Bentley Officially Announces The End Of The World’s Most Mental Engine

Goodbye, W12.

A car drifts around a racetrack.

We knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow: Bentley has officially announced that they’re ceasing production of its iconic W12 engine by April 2024, marking an end of an era both for the storied British manufacturer as well as the internal combustion engine more broadly.

The writing’s been on the wall for the W12 for a while. In 2020, the British government announced they would be ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030 – meaning all British manufacturers had to electrify and electrify fast.

Bentley has already been moving towards electrification anyway, with the brand introducing hybrid versions of its best-selling Bentayga SUV and Flying Spur limousine: when production of the W12 ceases next year, Bentley’s entire model line will be available with the option of a hybrid powertrain.​

When we had the chance to drive the W12-powered Bentley Continental GT Speed last year, it was a bittersweet moment. While it felt like a fitting send-off for the W12 as well as petrol Bentleys more broadly, it was just that – a send-off.

Thankfully, Bentley’s W12 has one final act.

Going out with a bang

A blue car speeding down a highway.
The Bentley Mulliner Batur. This ultra-exclusive car gives us a hint at Bentley’s future aesthetic direction.

The W12 might not be long for this world, but Bentley has also revealed that development work has concluded on the most powerful version of the W12 ever created.

The ultimate iteration of this mighty engine – which will be available exclusively in the Bentley Mulliner Batur, of which all 18 examples have already been sold – will make an almighty 552kW and 1,000Nm of torque, Bentley confirms.

The hand-built, AU$2.8 million Batur will be Bentley’s most powerful petrol car ever: Bentley hasn’t put a number on it, but considering that the Continent GT Speed (which ‘only’ makes 485kW/900Nm) does 0 to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 335 km/h, we can expect the Batur to be legendarily fast.

If the Continental GT Speed was the final song for the W12, consider the Batur to be an encore, and a proper one at that.

A huge car engine being made in a factory.
The W12 engine that will make its way into the Batur.

The history of the Bentley W12 engine

Effectively two of Volkswagen’s famous VR6 engines joined at the hip on a single crankshaft, Bentley’s W12 engine is unlike any other power unit in any other production car. Incredibly smooth yet rev-happy and dynamic, it’s an absolutely bonkers bit of engineering.

As we alluded to above, the engine was originally a VW design (strictly speaking, we should call it a WR12 engine) and has also found use in the Audi A8, Volkswagen Phaeton and Touareg as well as the Spyker C12. But Bentley really made the W12 their own – firstly, by attaching twin turbochargers to the damn thing, beefing up the power even further, but also by introducing other own modifications, such as an old-fashioned dipstick.

Only a handful of vehicle manufacturers have ever tried making W12 engines. Most W12s were designed as aircraft engines: for example, British firm Napier’s three-bank W12 Lion engine, which was made from 1917 to the late 1930s and is perhaps the second-most famous W12 engine, was designed as an aircraft engine but also saw use in land-speed record cars at the time.

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A huge car engine being tested in a factory.
The Bentley W12 being tested in Crewe, England.

The 1990 Formula 1 World Championship also saw the ill-fated team Life experiment with a three-bank W12 engine, which was so unreliable and underpowered that the team only lasted a single season in the sport. In short, W12 engines are rare: it’s hard to make them work.

The Volkswagen Group was the only company that ever to mass-produce a W12, with most being made by Bentley: by April 2024, more than 100,000 examples of the iconic W12 will have been handcrafted in the company’s Dream Factory in Crewe, England, making it officially the most-successful W12 engine of all time.