Germany’s BMW will close a 36-year chapter in its history and build its last V12-powered car this June – though super-luxury subsidiary Rolls-Royce will stick with 12 cylinders for multiple years to come.
German car maker BMW will produce its final series-production BMW road car with a V12 engine this June – ending 36 years of BMW V12 history – as the automotive industry flocks to smaller engines on the path to fully-electric cars.
BMW’s sole remaining V12-engined vehicle is the flagship version of its 7 Series limousine, the M760Li xDrive (also available in short-wheelbase M760i form overseas), powered by a 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 pushing 448kW and 850Nm to all four wheels, and good for a 3.8-second 0-100km/h dash.
Priced from $383,900 before on-road costs in Australia, it’s also BMW’s most expensive new car currently on sale.
Production of the current 7 Series (codenamed G11 or G12) will end in June, ahead of the new-generation ‘G70’ model that’s set to begin rolling off the production line in July.
Unlike five of the six prior generations of 7 Series, the G70-generation model’s petrol engine line-up will stop at a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 – and in a sign of the times, the most powerful variant is rumoured to be a six-cylinder plug-in hybrid, or all-electric.
BMW debuted its first road-going V12 overseas in 1986 (or 1988 in Australia): the 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated ‘M70’ engine, good for 220kW and 450Nm under the bonnet of the flagship E32-generation 750iL sedan.
The engine evolved into the more exclusive and more potent 5.6-litre ‘S70’ in the early 1990s – the basis of the 6.1-litre naturally-aspirated ‘S70/2’ V12 that powered the legendary McLaren F1 supercar, once the world’s fastest production road car with an official top speed of 386km/h (240mph).
The modern 7 Series sedan’s 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged ‘N74B66’ V12 is also found under the bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe and Dawn convertible – though no end of production date has been announced for these models.
Rolls-Royce also offers a larger 6.75-litre ‘B68’ version of the N74 V12 in the newer Phantom, Ghost and Cullinan models – with this engine, along with its smaller 6.6-litre sibling, to be outlawed from the British car maker’s line-up by the end of the decade.
An earlier 6.0-litre twin-turbo version of the ‘N74’ V12 also powers the Australian Prime Minister’s official ‘C-1’ state car.
BMW will commemorate the end of V12 production for the 7 Series with a limited run of 12 cars for the US market, each badged as the ‘The Final V12’, and set to be produced in June.
Drive has contacted BMW Australia for comment on the brand’s plans for the end of 7 Series V12 production for Australia – and whether any more M760Li cars are bound for local shores. This story will be updated with the company’s response.
The 12 US-market vehicles will differentiate themselves from ‘standard’ M760i variants with unique 20-inch grey or black wheels, ‘THE FINAL V12’ badging across the interior and engine cover, a ‘V12’ badge on the boot lid (replacing the M760i badge), and a “custom-built desk trophy” specific to the owner’s chosen vehicle specification.
Priced from $US200,000 before delivery costs ($AU279,000), the US-market ‘The Final V12’ cars will come with all option boxes ticked, including BMW Individual exterior paint, Merino leather upholstery, a panoramic Sky Lounge roof, remote parking, laser headlights, and a surround sound system.
The death of the V12-powered BMW 7 Series leaves Mercedes-Benz as the final ‘big three’ German luxury car maker with a 12-cylinder engine in its line-up, a 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 in the flagship Maybach S680 sedan, which develops 463kW and 900Nm.
Rival Audi championed the modern 12-cylinder engine in the late 2000s, offering petrol engines in the more compact W12 layout (with four rows of three cylinders, rather than two banks of six), and even a 6.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V12 – but hasn’t offered a 12-cylinder car globally since 2018.
A W12-engined version of the latest-generation Audi A8 flagship was planned for launch in 2018 or 2019, but never eventuated, and quietly met the axe before reaching showrooms.
Once M760Li xDrive production ends, only six car makers will offer a V12 engine option in Australia – Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz (Maybach) and Rolls-Royce – with the ‘price of entry’ rising to a cool $420,219 before on-road costs for an Aston Martin DB11 V12 coupe.
Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.