I currently own a four-cylinder Honda Civic Hybrid, a BMW 335 coupe with an in-line twin-turbo six, a V8 Mercedes E63 and a V10 VW Touareg. Clearly, I need a car equipped with a V12. The effects of owning five vehicles with engines in the 4-6-8-10-12 sequence could unlock the secrets of the universe, or at least reveal the meaning of the Fibonacci Numbers. On the other hand, this could be another telltale sign that I have more money than sense. Regardless, I’m on the prowl.
Warning: if you’ve never sampled a V12 automobile, back off Jack. The configuration combines the tractability of a diesel with the endless thrust of a Saturn V rocket booster. My predilection for V12’s predates NASA (and my driving license). As a boy, I was fascinated by the greatest weapons of WWII: the P51D Mustang (powered by a Packard-built V12 Merlin engine) and the King Tiger tank (powered by a V12 Maybach engine). OK, “greatest” may not be the best word; cheaper, simpler, lighter engines did more for the war effort than these battling behemoths. But my God, what a noise!
What a hangover! The depreciation suffered by owners of V12 automobiles is like a bad night in Vegas that lasts several years– with one of those "pay nothing now and no interest until there sure as Hell is" deals thrown in for good measure. Even if you can afford to take the hit, it's an embarassing penalty for anyone who knows how to make enough money to afford to take the hit. Though none of the V12 powered cars I’ve owned ever gave me a hint of mechanical trouble, they’ve all scrubbed significant numbers from my net worth at both ends of the ownership experience.
Alas, my future possibilities are limited. Neither Japan nor America builds a mass-produced V12 automobile. Thankfully, that means I won’t have to listen to Lexus fans’ whining about my Germanic proclivities (at least until the new LS 600h is released, which supposedly simulates V12 power). And it’s not really that much of a sacrifice to restrict my search to automobiles manufactured in Italy, Germany and Britain.
First up: the 612 Scaglietti. The $260k Ferrari stables 540 normally aspirated horses in a front mid-engined chassis weighing a skosh more than two tons. I even sort of like the way it looks. There’s one insurmountable problem: an F1 style transmission. The paddle shifter is entirely out of place in a grand touring car for old rich guys too lazy to shift anymore. And as well compensated for my work as I am, I'm reluctant to spend condo money on a car.
The Lamborghini Murcielago is even more expensive and less comfortable. Which leaves a used Ferrari 456M. The shape is sexy, it has a real automatic and lightly used examples (aren’t they all these days?) can be purchased for around $100k. Unfortunately, even though the 456M weighs less than 4000 pounds and packs nearly 440 ponies, the 0 – 60 performance exceeds five seconds. That’s more traffic light humiliation than I can handle.
For V12-o-philes, the Brits offer the Bentley Continental variations and the Aston Martin DB9. Used examples can be found in the $120k’s, but each suffers from serious flaws.
The Bentley boys give me flashbacks; I suddenly remember my old VW Phaeton and the price tag seems ridiculous. Plus the Bentley doesn’t have a proper V12 (it’s a W-12 powerplant combining two VW V6 engines). And three tons is more than I want to drag around, no matter how tasty the interior. The DB9 is gorgeous; I have pictures of it on my computer. But experience has taught me that admiring Astons from afar is the best way to savor their mechanical genius. Did I mention that the V12 in the Aston was created by bonding two Ford V6’s together?
Willkommen in Deutschland, again. Audi, BMW and Mercedes all offer V12’s in their full sized sedans. The Mercedes S65 is the obvious pick of this litter, but I struggle to lust for something that ordinary looking. For my money, the Mercedes SL600 and the CL600 are the best two V12 powered cars available for sensible money. I’ve owned and loved an SL600 previously, so, for novelty reasons, the 2007 Mercedes CL600 is the winner.
The CL600 is extravagant in every sense of the word. It extends 200 inches from snout to tail. It boasts exaggerated wheel wells, a CLS-style rear and a gorgeous interior. It weighs in at a svelte 4890 pounds. The twin-turbo V12 makes 510 horsepower and generates 612 pound-feet of torque; catapulting the monster from 0 – 60 in 4.5 seconds. All this for a mere $144,975. I can even lease one for a little less than my house payment!
So now my life is nearly perfect. Will Mr. Lutz please resurrect Cadillac’s plans for the Sixteen Concept? Much obliged.