Yes folks, you read that right. BMW will no longer build V12-engined cars, and the engine you (really can’t) see here is one of the very last of a dying breed. That means it’s time to sit forlornly in your genuine Eames Lounge, under your original David Hockney, and shed a quiet tear into your 25-year-old Laphroaig. Because in the future, when it’s time to get your driver to take you to the airport, you’ll have to do it powered by just eight cylinders. Eight! Just like the poors do!
For the rest of us in the hoi polloi, it’s a development that doesn’t mean a great deal in terms of a direct, tangible effect. But that doesn’t mean its demise isn’t a loss for us anyway.
For the V12 to exist at the top of the tree is to acknowledge its place as the perfect engine configuration, a perfectly balanced rejoinder to the inherent imperfections of internal combustion. It’s smooth beyond smooth without any engineering band-aids (other sticking plasters are available, and all will take just as many leg hairs off) like counterweights or harmonic balancers.
People with improbably white teeth and impossibly shiny suits would call the V12 ‘aspirational’. We’d call it ‘what you want, but can’t have’, which, in 2020s parlance, likely counts as a simile.
BMW’s sending the V12 off with a car that, fittingly enough, it’s calling The Final V12. And that means taking a dozen M760i xDrives and giving them a bit of tinsel in the way of badges, wheels and the buyer’s choice of BMW Individual upholstery and paint. And also ticking most everything on the options list ahead of time.
So if this is the last BMW-badged V12, what does the end of the line look like? Well, an engine, mostly. Block, heads, wires and pipes and so on. Big plastic cover on top that hides it all. Usual engine stuff.
Albeit, we must admit, one with 12 cylinders that displace a combined 6.6 litres, force fed by a pair of turbos and guaranteed to make 600bhp at full noise and next to no noise the rest of the time.
It’s in a 7 Series limo, after all. Is it a fitting end for a lineage that’s powered Le Mans racers and record-shattering McLarens? Probably not. We’d have shoehorned it into an 8 Series and hooked a six-speed manual up behind it, like Beemer did in the Nineties. And, in case that was too subtle, BMW, we absolutely need you to do that.
But, even when BMW invariably does not do that, it’s still worth reflecting on the understandable but unhappy end of the BMW V12. It’s one of those things that we understand is inevitable, but still immensely saddening – like death, taxes and Marvel sequels.
That said, BMW did add in the not-inconsequential caveat that it’d be the “very last V12 engine ever to be fitted to a BMW series production road vehicle”. You see the sheer amount of wiggle room in there? After all, this is the same BMW that owns Rolls-Royce.
So, keep sitting in your Eames, underneath your Hockney and with your Laphroaig. Just don’t worry about doing it forlornly.
TEXT Craig Jamieson