Bentley is ready to roll out the most powerful 12-cylinder engine in its history, using it to motivate the limited-run Batur supercar.
But that’s likely to come as bittersweet news for fans of 12-cylinder powertrain technology, Bentley also announcing that it will end production of its W12 engine come April 2024. It joins a growing list of luxury brands, such as Lamborghini, phasing out powerful yet fuel-thirsty 12-cylinder engines in favor of more efficient technology — including hybrids and all-electric drivetrains.
The engine that Bentley “has created for the Batur marks the end of a development journey of which our engineering and manufacturing colleagues should be extremely proud,” said the brand’s CEO and chairman, Adrian Hallmark.
He also promised that Bentley plans to “retrain and redeploy all of the skilled craftspeople who still build each engine by hand.”
A long history
Bentley has long offered V-12 engines in its most exclusive products. After the brand was acquired by Volkswagen it adopted an unusual, “W” layout for its 12-cylinder powertrains. More than 100,000 of them have been produced at its engine plant in Crewe, England since 2003.
The current version of the W12 will continue to be used in vehicles like the Bentley Flying Spur and Continental. That 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine was first introduced in 2015. Since then, upgrades have boosted horsepower by 37%, torque by 54%.
The version going into the Bentley Batur takes things up another big step, the engine upgraded to produce 740 horsepower and 740 pound-feet of torque.
It gets significantly upgraded turbochargers, larger charge-air coolers, and a “heavily revised” engine calibration “to liberate the extra torque available.” The package is complemented by a new transmission.
The upgraded drivetrain will power the hand-built Bentley Mulliner Batur, which was revealed last August. The name comes from Lake Batur, a volcanic crater lake in Kintamani, on the island of Bali, Indonesia, contributing editor Larry Printz noted in his story on the exotic coupe.
Batur is meant to be a bridge vehicle for Bentley, introducing a new design language that will be used for the marque’s first battery-electric vehicle due out in 2028. Bentley plans to go 100% electric by 2030 as part of its Beyond100 strategy.
Replacing the equally exclusive Bacalar convertible, Bentley plans to produce just 18 copies of the Batur, all with the modified W12 engine. Each will cost about $2 million — and all already have been spoken for.
Everyone “should own a 12 before they die”
Twelve-cylinder engines have been around for more than a century, the 1915 Packard Twin Six among the earliest and most sought after by collectors.
The legendary automotive journalist and publisher David E. Davis was a huge fan, once penning an editorial that said, “I firmly believe that anyone, who is worth anything at all should own a 12-cylinder car before they die … because there’s nothing else like it … It will take your breath away!!!”
The last of a breed
But the opportunity to do so is fast fading away, at least with something fresh out of the factory. BMW announced it was ending production of its own V-12 a year ago. And the list of brands that have either dropped or plan to end 12-cylinder production reads like a who’s who of the luxury and sports car segments, including Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.
In January 2022, the Italian marque unveiled its own long-term strategy, the “Direzione Cor Tauri,” program. It will begin migrating this year to hybrids, with the first all-electric Lamborghini due out in 2024. Launched two years ago, the Lamborghini Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae is the last of the brand’s products to rely solely on internal combustion power. The twelve will have a short life in hybrid form and then fade away, perhaps becoming the last of its kind.