Guernsey Press

A brief history of Bentley’s famous W12 engine

The luxury car firm said production of the W12 will cease in April next year after more than 100,000 have been produced at its factory in Crewe.


The engine has always been the heart of what a Bentley is about. Even early models from the British brand were named after the engines themselves.

But as Bentley increasingly turns its focus to electrified models it is waving goodbye to some of its most popular engines, and now it is the turn of the famous W12, with production to cease in April next year after more than 100,000 have been produced at its factory in Crewe.

We take a look back at the history of the W12 and some of the star cars it has featured in.

2003 – W12 debuts in Bentley’s Continental GT

The 2003 Continental GT was the first Bentley to use the W12 engine (Bentley/PA)

But Bentley made it extra special by creating its own version in 2003 for the Continental GT. It was the first model devised under Volkswagen ownership, and also what Bentley classes as its “first all-new” model since it started making cars in 1919.

The W12 is essentially two narrow V6 engines on a common crankshaft. Featuring two turbochargers, the original Continental GT packed 550bhp.

2008 – Greater ‘Speed’ provided

The Continental GT Speed featured an uprated W12 (Bentley/PA)

This took the power up to 600bhp, which pushed the Speed above the 200mph threshold for the time, maxing out at 202mph.

2011 – Supersports turns up the heat even more

The Supersports arrived as a lighter version of the Continental GT (Bentley/PA)

The Supersports started life as an under-the-radar project at Bentley, which looked to explore what reducing the weight of the Continental GT could do to its performance. The firm followed it through, and with a host of weight-saving measures, including lighter ceramic brakes and the removal of rear seats, it shaved 110kg from the model’s weight.

2015 – Upgraded W12 engine debuts in Bentley’s first SUV

An upgraded W12 featured in the Bentayga, Bentley’s first SUV (Bentley/PA)

The 4×4 introduced an all-new version of the W12. Switching between direct and indirect fuel injection, it also had the ability to shut down half the engine so it could run on six cylinders for greater efficiency.

2017 – Third-generation Continental GT launched

The third-generation Continental GT brought further development to the W12 (Bentley/PA)

Sticking with the 6.0-litre W12, it was enhanced further, with the power taken up to 626bhp as a result. A new dual-clutch automatic gearbox was also used.

2018 – Bentayga SUV takes Pikes Peak victory

Bentley took a W12-powered Bentayga to the Pikes Peak hill climb in 2018, where it set the record for an SUV (Bentley/PA)

The competition car featured the same 600bhp W12 engine as the rest of the Bentayga range, with only light modifications to the rest of the vehicle. The firm went on to create a limited edition production model, featuring the same bright green paintwork.

2019 – Bentley takes another Pikes Peak victory with W12 engine

Bentley returned to Pikes Peak a year later with the Continental GT, setting the record for a production car (Bentley/PA)

The fettled model took the record for a production car up the hill climb and again it helped to spawn a limited-edition version.

2020 – Bespoke W12-powered Bacalar takes Bentley to a new level

The highly limited Bacalar took the W12’s power up to 650bhp (Bentley/PA)

Limited to 12 bespoke examples, the Bacalar featured a more advanced version of the W12, with power taken up to 650bhp. This engine went on to be used in the latest Continental GT Speed.

2023 – Engine has final outing in limited-run Batur

Bentley Batur
Bentley is signing the W12 engine off in the limited-run Batur, with power taken up to 740bhp (Bentley/PA)

Another limited-run Mulliner car, following on from the Bacalar, just 18 will be produced, with Bentley confirming it will use its most powerful W12 engine to date – putting out a mighty 740bhp.

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