It has driven the vehicles of the rich and famous for twenty years as the pinnacle of motor engineering.
But now Bentley is calling time on its 12-cylinder gas-cylinder petrol engine as it embraces the rise of electric cars.
The six-litre beast, whose cylinders are arranged in a “W” shape, is used in around a quarter of the cars Bentley makes, offering faster acceleration and a quieter drive for buyers who want the best of the best. market.
Bentley’s decision to phase out the W12 is driven by a plan to go green that will see all its vehicles electric by 2030.
“It’s sad that it’s going because it’s one of the most revered engines of our time,” said Jim Saker, driving expert and emeritus professor at Loughborough University.
“The move towards electric vehicles is pushing people down a particular path.”
Although the W12 is Bentley’s flagship design, the sportier, noisier V8 has long been a more popular choice, especially for Bentley owners who drive their own car rather than being driven.
Meanwhile, the V6 hybrid, which uses a lithium battery to solve power demand and increase efficiency, is growing in popularity. The company will end production of the W12 by April next year.
The engine helped lend Bentley models such as the Continental GT a quiet, luxurious power that made them status symbols, Mr Saker said.
Prior to its introduction, most Bentleys since 1959 were powered by V8 engines, with the introduction of the Volkswagen-owned W12 configuration. Since its first cars, they have had a large engine capacity from three liters to eight liters.
More than 100,000 of the engines have rolled off the production line since its launch in 2003, starting with the Continental GT. They are built by hand, and each unit takes 6.5 hours. Since the engine was introduced, it has been tweaked to deliver 37pc more power and 25pc less emissions.
For the larger engines, the writing has been on the wall for some time, Mr Saker said.
“It’s an engine you don’t need now,” he said, with smaller units producing turbocharged and hybrid engines like the one available on Bentley’s slash-fuelled Bentley SUV, and it seems more than ever that engines large self-esteem as a result.
“He will be greatly missed by petrol heads as he has been part of the company’s heritage for some time,” Mr Saker added.