We take a look back at the unpimped German supercar.
by Justin Kaehler
June 22, 2007
- Volkswagen's GTI W12-650 is the coolest hatchback ever built and all,
but we'd almost prefer to see VeeDub go out and build a proper
supercar. It's not like the Volkswagen Auto Group can't build a fast and exotic ride; VAG is
responsible for the creation of cars like the Audi R8, Bugatti Veyron
and every Lamborghini of the past 10 years, after all. But despite
VeeDub's announcement that German engineering is, in fact, officially
in ze haus, people just won't pony up a yacht's-worth of cash for a car
with both a "V" and a "W" on the badge. No one bought the Phaeton, and
by all accounts that was a fantastic car.
It's a shame, too. Had the Phaeton actually been a sales success, then
perhaps ze haus-occupying German engineers would have green-lit the
production of VW's original supercar - the Volkswagen W12 Coupe. At the
time, the W12 Coupe was VW's crowning jewel of mechanical achievement.
Not only was the W12 a true supercar with a truly advanced motor, VW
actually used the prototypes to establish a supercar-worthy performance
The heart of the W12 Coupe - the very thing that inspired the vehicle's
name - is the W12 engine. We can understand things like "I", "V", "H"
and even "X"-shaped engines, but how can a "W"-shaped motor even be
possible? Put simply, Volkswagen took a couple of its V6 engines and
bolted them together. Of course, there's a bit more to it than just
using some JB Weld on two VR6s and sticking it into a chassis, so we'll
let the Volkswagen press release tell you about the inner workings of
"The technology of the twelve cylinder engine integrated in the
design study W12 Coup¿: with a length of 513 millimetres, a height of
715 millimetres and a width of 710 millimetres, the engine is
particularly compact. The capacity of the W12, which weighs just 239
kilograms, is 5,998 cm¿. The basic layout of the W12 engine is made up
of two very thin V6 four-valve modules which are configured at an angle
of 72 degrees with a joint crankshaft with seven main bearings to make
up a V-V arrangement, i.e. a "W". The cylinder angle is just 15 degrees
within the two V6 banks. This makes the construction, which is very
compact in comparison to V12 engines, possible. All the other
construction details of the W12 engine are also an indication of
top-level design. The variable intake and exhaust valve timing has a
decisive influence on power development: the inlet camshafts can be
continually adjusted through 52 degrees and the corresponding value for
the exhaust camshaft is 22 degrees."
Though created before the turn of the century, this W12 still boasts
enough power to run with the high-dollar supercars of today. Volkswagen
says that this motor is rated at 600 horsepower and 620Nm (457 lb.-ft.)
of torque. 0-100 km/h (62 mph) times are said to be about 3.5 seconds
and the W12 Coupe's top speed is a warp speed-like 350 km/h (217 mph)!
So yeah... it's a pretty "trick" engine, but as we all know, the
general public just doesn't respond to unique and innovative forms of
engineering, and only bench racers care about numbers. All that
technology had to be wrapped up in a pretty package if people were to
even take so much as a second look at it, so Volkswagen placed the W12
in the center of a very un-German and very sexy body. The W12 Coupe has
every single visual cue that a supercar aficionado looks for: a
teardrop silhouette, a short and steeply raked front, scissor doors, a
very long and flat rear deck and a body-on-the-ground stance. Though
this VeeDub is about 14 feet long and 6 feet wide, the W12 coupe is
just 3.5 feet tall. Not only is the W12 Coupe fast, it will also allow
you to relive your Fast and Furious fantasies of making lane changes by driving under semis. Neat.
Now about that racing pedigree: the W12 Coupe never got the chance to
prove itself at a major race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it did
set a record at the Nardo high-speed oval in Italy. Volkswagen ran the
W12 Coupe at an average speed of 322.89 km/h (200.6 mph) over the
course of 24 hours!
That's one full day of running this car at F1 speeds and that is
nothing short of amazing. In this 24 hour period, the VeeDub covered a
distance of 7,749.4 kilometres, or 4,815 miles. That's almost twice the
length of the United States. Color us impressed.
But as we mentioned earlier, the Phaeton proved that no one wanted to
pay a lot of money for a Volkswagen, so ze German engineers killed the
W12 Coupe project. Bits of the car live on in vehicles like the Veyron
and GTI W12-650, but unfortunately VeeDub's O.G. supercar was never
able to see the light of day.
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