Last Drive (Possibly) of a Bentley W12 Celebrates the End of ICE

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read


  • The magnificent VW-designed W12 engine will be gone by April 2024, so I got a Bentley Continental GT Speed to celebrate the end of a W-shaped era.
  • The Continental GT Speed tops out at 208 mph and gets to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
  • As-tested price is $370,045. Is it worth that? Heck yeah!

There have been some great engine configurations over the years: flat-sixes, rotaries, two-stroke opposed gas turbine-assisted H-24s. We should make a list sometime. But Volkswagen’s W12 stands out among all of those, both for its power and its relative reliability.

The product of the megalomaniacal brute-force management style of Ferdinand Piech, for whom nothing was impossible if you just fired enough engineers, the W12 came upon the world in 2001.

The engine’s first assignment was sitting amidships in the Volkswagen W12 concept car of 2001. It did well there, setting a record for averaging 183 mph over the course of 24 hours. Then it went into the Audi A8, Bentley Continental GT, Bentley Flying Spur, Bentley Bentayga, Volkswagen Phaeton, and Volkswagen Touareg. It even saw duty in the Spyker C12 La Turbie and Spyker C12 Zagato. It did well in all of them.

2024 bentley continental gt speed

Two banks of narrow-angle V6s produced 650 hp.

Bentley

But the W12 I just drove, and the car I just tearfully handed back to Bentley, was the Continental GT Speed. Ahhhhh…. If only I had $370,045! I’ve got the $45…

It’s the third generation of the Continental GT since the current model line came out in 2003. The Speed moniker has been on Bentleys since the 1920s, back in the days of the Bentley Boys at Brooklands. Bentley put the 6.0-liter W12 in the Continental starting in 2007.

The engine in my car made 650 hp from 5000 to 6000 rpm and 644 lb-ft of torque from 1500 to 5000 revs. So a transmission was pretty much unnecessary. Bentley put one in anyway, an eight-speed ZF dual clutch. All that power and torque went to all four wheels, too, the better to push and pull the car out of corners. It rode on all-aluminum double-wishbones in front and an all-aluminum multilink in the back. Active antiroll bars at both ends kept cornering flat despite the car’s 5011 pounds.

I put a few hundred miles on mine over the course of the week I had it, and the most impressive thing about it was the mid-range torque—just stomp on the gas anywhere on the tach you wanted and the Bentley stood up and roared forward. 0-60 mph comes up in 3.5 seconds.

Top speed is 208 mph, but you have to increase the tire pressures before you try that. I didn’t try it, but I did do a 200-mile day and found it as easy and comfortable to drive as it was deceptively sporty.

2024 bentley continental gt speed

That’s Damson color inside and out. It looks even better in the fleash.

Mark Vaughn

I also loved the Morticia Adams purple paint outside and matching leather upholstery inside. The color is called Damson, named after a purplish fruit that grows in England. I would never have thought I’d like something like that but when I order my own GT Speed, I’m doing it in Damson.

There were a couple weirdnesses in it. The middle of the dash squeaked the whole time I had it, a symptom you could alleviate by pressing firmly on the top middle part of the dash. The electric parking brake still has to be manually set, an incongruity in a car that is over a third of a million dollars. And I might not have ordered the $16,170 carbon ceramic brakes. Aww, who am I kidding, I’d have ordered them, especially since they come with black painted calipers.

The as-tested price of $370,045 included over $75,000 in options, all of which I’d order on mine. You really do need the “Contrast Gear Lever and Steering Wheel Spokes by Mulliner” and the “Bentley Self Levelling Wheel Badges.”

Why is something this magnificent going away? You already know. The world is going electric. There’s no way to stop it. Volkswagen, parent company of Bentley, is still wearing sackcloth and ashes from when it was caught cheating on that diesel exhaust emissions thing. As a result, 125 years of internal combustion development, which you could argue culminated in this magnificent W12, are going up in smoke.

But not until April of 2024. For now, get out there and enjoy the work of Ferdinand Piech as he reaches out from beyond the grave and smacks your Bentley down the road. Whap!

Will you miss gasoline and weird engine configurations? Tell us below!

Headshot of Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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