Surprisingly, downsizing hasn't affected the V12 sector much.
In the age of downsizing, it would be fair to assume that the V12 would be one engine lost to the times, with modern turbocharged V8s offering comparable power outputs, let weight, and thus, greater performance. But surprisingly enough, the V12 engine isn’t as dead as you might think, with no less than 18 models still in production making use of the configuration, hailing from 7 different manufacturers. While others may struggle with the effects of downsizing, these 7 manufacturers, gods of the industry, continue to produce some of the most glorious 12-cylinder motors around.
It’s no surprise that Aston Martin feature on this list, and they do so in grand fashion with 4 models featuring a V12. Though the rather small-scale sports car brand from England may have signed a deal with Mercedes to utilize AMG V8s, at this stage their V12s are their own.
The DB11 and DBS Superleggera are based on effectively the same vehicle, though using Mercedes wiring and electronics, the 5.2-liter bi-turbo V12 is developed and built in-house, producing an impressive 600 horsepower in DB11 guise. But with the recently unveiled DBS Superleggera, Aston have turned the dial way up to 11, with the Superleggera’s version of the same V12 generating 715hp all sent to the rear wheels. It may not be lightweight as its name suggests, but that’s nothing a little power can’t fix.
Two of Aston’s older models still feature V8s too, though how long these two models have left in production is uncertain. The Vanquish S and its convertible counterpart both make use of a V12 engine, 5.9 liters in displacement and generating 565hp to go along with it But the Vanquish S is known to be the Vanquish’ last hurrah before it ends production, so this one may be dying off soon.
The last aging Aston with a V12 powerplant is the Rapide S. When it comes to luxury sedans, Aston is a brand seldom thought of. Admittedly, the Rapide S does a somewhat poor job of being a luxo-barge against the current crop from Mercedes, BMW, and the likes of Porsche even. However, the Rapide S has a definite driver focus, and the V12 engine is central to that impression. Delivering 552hp from its 5.9-liter displacement, it’s a potent piece of kit that gives the Rapide S unmistakable presence.
BMW is one brand to have wholeheartedly invested in downsizing. Just look at the i8 sports car with a 3-cylinder engine or the fact that the M3 dropped from a V8 to an inline-6. For most high-power applications for the brand, a twin-turbo V8 is more than enough to get the job done. But when it comes to its halo of luxury and performance, a mere V8 simply wouldn’t do; which is why in the range-topping M760i xDrive, BMW has equipped a 602hp bi-turbocharged 6.6-liter V12, driving all 4 wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The V12 offers superb refinement, but even more astounding is the performance, shunting the massive limousine from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.
Ferrari is famous for its use of front-mounted V12 engines in its big grand tourers. In fact, for the longest of times, there wasn’t a Ferrari built without a front-mounted V12 – at least until Enzo Ferrari shook things up. At present, two Ferraris are available for order with V12 powerplants. The GTC4Lusso packs a front-mid mounted 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V12. In a unique twist, it drives all 4 wheels via a twin-gearbox setup, making full use of the 681hp to make the hatchback Ferrari immensely quick in all weather conditions. But the Lusso hasn't escaped downsizing, as there is a V8 turbocharged version too.
The 812 Superfast utilizes a front mid-mounted advancement of the GTC4Lusso’s V12, with displacement increased to 6.5-liters and power uprated to an astounding 789hp. Drive goes solely to the rear wheels through a dual-clutch transmission. Though the 812 Superfast is the most powerful unassisted Ferrari ever produced (only the LaFerrari offers more power), its primary role is as a GT car, not an all-out supercar. While there have been doubts as to whether Ferrari will continue with the V12 engine, the 812 Superfast is a reassuring commitment to the engine so steeped in the brand’s history.
Lamborghini’s history is one entangled with Ferrari right from the very beginning. Though there have been V8-powered Lambos through the years, they’ll always be known for their insane V12-powered monsters that defined, and redefined the supercar genre time and time again. It should come as no surprise then that the brand is still showing their commitment to the V12 with the Aventador S. Powered by a mid-engined 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12, in current S trim, that develops 630hp sent to all 4 wheels. There’s more power to come though, as the forthcoming Aventador SVJ will output between 770-800hp – enough to enable it to smash the Nurburgring lap record.
Mercedes-Benz is one of two manufacturers here that each produces four V12-powered models apiece, though it splits them across two divisions of its company. It’s no surprise that three of those are Mercedes-AMG derivatives; after all, the AMG division has a history of V12 engines. The Mercedes-AMG S65 – available in sedan, coupe, and convertible guise – SL65, and G65 are all very different vehicles, but they share the ‘65’ denomination, and the engine that comes with it. All 3 feature a 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 developing 621 horsepower, and whilst the AMG 63 variants may be quicker, they don’t have the prestige that comes with the range-topping 65 models.
The last of four Mercedes models to feature a V12 comes in the form of the Mercedes-Maybach S650. Mercedes-Maybach is the luxury arm of the German automaker, so it’s not surprising their range-topper features a V12, an engine synonymous with luxury and refinement. Though it doesn’t bear an AMG badge, the Mercedes-Maybach S650 utilizes the same bi-turbo 6.0-liter V12 as the AMG models listed above, with outputs matching the 621 horsepower of those three.
In theory, Mercedes-AMG produces 5 of the engines found in this article, although one of them is found mid-mounted in a car they don’t produce. The Pagani Huayra – named after Huayra-tata, an Andean wind goddess – makes use of an AMG-built V12 to propel one of the world’s most attractive hypercars. Though the bi-turbo V12 may be 6.0-liters in displacement, it’s a different engine to the one found in the four Mercedes models listed above (M158 used in the Huayra, M279 in the Mercedes). In its most powerful Huayra application – the Huayra BC – the biturbo-12 generates 745 horsepower, with a howling soundtrack provided by a unique titanium exhaust system.
Last on this list, Rolls-Royce produces 5 models making use of V12 engines, utilizing two different engines in the process. Three of these models make use of the same V12 that power BMW’s M760i xDrive, with the Ghost, its coupe version, the Wraith, and the convertible Dawn all utilizing the 6.6-liter twin-turbo 12-pot. In the Ghost and Dawn, the mill puts out 563hp, but in the Wraith, it offers 623hp to elevate the levels of performance the coupe offers by a substantial amount.
The last two models to make use of V12 engines are the range-toppers for Rolls-Royce. The Phantom and Cullinan epitomize luxury and opulence in their respective segments and do so by using a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine. Though both match the 563hp outputs of the Ghost and Dawn above, they offer substantially more torque, outputting up to 664 lb-ft of the stuff.