Despite being perhaps BMW’s most famous engine, it never appeared in one of the manufacturer’s own production cars. Instead, it powered the mighty McLaren F1.
Displacing 6.1-litres, this dry-sumped 12-pot pushed out 627bhp in the F1, making 0-62mph possible in just 3.2 seconds, and giving a bonkers top speed of 240mph, which remained unsurpassed for years after the car’s launch.
We’ll forgive Aston Martin for rounding this engine up to 6.0 litres on all the badging and marketing bumf (since it displaces 5935cc, we’d argue it’s technically a 5.9), as it’s a ruddy marvellous thing. It’s getting on a bit and has some fairly humble roots - the basic block design was created by joining two Ford Duratec V6s - but we love it for being one of the few naturally-aspirated V12s left, and for sounding rather brilliant.
Like all N/A V12s though, its days are numbered. Aston Martin’s contract with Ford’s Cologne plant - where the engine is still made - runs until 2016, and it’s looking almost certain that next-gen Astons like the DB11 will use a turbocharged variant.
Introduced all the way back in the 1960s with the 350GT - Lamborghini’s first production car - this V12 served the Italian firm well right up until the last examples of the Murcielago, after which it was replaced with the all-new 12-pot found in the Aventador. During that time, this 60-degree V12 evolved from a 270bhp unit displacing 3.5 litres, to a 6.5-litre whopper kicking out 661bhp in the Murcielago LP-670 SV.
Jaguar’s V12 came in various different displacements and powered a huge range of cars during its 1971-1997 production run, but perhaps its most exciting appearance was in the middle of the XJR-15.
Essentially a lightly watered-down XJR-8 race car, just 53 were built. And that 60-degree V12 - here dispacing 6.0 litres and putting out 450bhp - created a rather awkward situation in the Jaguar stable. After all, it came out at around the same time as the turbo V6 XJ220, a car originally destined to have pretty much the same V12 that ended up in the XJR-15.
This monstrous version of Mercedes’ M120 appeared in the rather rare R129-based SL73 AMG, but it’s probably better known for being slotted in the middle of the rather shouty brainchild of a bloke called Horatio. Yep, we’re talking about the Pagani Zonda - more specifically, the Zonda S, F Cinque and Tricolore. In the Cinque this naturally-aspirated unit is good for 678bhp.
The best part of all this is, if you can’t afford a Zonda, you might well be able to afford a used Mercedes S-Class with an M120 V12 (albeit not the stonking 7.3-litre version) or the M137 that replaced it. Then just slap on a set of custom equal-length headers, and you have screaming Zonda noise for cheaps.
It’s tricky to pick which of Ferrari’s many amazing V12s deserves a place here, but the F140 seemed to be the most popular choice on the original community thread. Well, apart from the F102/F110/F113, but we didn’t want to get into a debate as to whether or not it’s a flat-12 or a ‘180-degree’ V12 (it’s not a true boxer as its opposing pistons do not share a crank pin).
When it comes to the F140 though, there’s no denying that this 65-degree family of engines is almost certainly in a V configuration. And most importantly, they’ve powered some of the most exciting and most powerful cars Ferrari has ever built. First appearing in the Enzo with a mere 650bhp and displacing 6.0 litres, the F140 has since grown to 6.3 litres and produces 789bhp when fitted to the LaFerrari.
It’s understood that at least one more generation of Ferrari road cars will be blessed with this naturally-aspirated V12, so there’ll be plenty of time to savour it before it’s consigned to the history books.
I have to admit, I almost didn’t include this engine here. After all, its from a project - the Cerbera Speed 12 - that was a bit of a failure. The motorsport side of it was hampered by poor reliability, and the road car due to get this V12 engine was eventually cancelled, with then-TVR owner Peter Wheeler claiming the car was just too damn powerful for its own good.
And yet, you just can’t argue with the crazy numbers here. Displacement? 7.7 litres. Power? Rumours suggested up to 1000bhp. The weight it had to pull? Just 1100kg. What a shame it never went into production….