To save development costs, what VAG decided at the time was to extrapolate a principle they knew well: the "narrow Vee" engines. The concept behind these engines is to use pistons that share crankshaft journals to create "Vee" engines, but using an angle between banks so narrow that only one cylinder block could be used, so as not to have to duplicate elements in the engine, such as camshafts, of which only two were used, thus reducing costs.
Building on this idea, in 2001 VAG went further, and paired two VR6s to create a twelve-cylinder engine. Unlike other W12 engines, the VAG engine had only two cylinder banks, each being a "VR6" bank. This saved VAG having to start from scratch to create a twelve-cylinder, and could better amortize the investment.
To dress that engine, ItalDesign was commissioned to create a supercar, known as Volkswagen Nardo (W12 later) that would serve to give luster and image to the concept.
Soon after the engine would find its place under the hood of the Audi A8, Volkswagen Phaeton and all Bentley, except the most recent V8.
The use of a W12 engine also served to solve an important problem for VAG. Audi has been creating cars for decades with the engine completely hanging in front of the front axle, which greatly compromises the driving dynamics, especially of models with larger engines. The A8 needed twelve cylinders, but putting all twelve in front of the front axle was crazy in terms of weight distribution and polar moment of inertia.
Thus, the W12 allowed a more compact and, above all, economical solution for Audi. On the other hand, in retrospect it is striking to see how Porsche or Mercedes-Benz solve the problem of their long V12 and all-wheel drive in much more elegant, but also expensive, ways.
But let's move on to today's protagonist. In the same symposium in which Audi presented its new two-liter TFSI, Volkswagen presented the new generation of its W12, which says, "is the twelve-cylinder engine with the highest technological concentration of the market, and the most efficient".
The catalogue of technical solutions is a showcase of everything that VAG has already shown us it knows how to do, starting with a duplicate injection system (direct and indirect) to improve combustion at low throttle loads. The cylinders have their inner face reinforced by laser surface treatment, while the lubrication and cooling systems are "on demand", with decoupling pumps.
Start&Stop is obviously standard, as is the twin-supercharger system, which features a twin-scroll turbocharger for each twin bank of cylinders.
The end result is a six-litre block that delivers 608bhp and 900Nm of torque from 1,500rpm. We'll have to wait to see which cars this new engine is fitted in and judge its fuel efficiency. Being a Euro6, and lacking the W12 of such certification, the first model that will mount it with total certainty will be the Bentley Continental, where, with the GT bodywork, VAG promises that it will accelerate from 0 to 100 in four seconds on the way to a tip of "more than 300 km / h".
Then will come the successor to the Phaeton, the new generation of the A8... and the Bentayga, Bentley's SUV, for which the engine has already been prepared, as evidenced by the fact that the press release clearly specifies that "the lubrication system is suitable for off-road driving".
In a world dominated by downsizing, it's always nice to see the birth of a new twelve-cylinder...