The End Is in Sight For the Bentley W12

Bentley's big bruiser will soon be a thing of the past.

Bentley

Automakers used to turn to big engines to power their flagship models, giving them the performance and gravitas expected of a top-tier automobile. However, times change, and the twin threats of new emissions regulations and fuel economy requirements means that larger motors are on the way out. As with others, it's the case at Bentley as well, with the W12 set to retire soon after the company launches its new bespoke Mulliner coachbuilt vehicle, as reported by Autocar.

The engine first appeared in early form in the late 90s, debuting in the wild but oft-forgotten Volkswagen W12 concept car. It then turned up in the production Audi A8, before getting its most famous role under the hood of the Bentley Continental GT. While initially available in naturally-aspirated form delivering around 450 horsepower, the turbocharged versions reached up to 700 horsepower in the Continental Supersports trim.

The W12 engine is expected to be phased out entirely by 2026. Already, its availability has been cut down, and in the Continental range, it's now only available in the top-tier GT Speed models for 2022. Lower-end trims must make do with the V8. 

The engine was a key part of what took Bentley from a small-time manufacturer to delivering over 10,000 cars a year, though it will now be slowly phased out as the company transitions towards an all-electric future. It's nice to see the engine being celebrated by the company, and to see one of its last applications being an exquisite coach-built special.

Bentley

Mulliner's limited-run design is to be based off the Continental GT Coupe, dropping in 2023. However, the car will feature fresh styling to differentiate it from the regular Bentley model, in much the same way as the coach built Bentley Mulliner Bacalar sprung from the Continental GT Convertible. 

Priced from £1.5 to £2 million pounds before customization, the W12 will be present and accounted for, and is expected to deliver 650 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, as per the specs of the Bacalar. Performance should be in the realm of the Continental GT Speed, with a 0-60 time of under 4 seconds and a healthy top speed exceeding 200 mph.

Kristen Lee

The W12 has powered some stunning cars over the years.

Other highlights for the engine over the years include the bonkers VW GTI that got the W12 mill back in 2007. Mid-engined, with the huge donk driving the rear wheels, the car was quick as hell and was somewhat of a handful in the corners. Most of all, though, it's remembered for looking like an absolute boss with the toughest stance we've ever seen on a Volkswagen Golf. 

The W12 engine has had a long life and seen duty in many special cars. The unique design may not earn quite the same reverence as an Italian V12, but it's still a big motor that pulls hard, and one that will be missed. The times, they are a-changin'. 

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com