Bentley to End W12 Engine Production Next Year
Bentley has confirmed plans to stop production of the iconic W12 engine at its factory in Crewe, England, next year. Volkswagen Group, which owns Bentley, has been adamant about its transition toward electrified models and the industry trend has been to do the same with high-end luxury vehicles. The assumption here is that novel technologies will bring in high rollers and that battery tech will maximize profitability by reducing labor costs and making it easier for the big brands to comply with governmental regulations.
While Bentley’s marketing team would probably rather we all pretend the W12 was developed in an English garage by a bunch of men wearing tweed hats, the reality is that Volkswagen Group originally fitted it to endurance racers to see how well it performed under sustained abuse. It’s about as English as schnitzel and was often diminished by being dismissed by critics as being little more than two VR6 motors being mounted together. Introduced in the early 2000s, the unit quickly found its way into VW and Audi-branded vehicles with Bentley getting its own turbocharged version for the freshly minted 2003 Bentley Continental GT.
VW had purchased Bentley in 1998 to see if it could reinvigorate the brand and wanted the all-new model to have a show-stopping powertrain. Things were falling into place and the beefed-up W12 helped make the GT one of the most desirable luxury vehicles in Europe. But times have changed in the 20 years since and Volkswagen Group has been signaling its desire to swap to electrified powertrains for quite some time. As such, Bentley cannot continue fielding the Continental, Flying Spur, and Bentayga with the 6.0-liter W12.
The factory in Crewe, England, will end production of the engine in April of 2024. But not before Bentley promised one final hurrah with the extremely limited-run Batur (which is based on the Continental GT). Eighteen cars will receive a 739-hp version of Bentley’s long-lived W12 while previewing the styling of the brand’s forthcoming models.
However, once the run is done, that’s allegedly all she wrote for the 6.0-liter powertrain and the automaker is warning customers interested in the W12 not to wait around. Despite brands frequently trying to leverage scarcity into panic sales these days, Bentley has formally committed itself to V8 and hybridized V6s as it prepares its first battery electric vehicle – with the first EV due in 2025.
The decision comes as part of Bentley’s acceleration towards a sustainable future through its Beyond100 strategy which will see the company’s entire model line fully electrified by the start of the next decade, reducing fleet average emissions to 0 g/km CO2. This journey has already begun, with the introduction of the Bentayga and Flying Spur Hybrid models for which demand is exceeding the company’s expectations. When production of the W12 ceases next year, Bentley’s entire model line will be available with the option of a hybrid powertrain. Meanwhile, an engine first made available in the sector-defining Continental GT, which has been powering Bentley both metaphorically and literally for the last 20 years, will be consigned to history.
Bentley isn’t letting the W12 bow out without a dramatic send-off. Development work has concluded recently on the most powerful version of the W12 ever created. The ultimate iteration of this mighty engine – destined for just 18 examples of the Bentley Batur to be handcrafted by Mulliner – is now confirmed as developing 750 PS and 1,000 Nm of torque. The increased torque figure forms the typical Bentley ‘torque plateau’, running from 1,750 rpm to 5,000 rpm – with peak power at 5,500 rpm.
“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," stated Bentley chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark.
“The [739-hp] titan that Mulliner has created for the Batur marks the end of a development journey of which our engineering and manufacturing colleagues should be extremely proud, and when production finishes in April next year we aim to retrain and redeploy all of the skilled craftspeople who still build each engine by hand.”
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