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 unfastened six-packs of soda away within the fridge. Should 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 building of the W-12, solely that its easy efficiency and elite fame 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 after they first met in artwork college again within the Sixties. Which suggests they quizzed me mercilessly on the specs of the Bentley Flying Spur Velocity on the way in which 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 sizzling, 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 most likely have the posh automotive of their alternative, however they began as rebels and preserve a sure punk-rock aesthetic to today, which is strictly why I assumed they could take pleasure in a day at the back of the Flying Spur. Introducing some well-known Ws to one another, so to talk.
Comedian-book followers might acknowledge Bob’s identify from the scandalous Weapons N’ Roses “Urge for food for Destruction” cowl, or his work within the ’70s with Zap Comix—which additionally printed R. Crumb. Earlier than that, each Bob and Suzanne labored for Ed “Large Daddy” Roth, drawing monsters in muscle vehicles and laying out catalogs and magazines for custom-car fanatics. Artwork and vehicles have vied for prime place of their lives as their underground scene of rat rods and cartoons turned mainstream within the intellectual world of high quality 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 inside the strict strains of the newest collector tendencies.
Leaving the W-12 Behind
The W-12 is on a little bit of a farewell tour. Bentley introduced the top 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 at the moment work on the W-12. It is the top of a particular powerplant, and Bentley is celebrating it with the Velocity Version 12 trim, out there as a restricted version of every of its 4 Velocity fashions. The Velocity Version vehicles will characteristic distinctive “12” badging, embroidery on the seats, a little bit “12” etched within the local weather management pulls, and the engine firing order on the sprint veneer. Simply in case you resolve to do a fast timing test whereas out on the street.
Whereas I have never had an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Velocity Version 12 but—though I did get to poke at a Bentayga instance on show within the signature Opalite Pearl—Bentley did supply 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 site visitors, you are proper. But when you must be caught on an L.A. freeway, finest to do it in a Bentley.
From the convertible to the SUV, the W-12 actually is a easy operator, with loads of grunt to steal a uncommon open lane and pampering, cooled, and massaging seats for whenever 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 manner. If you are going to spend $322,595 on a automotive, that is the form of expertise you must count on. One of the best 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 vehicles that they’ve with the rumbling huge fuel engines. “There’s an emotional reference to the engine, the gears. We’d like to verify we provide that with an EV when the time comes. There is a motive we did not rush to be first to market.” He says he is certain the connection will 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 wished extra time within the Flying Spur Velocity, they usually wished a trip as much as Lake Arrowhead. We took the desert route, the Spur coolly consuming up miles whereas the pavement baked exterior in 104-degree warmth. Up within the hills, the massive 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 should not for the weak-hearted parker, with roads barely wider than the Flying Spur, however we slid by and not using a scratch, and the Williamses declared the automotive most pleasant. It solely actually gained them over, although, on the way in which residence. “Oh, you’ll want to recover from right here,” Suzanne instructed, proper as a Porsche Cayenne pulled up subsequent to us on the gentle. 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 number 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 road. You possibly can 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 data and study extra about Robert Williams, watch the documentary “Robert Williams Mr Bitchin'” about his life and work.