Twelve 12-Cylinder Cars

Automobile Magazine Staff
Charlie Magee

FERRARI 612 SCAGLIETTIOne for the family man(iac).
Ferrari and twelve-cylinder engines go together like spaghetti and meatballs. Or horsepower and torque. A V-12 powered the first car to bear Enzo's name, and countless Ferraris since 1947 have showcased twelve-cylinder screamers designed by luminaries such as Colombo, Lampredi, Jano, and Forghieri. If practice makes perfect, then it's no wonder that the 65-degree V-12 sitting behind the front axle of the 612 Scaglietti is so refined. Maybe even too refined. There's no spine-tingling shriek here, just an understated growl that rarely rises above an undertone until you approach the 7250-rpm redline.

The 612 is the most practical of Ferraris-flawlessly engineered, infinitely capable, and, well, with its two-plus-two seating and capacious dimensions, the family Ferrari. And while its name pays homage to the marque's longtime coachbuilder, our "Grigio Ingrid" (beige) Scaglietti is also the Ferrari most likely to be lost in a parking lot.

Distant Passenger Side View

From the inside peering out, however, the 612 looks pretty sweet. The leather-swaddled cockpit is an idyllic marriage of style, comfort, and utility. In sport mode, the paddle-shift transmission offers the most exhilarating gearchanges this side of Formula 1. Despite its size, the Scaglietti feels nimble around town, and most drivers will run out of talent long before they reach the car's cornering limit. As for that engine, while it may not be as noisy as the sexier Ferrari V-12s of yore, it's just getting warmed up when its rivals are hitting their electronically governed speed limits.

MERCEDES-BENZ CL65 AMGKing of Torque Mountain.
Select the 6.0-liter overhead-cam engine of your choice. Have it assembled by one of the conscientious craftsmen employed at Mercedes-Benz's AMG. Then fill the cylinders with 22 psi of air at a comfortable temperature. Wonderful things are bound to happen whether there are two or twelve cylinders hammering the crankshaft into submission. Your rear tires will melt on cue. The automatic transmission will grunt like a weight lifter and change gears with a bang, struggling to survive behind the most potent engine offered across a regular retail counter. The 100-mph acceleration will stretch neck muscles with the same vigor as a traction-limited launch from a stoplight.

With 738 lb-ft at your disposal between 2000 and 4000 rpm, you are the undisputed potentate ruling Torque Mountain. Pick a point ten miles away on the distant horizon, crack the throttle, spool the turbos, and you're there before an enforcement officer can radio for backup.

Full Driver Side View

But the CL65 AMG's special treat is that it's a straightline racer masquerading as a poser. From its stylish hardtop profile to its impeccably tailored interior and its burled and buffed walnut, the pretext is unadulterated luxury with an exhaust note so muffled at idle you have to stand by the pipes to detect underhood activity. No one would suspect that this $186,520, smooth-riding, 4654-pound pillar of four-place respectability could possibly pack this much heat.

The only thing missing is a switch to let you stretch the rapture beyond the factory's 155-mph speed limit.

AUDI A8L W12 QUATTROTake that, Lexus.
This Audi A8L carries W12 badges on the grille, trunk lid, and passenger doors to distinguish it from the dclass V-8 model. But, paradoxically, the top-of-the-line A8 is so serene at its electronically limited top speed of 130 mph that you could swear it's powered by a turbine-or a flux capacitor.

Full Front View

Although the W-12 is a brilliant engineering solution, it's also the answer to a question nobody asked. Yes, it allows the A8 to motor from 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 5.0 seconds, or 1.3 seconds faster than the V-8 model, but this is a function of more displacement rather than additional cylinders. Of course, the W-12 comes with some serious bragging rights, which is no small issue when you're investing six figures in a car. Also, Audi's version makes more power than the one found in the Volkswagen Phaeton (though it lacks the turbo-charged grunt of the otherwise similar W-12 in the Bentley Continental GT).It may seem uncharitable to complain about an engine that's too capable. The problem with the A8-a problem most automakers would love to have-is that there's hardly anything else wrong with it. OK, so maybe the handling is a bit inert compared with the BMW 760i, unless you're right at the limit. But the Audi looks more elegant, its Multi Media Interface works far better than BMW's iDrive, and its interior can lay legitimate claim to being the best in the world. Oh, and all-wheel drive doesn't hurt.

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