When it comes to technology that bespeaks uncompromising powertrain sophistication, few concepts get it done as forcefully as a 12-cylinder engine. There’s a guy across the street from here who vintage races an E-Type and an XJS, both with unmuffled Jaguar V-12 power. It’s very enjoyable when he stretches the cats’ legs by blasting up and down the road. You get it. Twelve-cylinder engines have commonly used the vee configuration, meaning that to accommodate one, you usually need a long hood: Think about a 1934 Packard, or a Ferrari 275 GTB/4. Packing twelve cylinders hasn’t always been practical, but there are ways to get it done. Here’s a technically delicious solution from Bentley,
The delightful image from Bentley shows what we’re talking about. A relatively recent strategy for packaging 12 cylinders in compact confines, largely as defined by Bentley, involves adding a third cylinder bank. It’s not easy to pick out visually, but this new 12, earmarked for Bentley’s forthcoming ultra-exclusive Mulliner Bacalar, has a middle cylinder bank rising vertically from the crankshaft bore. Bentley has been doing this for a considerable while, having introduced its first twin-turbocharged W-12 in 2003, and refining the process ever since. So far, the world’s only W-12 to see volume production has been produced by the Volkswagen Group, which happens to own Bentley, and was the source of that 2003 powerplant. It resided in the short-lived luxury Volkswagen Phaeton sedan before being making its way to the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and then back to Volkswagen, where it was offered in the Tourareg. The Mulliner Bacalar engine displaces 6.0 liters and produces 650 horsepower, while also reducing emissions by 28 percent over previous W-12s. Bentley has produced some 100,000 engines of this configuration for Volkswagen Group use at its base in Crewe, England.