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Bentley confirms end of W12 production

It’s rare for an engine to define a brand in the 2000s, but that’s exactly what the 6.0-litre W12 did for Bentley’s 21st-century rejuvenation. For many years, the Continental GT and Flying Spur were offered solely (and very successfully) with the 12-cylinder unit, and the most powerful versions – up to the 700hp Supersports – were always the 6.0-litre. Anyone who thought the W12 didn’t sound that great, moreover, was silenced in emphatic fashion by the Pikes Peak car.

The engine has garnered itself quite the reputation over the years, but all good things must come to an end, and Bentley has confirmed the last W12 will leave Crewe in April 2024. This being Bentley, however, and this engine being made in the Dream Factory – their name, not ours – the big lump is not going quietly. The final iteration of it is in the Batur; you might remember a power figure was suggested only to be ‘more than 740hp’ when revealed last year. Now that final figure has been confirmed as a mighty 750hp at 5,500rpm, which seems an appropriately gargantuan output for this engine to sign off with. The Batur will also boast a mighty 737lb ft, all the way from 1,750rpm to 5,000rpm. The W12 experience has always been defined by a monstrous mid-range, so these sorts of numbers only seem right.

It’s easy to think of the 6.0-litre being the same engine since its first use in the 2003 Continental GT, but it’s been kept fresh over the years. Bentley says that it’s 54 per cent torquier than in 2003 – it was launched with 479lb ft and will sign off with 737lb ft, which is impressive, especially so given a 25 per cent reduction in emissions as well. The W12’s most significant overhaul came with the launch of the Bentayga in 2015 (what a great pairing of car and engine that was), which is the engine that remains in production now, with the introduction of twin-scroll turbos, cylinder deactivation, and direct and port injection.

Despite that, though, it was clear that even the cleanest 12-cylinder engine wasn’t going to align with Bentley’s Beyond100 plan. As it strives to create a lineup for the 2030s that doesn’t emit a single gram of carbon dioxide, so the W12 must go. Its line, and the 6.5 hours per engine invested, will now become part of an expanded area for production of the V8 and V6 Hybrid. The folk who build the W12s will be retrained and redeployed in Bentley, presumably with black armbands on for a good few months after. More cheerily, it should be noted that the Bentley PHEVs have apparently exceeded expectations in terms of demand. When the W12 is finally wound up, every Bentley in production will be offered with a plug.

Adrian Hallmark, Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Exec, said of the W12’s passing: “Our progressive journey towards sustainable luxury mobility means making changes to every area of Bentley Motors. When we first launched the W12 back in 2003, we knew we had a mighty engine that would propel both our cars and the brand forwards at speed. 20 years and more than 100,000 W12s later, the time has come to retire this now-iconic powertrain as we take strides towards electrification – but not without giving it the best send-off possible, with the most powerful version of the engine ever created.”

Those still after a new W12 Bentley can still get one, though ‘very few’ order slots are said to be available. Of course, with more than 105,000 units delivered over 20 years, there are plenty to pick from secondhand, from £12k mega brave pill all the way to £300k Pikes Peak tribute. The latest and greatest Speed, perhaps the best Bentley to house the W12 over the years, can be bought for £200k – it really will feel worth every penny.

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