Most Iconic BMW V12-Powered Cars Ever Made

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BMW's V12 was a rare engine, but a remarkable one that created legends of the automotive world.

Last month, BMW announced the end of an era by revealing its very last V12-powered roadgoing series production car. As that sort of language is meant to imply, there's still a chance that the recently revealed BMW 7 Series special edition will not be 'The Final V12'. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that large-capacity engines are not in fashion anymore, and while a BMW V12 has always been rare and expensive, knowing that the option will no longer exist is sad. We can't do anything about it though, so we may as well use the time to look back on a history that is richer than you may imagine.

These are our favorite BMW V12-powered models from years gone by:

McLaren
BMW
BMW

Genesis: The M70 Engine - BMW 750i/850CSi

In 1987, the first BMW V12 arrived with the internal designation of M70. This was essentially two 2.5-liter M20 straight-six engines that had been fused together at an angle of 60 degrees. With a block made of Alusil, mass-air-flow sensors instead of airflow meters, and chains in place of belts, this engine was way ahead of its time. However, its complexity necessitated two engine control units (ECU). As such, the 5.0-liter motor was fitted to BMW's range-topping E32 750i. The first iteration of this engine produced 295 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, but when the revised S70B56 arrived in 1992 with 5.6 liters of capacity, it churned out 375 hp and 406 lb-ft in the E31 850CSi. The original 8 Series is special for many reasons, but this engine helped cement its place at the top of Bavaria's sports car catalog.

BMW
BMW
BMW
BMW
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The Spirit of Ecstasy: BMW 7 Series/Rolls-Royce Phantom

At the very top of the luxury automobile echelon, things like outright performance and acceleration are secondary to a quiet ride and world-beating refinement. Thus, Rolls-Royce turned to BMW for its smooth and quiet M73 V12 engine as found in the 1998 E38 BMW 750i, and when Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW in 1998, it made sense for the RR of the future to stick with BMW V12 power. Emissions added complexity to this engine that produced 322 hp and 361 lb-ft, but in 2003, the N73 engine arrived as the first mass-produced V12 with direct fuel injection.

With loads of new technology, 6.0-liter versions produced 439 hp and 443 lb-ft, while the 6.75-liter version upped those figures to 453 hp and 531 lb-ft, which peaked at 3,500 rpm - ideal for a quiet and comfortable luxury car. The 7 Series of the time and the Rolls-Royce Phantom both benefited.

This engine later was revised and became the N74, which is still in use today. The N74B66TU became one of the finest V12s ever, producing up to 624 hp and as much as 664 lb-ft.

BMW
BMW
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The Greatest Supercar Ever: McLaren F1

You can't talk about BMW V12s without at least touching on the epic piece of bespoke engineering that was the S70/2. Loosely based on the M70 engine, this was developed by the late Paul Rosche, whose past hits included the S14 from the original M3. We're talking, of course, about the engine in the McLaren F1. This had dual-overhead cams, double VANOS (which derives its name from the German for variable camshaft timing), Nikasil-coated cylinder bores, and even some magnesium parts. It also used the novel-for-the-time idea of an ignition coil for each spark plug, as well as two fuel injectors per cylinder. We could go on for hours about the marvels of this engine's design, but the key figures are that it produced a staggering 618 hp and 479 lb-ft. In the body of the Gordon Murray-designed F1, it made the McLaren the fastest production car in the world for years. The engine also powered McLaren to numerous motorsport victories, and we highly doubt that the McLaren name would even be in circulation now were it not for BMW coming to the party and helping save the F1 project.

McLaren
McLaren
BMW

Notable Mentions - Stillborn V12 Concepts

As you can see, the BMW V12 was only ever fitted to the 7 Series, the 8 Series, numerous Rolls-Royce products, and the various versions of the McLaren F1. But it's a big deal nonetheless, because it helped BMW in motorsport too. The V12 LMR was a Le Mans prototype that debuted at the 12 Hours of Sebring and won. The concept of V12 power was also meant to see high-performance action on the road, and BMW M once made a V12-powered Z3. There was even a V12-powered BMW X5 Le Mans concept and the one-off prototype that M fans have always wanted BMW to follow through on: the V12-powered BMW M8. We're sad to see the end of the Bavarian V12, but we hold out hope that someday soon, BMW will make our fantasies come true with a relatively simple recipe: a naturally aspirated V12 in the front, a manual gearbox in the middle, and drive to the rear. If Gordon Murray can give us a manual-equipped V12, so can BMW.

BMW
BMW
BMW
BMW
BMW
BMW

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