5 Most Impressive Cars Powered by the VW Group's W12 Engine

Spyker C12 Zagato 16 photos
Photo: Spyker Cars
Volkswagen W12Volkswagen W12Volkswagen W12Spyker C12 La TurbieSpyker C12 La TurbieSpyker C12 C12 ZagatoBentley Continental SupersportsBentley Continental GTBentley Continental GT SpeedBentley Flying Spur W12 SBentley Flying Spur SpeedBentley Flying Spur SpeedBentley Mulliner Batur CoupeBentley Mulliner Batur ConvertibleBentley Mulliner Batur Convertible
Introduced more than two decades ago, the VW Group's W12 story is now over, so let's remember the five most impressive cars powered by the iconic engine.
After decades of development, the Volkswagen Group introduced the W12 engine in 2001.

Created by joining two VR6 units, the resulting powerplant was not the first to be called a W12. An actual W layout was first used in the aircraft industry with three banks of four cylinders.

Moreover, other W-shaped 12 cylinders were used on land and sea in a number of high-speed boats and LSR (land speed record) cars throughout history.

That being said, the VW engine, which looked more like a small V12 than a traditional W, brought loads of 12-cylinder power in a more compact package, enabling the corporation to utilize it in a variety of cars.

Though it was used in models like the VW Phaeton or the long-wheelbase Audi A8, the W12 was made popular by the Bentley brand, which employed it in most of its models for the last 20 years.

Last month (April 2024), Bentley stopped producing the W12, which meant the end of the line for the iconic engine.

So, as we bid farewell to the W12, let's take a look at the five most impressive cars that used the legendary powerplant.

Volkswagen W12

Volkswagen W12
Photo: Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen wanted to introduce the new engine in an epic way, so the corporation's CEO, Ferdinand Piech, tasked its engineers with creating a breathtaking supercar around it.

Developed in collaboration with Giorgetto Giugiaro and his Italdesign team, the 4WD, mid-engine supercar debuted at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show as the VW W12 Syncro.

Equipped with the earliest, fully functional, 5.6-liter prototype version of the W12 engine and VW's proprietary Syncro four-wheel drive system, the supercar had 414 hp on tap and wowed the crowd with its looks.

For the next four years, the project continued to improve the initial design, giving birth to a convertible (1998 Roadster) and a 591-hp, RWD record-breaker called W12 Nardò, which used the final, production-ready 6.0-liter version of the engine.

Though a production run was seriously considered, the W12 supercar never went past the concept stage and went down in history as the first VW Group vehicle to use the W12 engine.

Spyker C12 La Turbie and C12 Zagato

Spyker C12 La Turbie
Photo: Spyker Cars
The W12 engine made its production debut in the 2001 Audi A8, and in the following five years, it was mounted under the hood of a growing number of VW Group vehicles.

However, in 2006, Dutch company Spyker showcased the C12 La Turbie, which became the first non-VW Group car to employ the W12.

Largely based on the gorgeous V8-powered C8 Spyder, the C12 La Turbie received the 6.0-liter naturally-aspirated Audi version of the W12, albeit with small improvements that pushed output from 444 to 500 hp.

A year after the introduction of the La Turbie, Spyker announced a second W12-powered model called the C12 Zagato. As the name implies, the breathtaking supercar featured a bespoke body designed by Italian coachbuilders Zagato, but the chassis and drivetrain were carried over from the previous C12.

Initially, both cars were scheduled for limited production, but, unfortunately, the Dutch carmaker decided to divert funds to the C8 project, so the C12 La Turbie and C12 Zagato remained one-offs.

Bentley Continental GT W12

Bentley Continental Supersports
Photo: Bentley Motors Limited
As I mentioned earlier, Bentley was the VW Group brand that popularized the W12 engine.

Its version 6.0-liter received a twin-turbo forced induction system and debuted on the first-generation Continental GT with 552 hp on tap.

Initially, the model received some criticism from enthusiasts and automotive journalists who argued that it was no more than a super-expensive two-door VW Phaeton.

While the Continental GT was indeed based on the same platform as the Phaeton and Audi A8, it quickly proved a success for the British brand.

The first generation was highlighted by the limited-edition Continental Supersports and Supersports convertible, which received an improved 621-hp version of the 6.0-liter W12 capable of running on both gasoline and biofuel (E85 ethanol).

In 2010, the redesigned second generation was launched, and the range-topping model became known as the Continental GT W12.

The high-performance Supersports returned seven years later with a motorsport-inspired body kit and a 700-hp W12.

The third generation of the Continental debuted in 2018 and is still in production today, albeit the fourth will arrive next year.

The standard GT W12 was discontinued in 2021, but the W12 remained in production until April of this year (2024), providing 650 hp to the high-performance Continental GT/GTC Speed and the limited-edition, Continental-GT based Mulliner Bacalar.

Bentley Flying Spur

Bentley Flying Spur Speed
Photo: Bentley Motors Limited
In 2005, Bentley introduced a four-door sedan version of the Continental GT and gave it the iconic Flying Spur moniker.

Like its two-door sibling, the ultra-luxurious sedan has been developed in three distinct generations (so far).

While the first gen was only available with the 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12, the last two also welcomed a twin-turbo V8 and a hybrid twin-turbo V6 (third-gen only). Nevertheless, the range-topping trims (W12 S, Speed, and Mulliner) were all powered by a 626-hp version of twelve-cylinder.

The second-generation W12 S and the third-generation flagships, the performance-oriented Speed and the ultra-luxurious, limited-edition Mulliner, remain the most impressive members of the modern Flying Spur range.

Bentley Mulliner Batur

Bentley Mulliner Batur Convertible
Photo: Bentley Motors Limited
In 2022, Bentley's Mulliner division announced arguably the brand's most impressive modern grand tourer: the Batur.

Based on the underpinnings of the Continental GT, the piece of automotive art featured a stunning coachbuilt body and a custom interior adorned with the most lavish features.

Under the hood, the coupe hid a 740-hp version of the 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 - the most powerful iteration of the iconic engine ever fitted into a Bentley production car.

The Mulliner Batur Coupe was built in only 18 examples, and earlier this year, the brand announced an additional 16, albeit in convertible guise.

Equipped with the same 740-hp W12, the Mulliner Batur Convertible is the last production car to use the mighty twelve-cylinder - a fitting farewell to one of the most innovative automotive engines of the 21st century.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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