This 34.6-Liter X12 Engine Is a Terrifically Weird 2,000-HP Tank Motor

It’s hard to say why they built it this way, but at least it’s neat to look at.

byRob Stumpf|
12N360 Engine
via Facebook
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Engines come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. The majority of cars on the road today use the tried and true inline-four, but it wasn't long ago that the norm meant adding (or even doubling) overall cylinder count.

Cylinder layout also varies by application. Inline and V-configurations are the most common, but others also existed, such as horizontally-opposed engines, and staggered "V" motors (like the Volkswagen Group's "VR" and "W" series motors). Add-in rotaries, radials, and more—you've got no shortage of options. But have you ever heard of a 12-cylinder motor with its cylinders arranged in an X-configuration?

via Facebook

Meet the Chelyabinsk 12N360—the heart of Russia's too-expensive T-14 Armata battle tank, which I was instantly intrigued by when someone posted it to the Apex Automotor Facebook group. This beast of an engine is essentially two diesel-powered V6 engines horizontally opposed to one another, forming an "X" layout with a whopping 34.6 liters of displacement.

The 12N360, also called the A-85-3A, makes 1,500 horsepower on a conservative tune, but is capable of providing more than 2,000 horsepower at the cost of a decreased service life all the way up to its redline of 2,000 rpm. With its normal power output, the engine is said to last a minimum of around 2,000 hours, while its power output can be decreased for a longer 10,000 service hours at 1,200 horsepower. At its max power output, the engine consumes around 98 gallons of diesel per hour of use.

That much power and displacement means one massive engine. In fact, the entire unit weighs around 3,300 pounds, which is almost the same as a 2023 Toyota GR Supra. But that's nothing compared to the absolute unit that the engine is powering.

The 12N360 found a home in Russia's T-14 Armata when it was introduced back in 2015. The modernized battle tank, which has only recently appeared in use with Ukraine due to massive per-unit production costs, weighs in around 50-plus tons. And when coupled to a 16-speed gearbox (that's eight forward and eight reverse gears), the engine is capable of propelling the military vehicle at speeds of up to 50 mph in both directions.

It's not clear why the Russians decided to go with this oddball X-layout over a traditional V-configuration. Perhaps packaging considerations were the driving force, or, maybe there were balancing concerns that couldn't be satisfied with an V-engine.

Regardless of the reasoning, it's pretty cool that such a weird configuration exists. Many other automakers have toyed with the idea of an X-layout, but none have come to fruition in a modern road-going vehicle—and with the rise of electrification, it's unlikely that one ever will.

Still, it's fun to dream.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: rob@thedrive.com

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