Why stuff 12 cylinders into an SUV? Because people love it.
There is no logical reason for any of these SUVs to exist. V8, V6, or heck, even four-cylinder-powered SUVs have proven themselves to be quite capable both on and off-road. However, there's something special about an SUV powered by a 12-cylinder powerplant that appeals to luxury carmakers, aftermarket firms, and wealthy clientele alike.
While automakers begin to drop 12-cylinder engines from their lineup in favor of more fuel-efficient alternatives, we thought it appropriate to shed some light on this particular dying breed of SUV. We’ve picked out eight SUVs that all have one thing in common – 12 cylinders. Whether it be gasoline or diesel, V12 or W12, these wonderfully powerful SUVs may soon disappear forever, so rejoice in the fact these are still available today.
The one. The only. The Lamborghini LM002, also affectionately known as the “Rambo Lambo.” More than three decades before the Urus arrived on the scene, the LM002 was the offroader enthusiasts craved. Some still do. Power came from a 5.2-liter V12 straight out of the Countach, producing a total of 426 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Compared to today’s standards, performance really wasn’t that impressive. For example, 0-62 mph required at least 7.7 seconds and top speed was just 118 mph. Despite the slow pace, the LM002 remains a sought-after collectible.
Only 328 examples were built from 1986 until 1993. We know for a fact that one of them was destroyed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004. Seriously? Yes, the US military wanted to simulate the effects of a car bomb and they required a sacrificial lamb, Uday Hussein’s LM002.
With a total weight of 6,250 pounds, the Mercedes-AMG G65 is an outright legend. Powered by a twin-turbo V12 producing 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque and, the opulent SUV was engineered to be more of a highway beast than off-roader, though it was still quite capable of handling some rough terrain. But really, buyers don’t want one for tackling the hills. This thing is a status symbol, pure and simple. It's also fast, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds and top speed of 143 mph, as well as being the most powerful G-Class variant Mercedes ever built. And unlike some of the 12-cylinder SUVs on this list, the Mercedes-AMG G65 was sold in the US, though in very limited numbers. Base price? $222,700.
The Bentley Bentayga first arrived on the scene in 2016 packing a 6.0-liter W12 that produces 600 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. The twin-turbo V8, diesel, and upcoming hybrid variants are obviously not as powerful and that’s very much on purpose. Needless to say, the Bentayga W12 is fast. Zero to 62 is clocked at 4.1 seconds and top speed is 187 mph.
Only a few years ago, those figures put it in supercar territory. Question is, will Bentley stick with the W12 given upcoming increased fuel emission regulations? Nothing is certain just yet, but the fact a V6 plug-in hybrid Bentayga is on the way could be an early sign of the W12’s departure.
The first generation Volkswagen Touareg was an unusual vehicle for VW to launch back in 2012. The German automaker was more typically known for conventional cars and work vans, but it figured expanding into the popular SUV segment would be a smart call. And then in 2005, the 6.0-liter W12-powered Touareg arrived with 444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. And no, it wasn’t turbocharged. Originally just 500 examples were slated for production but the Touareg W12 proved to be quite popular, particularly in Europe and Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately, it was never sold in the US. Heck, the Touareg itself, though highly regarded, didn’t sell as well in the US as it did elsewhere because it was expensive. But we totally see why the W12 appealed to buyers. The Touareg W12 is capable of 0-62 mph in only 5.9 seconds.
Supposedly, the V12 TDI engine in the first-generation Audi Q7 was based on diesel technology straight from the R10 TDI race car despite the fact the bore, stroke, and angle of the blocks are not the same and don’t even share a single component. We’ll just have to take Audi at its word. In any case, the Q7 V12 TDI was built from 2008 until 2012, meaning it was already out of production by the time Dieselgate was exposed. It was probably for the best because this beastly SUV’s reputation still remains relatively intact.
This oil burner V12 produced 489 hp and 740 lb-ft of torque. Despite the added engine weight, Audi claimed this Q7 was the best-handling variant of its generation thanks to an improved suspension, tires and brakes. Zero to 62 mph happened in only 5.5 seconds. Sadly, the Q7 V12 TDI never made it to America because Audi decided to cancel plans to federalize this engine in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown.
Leave it to German tuning firm Brabus to take things to another level, so of course we just had to bring to your attention the Brabus 800 Widestar. Based on the previous generation Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Brabus 800 Widestar is powered by a Brabus-built 12-cyldiner bi-turbo engine rated at 800 hp and 1,420 lb-ft of torque. Power is directed to all four wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission (Only five speeds? Hey, it was 2010). Brabus claims a 0-62 mph time of only 4 seconds flat and an electronically controlled top speed of 149 mph. Why limit top speed?
Well, Brabus was fully aware its creation could easily hit 168 mph without this control, and it didn’t want owners pushing things too much. Compared to the regular G-Class at the time, the Brabus 800 Widestar came with unique 23-inch “Platinum Edition” forged wheels, leather upholstery, and Alcantara trim.
Yep, that’s right. More Brabus. This time it’s based on the more conventional Mercedes-Benz GLK. And unlike the 800 Widestar, the tuning firm didn’t hold back on top speed. Brabus officially went nuts by releasing this 12-cylinder SUV’s full potential of 211 mph. You read that right, and this was back in 2009. Under its hood, Brabus went with a Mercedes-sourced 5.5-liter V12 that was increased to 6.3 liters. A pair of turbochargers were also added.
All told, it offered a combined output of 740 hp and 995 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 62 mph required only 4.2 seconds while 124 mph arrives at 12.8 seconds. Not surprisingly, Brabus had to prepare the donor GLK for the power onslaught with more powerful brakes and a coilover sports suspension.
Does anyone remember the time BMW put a V12 under the hood of a first generation X5 SUV? In case you don’t, we’ll remind you. Back in 1999, BMW took the 6.0-liter V12 out of its Le Mans-winning LMR and stuffed it into a donor X5. The result was a 700 hp, 520 lb-ft of torque SUV paired to a six-speed manual transmission provided by the M division.
Aside from the engine transplant, the rest of the X5’s modifications were pretty simple, such as upgraded wheels and tires, suspension, and an added roll cage. A roll cage? Well of course, because the X5 Le Mans was sent to the Nurburgring for some additional fun. Impressively, it managed a best lap time of 7:50, with a claimed top speed of 192 mph. Needless to say, the X5 Le Mans remained an experiment and was never sent to production, which is really kind of a shame. It would have been an instant classic.