) engine, also known as the Koenigsegg TFG (Tiny Friendly Giant), is a Freevalve engine that, instead of camshafts, uses pneumatic actuators to independently open the engine valves. intake and exhaust depending on driving conditions. Additionally, pneumatic actuators can independently switch the engine between 2-stroke and 4-stroke cycles by controlling the number of power strokes versus the number of idle strokes.
By operating a variable displacement system, i.e. allowing the engine displacement to change by de-energizing the cylinders, the Tiny Friendly Giant enjoys 15-20% improved fuel economy over a variable cam motor. Even more, cold start emissions drop by 60% compared to variable camshaft engines. Variable displacement is not a new engine technology, it has been around for a while. Automakers adopted the system for their large multi-cylinder engines as early as 2005.
The TFG is an ingenious engine technology, and Koenigsegg, through its sister company Cargine Engineering, patented the system already in 2002.
You know that with sequential system turbocharging, the engine uses one turbocharger for low revs and a second or both turbochargers at high revs, eliminating the problem of big turbos giving poor boost at low revs. A Staged Turbo system, on the other hand, works similarly to a sequential turbocharger but with a “staged” approach, increasing air compression to exceptionally high levels before it reaches the engine cylinders.
Notably, Koenigsegg’s TFG comes with a small turbo for one set of exhaust valves and a larger turbo for the other set of exhaust valves, but the twin-turbo is neither a sequential boost system nor storied. Koenigsegg says the Tiny Friendly Giant can handle a humble 300 horsepower without the turbos. It can operate on the Otto, Miller or Atkinson thermodynamic cycle.
Another benefit of TFG’s Freevalve engine technology is the irrelevance of a throttle body, thanks to the excellent valve timing accuracy. Koenigsegg CEO Christian von Koenigsegg explained that when running on Gen 2.0 ethanol, the Tiny Friendly Giant becomes “at least as CO2 neutral as an EV running on renewable electrical sources such as solar or wind. Isn’t it beautiful? Like the brand’s previous grinders, the TFG runs on all major fuels, from E100 to standard gas.
How Koenigsegg’s Tiny 3-Cylinder Engine Generates 600 Horsepower
Koenigsegg’s Tiny Friendly Giant produces a combined 1,700 horsepower and 2,581 pound-feet of torque, aided by three electric motors. It couldn’t be crazier for a supposedly 4-seater family car. However, the Gemera mill is a little giant, not because of its electric motors, but because the 3-cylinder mill alone can generate 600 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.
It was those peppy numbers that crowned the king of the Tiny Friendly Giant three-cylinder engines. It propelled the Gemera hypercar from standstill to 60mph in – wait for it – 1.9 seconds. When was the last time you saw a V8 or V12 doing such a long time? The engine allowed the Gemera to go over 250 mph.
Koenigsegg usually pushes the boundaries of engineering with every new product it releases. We think of the CCR, the successor to the CC8 which gave a red face to the almost mythical McLaren F1. Or the 1,140hp Koenigsegg One:1, successor to the CCXR and the world’s first hypercar with an incredible 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. And then we have the Jesko Absolut with an eye on the top speed crown and boasting a blistering 1,600 horsepower.
Such are the chronicles of Koenigsegg, so the revolutionary Tiny Little Giant does not surprise so much. It’s now abundantly clear that the days of 3-cylinder engines exclusively for urban commuters are over, although we have stricter emissions laws to thank for that.
I can’t imagine our grandfathers thought that day would come when a 3-cylinder engine would generate a thousand horsepower. Did they also anticipate that such power would be environmentally friendly, thanks to the Tiny Friendly Giant’s ability to use ethanol-based fuels, independently deactivate cylinders, and work with three electric motors?
Let’s set the clocks straight. Your typical hybrid has electric motors assisting a dominant gasoline engine, but the reality is the reverse with Koenigsegg’s Gemera. Here, the ICE and the centrally mounted electric motor exclusively power the front axle, while the rear axle is powered by the two remaining electric motors. In this way, the Gemera can be all-wheel drive with torque vectoring on the front and rear axles.
In practice, we should be talking about a massive 2,000 horsepower, but the power is rated at 1,700 horsepower due to various energy losses and different peak performance curves of the ICE and electric motors. Hey, 1,700 horsepower is huge.
Speaking of giants, the name is perfect, especially for the new engine technology where the so-called “tiny” three-cylinders come with a “giant” 95mm bore and 93.5mm stroke, making them actually makes it bigger than the supposedly bigger automaker ones. 5.0 liter V8 engine. Ultimately, TFG is a road-legal 2.0-liter 3-cylinder engine with one thousand seven hundred horsepower.