Slipping by the dappled shade of a thin, twisty mountain street, I attempted to explain the construction of a W-12 engine to my passengers. “It is like a V-12, however crinkled up,” I tried after the technically correct however visually unhelpful, “It is like two VW VR6 engines joined collectively.” Lastly, I went with: “Think about placing two free six-packs of soda away within the fridge. When you line them up straight, they do not match on the shelf, however for those who stagger them barely, you may squeeze all of them in.”
I think about most Bentley passengers do not care that a lot in regards to the development of the W-12, solely that its clean efficiency and elite repute carry them unruffled to their vacation spot, however Robert and Suzanne Williams aren’t your common back-seat luxurious riders. Each of their 80s, they continue to be as curious and technically minded as once they first met in artwork college again within the Nineteen Sixties. Which suggests they quizzed me mercilessly on the specs of the Bentley Flying Spur Pace on the best way up the mountain.
After stumbling by the reason for the 6.0-liter W-12 with its twin overhead cams, 626 horses, and 664 pound-feet of torque, consideration turned to the assorted options and controls within the spacious again seat. Suzanne was delighted by the break up local weather controls—she’s at all times too scorching, he is at all times too chilly—and Bob loved creating thriller by elevating the facet window privateness screens and reclining his seat to its full extension. Each have been joyful to find the little secret compartment behind the middle console, which I had full of snacks, however they have been dissatisfied that it wasn’t air-conditioned like in a Rolls-Royce.
Not that both has spent that a lot time in a contemporary Rolls. The Williamses are profitable artists who, at this level of their lives, might in all probability have the posh automotive of their alternative, however they began as rebels and keep a sure punk-rock aesthetic to today, which is precisely why I believed they may take pleasure in a day behind the Flying Spur. Introducing some well-known Ws to one another, so to talk.
Comedian-book followers might acknowledge Bob’s title from the scandalous Weapons N’ Roses “Urge for food for Destruction” cowl, or his work within the ’70s with Zap Comix—which additionally revealed R. Crumb. Earlier than that, each Bob and Suzanne labored for Ed “Massive Daddy” Roth, drawing monsters in muscle automobiles and laying out catalogs and magazines for custom-car fanatics. Artwork and automobiles have vied for prime place of their lives as their underground scene of rat rods and cartoons grew to become mainstream within the intellectual world of superb artwork. Within the ’90s the Williamses based Juxtapoz journal, which started as a pushback in opposition to the artwork publications that always ignored any work that did not match throughout the strict strains of the most recent collector tendencies.
Leaving the W-12 Behind
The W-12 is on a little bit of a farewell tour. Bentley introduced the tip of 12-cylinder manufacturing in February 2023, and the final multipot motor is about to roll off the road in April 2024. Bentley launched the W-12 within the 2003 Continental GT, and whereas the facility and torque have gone up and the emissions have gone down over the previous twenty years, there’s simply no place in Bentley’s electrified plans for a hand-built 12-banger past 2024.
The W-12 manufacturing line within the Bentley headquarters in Crewe, England, might be transitioned over to the V-8 and hybrid V-6, as will the 30 engine builders who presently work on the W-12. It is the tip of a particular powerplant, and Bentley is celebrating it with the Pace Version 12 trim, accessible as a restricted version of every of its 4 Pace fashions. The Pace Version automobiles will characteristic distinctive “12” badging, embroidery on the seats, a bit “12” etched within the local weather management pulls, and the engine firing order on the sprint veneer. Simply in case you determine to do a fast timing verify whereas out on the street.
Whereas I have never had an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Pace Version 12 but—though I did get to poke at a Bentayga instance on show within the signature Opalite Pearl—Bentley did provide a run-through of every of the present W-12 fashions. The tour route ran from Venice, California, to the Griffith Observatory to Malibu, and for those who’re pondering that is an terrible lot of sitting in visitors, you are proper. But when it’s important to be caught on an L.A. freeway, greatest to do it in a Bentley.
From the convertible to the SUV, the W-12 actually is a clean operator, with loads of grunt to steal a uncommon open lane and pampering, cooled, and massaging seats for if you’re simply sitting there. On the few stretches of open street, I discovered that, whereas the Continental has at all times been a favourite of mine, I used to be having fun with the Flying Spur much more. One thing about how the rear steer makes it nook like a smaller automotive, however its huge footprint intimidates everybody else out of your means. If you are going to spend $322,595 on a automotive, that is the form of expertise you need to anticipate. The perfect moments have been in tunnels, when the usually quiet mill performs a timpani solo of bass beats.
Christophe Georges, president and CEO of Bentley Motors Americas, admitted there is a problem forward of the corporate to forge the identical connections with their electrical automobiles that they’ve with the rumbling huge gasoline engines. “There’s an emotional reference to the engine, the gears. We want to verify we provide that with an EV when the time comes. There is a purpose we did not rush to be first to market.” He says he is certain the connection could be made, however he understands that folks will miss the belly-deep thrill of the W-12.
The Desert Route
Which leads me again to choosing up Bob and Suzanne. I needed extra time within the Flying Spur Pace, and so they needed a experience as much as Lake Arrowhead. We took the desert route, the Spur coolly consuming up miles whereas the pavement baked outdoors in 104-degree warmth. Up within the hills, the large automotive tiptoed across the forested corners, sometimes tricked by the world’s off-camber tilts into giving a downshifting cough, however by no means with sufficient pressure to disrupt the dialog.
The neighborhoods across the lake aren’t for the weak-hearted parker, with roads barely wider than the Flying Spur, however we slid by with out a scratch, and the Williamses declared the automotive most gratifying. It solely actually received them over, although, on the best way house. “Oh, you could recover from right here,” Suzanne instructed, proper as a Porsche Cayenne pulled up subsequent to us on the mild. When it turned, I put the pedal down, and we surged forward within the roar of a dozen cylinders. We made our flip, and some blocks later, the Porsche handed us in a sulk after which pulled right into a driveway a couple of doorways down from Bob and Suzanne. I apologized for racing their neighbor, however they have been delighted to have proven him who was boss on their avenue. You may take the drag-racing rebels out in a Bentley, however you may’t take the drag-racing insurgent out of a Bentley. Anyhow, the W in W-12 clearly stands for “Win.”
If you would like to refresh your artwork college information and study extra about Robert Williams, watch the documentary “Robert Williams Mr Bitchin'” about his life and work.