Criticised by car enthusiasts but much needed to clean up our fragile world, emissions regulations are forcing automakers to downsize their engines and embrace electrification. The writing is on the wall for the internal combustion engine, and while the complete switch to EVs won't happen overnight, the big-displacement powertrains are on their deathbed.
It goes without saying the twelve-cylinder is the most vulnerable of them all (well, there's also the Bugatti Chiron's W16), and it's being gradually phased out. Mercedes will sell its largest engine only in the Maybach S-Class going forward while BMW will discontinue it after the current 7 Series (M760i), meaning you'll have to step up to a Rolls-Royce.
Audi is also killing the W12 in the A8 with the next-generation model, leaving Bentley and Lamborghini as the only brands of the Volkswagen Group to offer a twelve-cylinder unit. Other ultra-exclusive marques such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Pagani also have V12 engines in their portfolios. As of August 2020, Gordon Murray Automotive joined the fray with its three-seat T.50 supercar, which went on to spawn a track-only T.50s Niki Lauda hardcore version.
Gallery: Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s Niki Lauda
Much like Ferrari and Lamborghini have pledged to keep this big engine alive for as long as possible, GMA is now also promising to retain what many see as the equivalent of a dinosaur in the automotive industry – a petrol V12. In a press release issued today about an investment of £300 million to expand and develop hybrids and EV technologies, the company vows to retain the ol' combustion engine "as long as the regulations allow."
A second V12-powered model will follow the T.50 / T.50s before a hybrid car, so the engine's future is safe for now. Before that happens, the current supercar is undergoing prototype testing and will enter production in 2022, with the first customer deliveries programmed to take place early next year. Additional models are being developed and GMA promises these will "stay true to the ethos and exclusivity shown by the T.50."
At the same time, the company needs to adapt in order to survive, hence why a dedicated platform for electric vehicles is being engineered. Gordon Murray told Autocar the new hardware will underpin a small crossover as well as a delivery van spin-off model. It's said to be less than four metres long, so it might recapture the spirit of the pint-sized T.27.