James Bond settles for nothing but the best. Wine, women… even his cars. He always drives an Aston Martin with a V12 engine. Yes, there was a period when he defected to a non-British manufacturer, but he returned to his roots. The DBS, the Vanquish — they all run V12 engines. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the cars that use this engine.
Engines with twelve cylinders can be laid out in a few different ways. The most popular layout is two banks of six cylinders each. You’ve already learned that a straight-six engine has perfect primary and secondary balance, which means that it won’t throw up unnecessary vibrations and need counterbalancers to iron them out. Since the V12 is essentially two straight-six engines running on a common crankshaft, it also has perfect primary and secondary balance.
You can find V12 engines in most of the world’s automobile exotica, because there isn’t a real reason why one would want a V12. V8s, especially turbocharged ones, can generate the same amount of power and return better fuel efficiency. They won’t have the noise that a V12 makes at full chat, though.
Where does the engine go?
Different manufacturers choose to place their V12 in different places. Aston Martin, for example, always places their engine ahead of the passenger compartment. Lamborghini would rather bung it in the back, like they did with the Countach, Diablo and Murcielago — but things might change with the Estoque. The Miura, interestingly enough, had a transverse V12 behind the passenger compartment; almost all manufacturers prefer to place it longitudinally. In fact, Lambo calls it’s new Muricelago the ‘LP640’. The ‘LP’ stands for Longitudinale Posteriore, which is merely Italian for ‘longitudinal’ and ‘in the back’.
Ferrari’s Enzo Ferrari has a V12 in the back, but the Scagliettis and 599 have theirs in the front. This has a lot to do with what the car is meant for — the Murcielago and Enzo are intended for performance above all else, and the Vanquish and Scaglietti are intended to be grand tourers, cars that can cross continents in a few days and manage to keep their occupants fresh at the end of the trip.
The V12, with a twist
The Bentley Continental GT and Flying Spur are also perfectly capable of crossing continents without breaking into a sweat, and they possess twelve-cylinder engines as well. However, they don’t have V12s, they have what VW calls ‘W12’ engines. That is, they have four banks of cylinders that drive a common crankshaft.
This is quite like the Audi TT’s engine, which has a narrow-angle V6 engine. The cylinder banks are so close together that only a single cylinder head is needed for both banks. The W12 engine also has only two cylinder heads because of this. It can be found in many cars belonging to manufacturers of the VW group. The Audi A8, Volkswagen Phaeton, the two Bentleys, and one mad concept car, the Golf W12 that produces 500 bhp, possess this engine.
The VW group has another engine that is a proper V12, but it is a diesel. The Touareg, VW’s flagship SUV, possesses this engine. The twin-turbo V12 produces so much torque, even the mammoth Touareg takes off from rest to 100 kph or from 100 to 150 kph like a scalded cat if you goose the throttle. If you ask VW India nicely (and pay a deposit) you can have this car right here!
The ultimate approval of the V12 can be found in two cars with entirely different philosophies: the McLaren F1, which is still considered the purest roadgoing supercar ever, and the Rolls-Royce Phantom, whose brochure follows tradition when it states the power figure. It says “Sufficient.”