QOTD: Is The V12 Really Dead?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

“The V12 engine is a thing of the past. The engine belongs in a museum.”

Those are the words of Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren, who spoke to a Dutch publication regarding the future of its supercars. The new Mclaren MP4-12C, with its compact, turbocharged V8, is an impressive machine, but Sheriff may be exaggerating the demise of exotic, multi-cylindered engines.

In a sense, Sheriff is right; the glory days of the V12 are over. There will likely never again be an era where a V12 is casually stuck under the hood of, say, a Jaguar XJ. If anything, we are in a period of downsizing where something with half the number of cylinders is the more likely option.

That’s not to say that the V12 will go the way of the straight-8 or other obscure, exotic engines; it’s far too entrenched in the landscape of the automotive world to ever fade away. Can you really imagine something like a Pagani or a front-engined Ferrari without a V12?

In the 1970’s, the “quartz revolution” came and nearly wiped out mechanical watches. These little circuit-board time pieces were cheaper, more accurate, never needed cleaning or servicing. In every objective sense, they were superior. A mechanical movement was thought to be an arcane bit of craftsmanship destined for the dustbin of human achievement. Yet they endured, carrying on slowly, to the point where a few decades later, a fairly small but dedicated market is thriving for them, in high-end timepieces that most people give zero consideration to, whether they cost $100 or $100,000.

I think this is what will ultimately happen to the V10s, V12s and perhaps, even V8s. Most people will have no use for them. They will be regarded as symbols of profligacy and frivolity. But they will endure and be cherished by a select few.

It’s either that or a hologram…

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3 of 30 comments
  • The Veyron needs a W16 to produce enough power to maintain speeds above 250mph. The V12 is in cars that do ridiculous speeds roughly 99.9999% of us will never do in a car. The V10 and V12 shouldn't exist beyond the exotic car market and the V8 is quickly being phased out of the luxury car market. Either of these engines is fine for trucks though, but Ford's proved you don't need anything larger than a v8 unless it's a diesel.

  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Aug 08, 2012

    All the more reason to have one. The trend toward turbo/supercharged four and six cylinders or smaller is hardly parallel to the mechanical/quartz or digital watch comparison. We've had trends like this before, and when a manufacturer needs to set itself apart or compete with another the number of cylinders will increase once more.

    • Raph Raph on Aug 09, 2012

      Ohhh... Bob Lutz you crafty bastard posting under the nom de plume panzerfaust! Seriously though, panzer you have a point, I can remember my old shop teacher proselytizing over 1.6 liter turbo I4s relegating V8s to the trash bin of history. Then again so did everybody else come to think of it ( back in the 80s) and here we are with 660 horsepower Mustangs and 580 horsepower Camaros that the average guy can buy even in the age of gasoline that dangerously fiddles with five bucks a gallon when our commodity trader overseers feel their wallets lighten the smallest bit,

  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.