Although the twin-turbocharged Volkswagen W-12 engine – an interesting design that essentially places two V-6 engines atop one another — was originally designed and built in Germany, it’s about to become a little more British.
Earlier this week, Volkswagen announced its Bentley Motors subsidiary will now serve as the “center of excellence” for the W-12 engine. As such, Bentley’s facilities in Crewe, England, will increase production of the 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12, so it can provide engines to other Volkswagen group brands – notably Audi. Presently, Crewe builds about 5000 W-12s annually, but that figure will allegedly increase to 9000 by 2018.
After thirteen years of W-12 production, what better time to reflect on some of the more memorable vehicles we’ve seen utilize Volkswagen’s W-12 powerplant? We’ve rounded up five of our favorites.
1991 Audi Avus Quattro Concept
Sixteen years before the R8 hit the roads, Audi teased the idea of building a modern supercar with the wild Avus Quattro concept. Styled by a young J Mays, the all-aluminum concept drew comparisons to the pre-war Auto Union grand prix cars, thanks in no small part to its supple curves, long wheelbase, and polished aluminum skin. The concept’s powertrain was equally wild: a 5.6-liter W-12, which was supposedly capable of producing 509 hp at 5800 rpm and 398 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. Unlike Volkswagen’s later W-12 engines (along with its production W-8 and W-16 engines), this early W-12 effort was a true W-shaped block, complete with three banks of four cylinders.
Volkswagen W12 Syncro/ Roadster/ Nardo Concepts
Volkswagen’s push to move upmarket included W12-powered variants of its Touareg SUV and Phaeton luxury sedan, but neither was as audacious as the brand’s W12 supercar project. The original concept, styled by ItalDesign and known as the W12 Syncro, debuted at the 1997 Tokyo auto show. The midengine sports car boasted a 420-hp, 5.6-liter W-12 engine, which was essentially made by laying two VR6 engines atop one another. A roofless red roadster variant debuted a few months later at the 1998 Geneva auto show.
In 2001, Volkswagen rolled out an updated version of the W12 coupe. Now known as the Nardo, the orange car boasted a 6.0-liter W-12 good for 591 hp and 458 lb-ft of torque, and allegedly capable of 0-62 mph times of 3.5 seconds.
Its new name was fitting, as a modified W12 Nardo set a 24-hour endurance speed record at Italy’s Nardo test circuit, where it covered roughly 4810 miles at an average speed at just over 200 mph.
2007 Spyker C12 Zagato
Spyker hoped its twelve-cylinder C12 Spyder and C12 LaTurbine sports cars would turn heads, but there was one problem: they looked like elongated versions of the C8 Spyder and C8 Laviolette. Enter Zagato, who reskinned a C12 in time for the 2007 Geneva auto show. Like the other proposed C12 models, power came from Volkswagen’s 6.0-liter W-12, but the Zagato’s crisp, angular sheetmetal was a departure from the rotund forms used elsewhere in the Spyker portfolio. Such presence – and power – carried a steep price tag of roughly $700,000. Spyker hoped it would build about 24 examples, but like the other C12 variants, the C12 Zagato remained a one-off.
2007 Volkswagen GTI W12-650
If you’re aiming to attract the attention of GTI fans and tuners alike, why not replace the rear seats with a twelve-cylinder engine? Volkswagen did just that with the GTI W12-650 concept, built expressly for the 2007 Worthersee GTI festival. Blistered flares and chunky side air intakes left the concept some six inches wider than a stock fifth-generation GTI. The flares and cosmetic flair were necessary to accommodate a 650-hp version of the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12, which drove the rear wheels. Volkswagen claimed the concept could sprint from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, hit a top speed of 202 mph, and possibly be built in small numbers for public consumption – but those plans disappeared about as quickly as the GTI W12-650 accelerates in a straight line.
2010 Bentley Continental Touring Flying Star
It may not be as fast as the wild Bentley Continental Supersports or the present Bentley Continental GT Speed, but Carrozzeria Touring’s custom Bentley Continental Flying Star holds a special place in our hearts. Why? Because it’s a station wagon – or shooting brake, rather – powered by a twin-turbocharged W-12, that’s why. Touring’s transformation from Continental to Flying Star requires 4000 hours of fabrication, largely because every body panel is hand-formed; every stitch hand-sewn, and so on. Predictably, that sort of craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap: pricing reportedly starts at just over $812,000. Production will be capped at 19 units, but as of last summer, only four examples were spoken for.