There’s nothing quite like the sound, power, and prestige of a V12 engine.
When you couple that with a brand synonymous with performance, luxury, and innovation, you get a spectacular combination – the BMW V12 engine.
From the trailblazing M70 to the legendary N74, BMW’s V12 engines have been at the heart of some of the most iconic vehicles in the automotive world.
In this article, we’ll discuss all of BMW’s V12 engines, exploring their features, the models they powered, and their significant milestones.
So, if you’re as intrigued by these powerful machines as we are, keep reading!
Overview: A complete list of V12-powered BMWs
BMW equipped several 7 Series and 8 Series models with a V12 engine.
For a complete overview of all BMWs with a V12, take a look at this table:
|Model||Engine||Engine Code||Production Years|
|E32 750i (7 Series)||NA V12||M70||1987-1994|
|E38 750i (7 Series)||NA V12||M73||1994-2001|
|E65/E66 760i (7 Series)||NA V12||N73||2003-2008|
|F01/F02/F03 760i (7 Series)||Turbo V12||N74||2008-2015|
|G12 M760Li xDrive (7 Series)||Turbo V12||N74||2016-2022|
|E31 850i (8 Series)||NA V12||M70||1989-1994|
|E31 850CSi (8 Series)||NA V12||S70||1992-1996|
|E31 850Ci (8 Series)||NA V12||M73||1994-1999|
A timeline of BMW’s V12 engines and models
Let’s now dive deeper into each BMW V12 engine! We’ll tell you all about its history, unique features, and the models it was fitted in.
1. M70 (1987-1994)
Introduced in 1987, the M70 was the first V12 engine in the BMW lineup.
With this engine, BMW didn’t just double the number of cylinders from its standard 6-cylinder engines; it effectively combined two inline six-cylinder M20 engines on a common crankshaft.
Think of it as a pair of 2.5-liter engines working in perfect harmony!
One fun fact car enthusiasts might love about the M70 is its unique design. The engine control unit (ECU) was essentially two separate ECUs, each managing one bank of cylinders independently.
But there’s more. The M70 was not just about power but also balance and smoothness.
It had a 60-degree angle between the cylinder banks, providing an excellent balance, reducing vibration, and ensuring a smooth drive.
Finally, the M70 made its debut in the iconic BMW 750i (E32), marking BMW’s entry into the world of 12-cylinder cars. Now, isn’t that a piece of history worth remembering?
BMW models equipped with the M70 V12 engine
BMW used the M70 V12 engine in the following models:
- E32 750i 7 Series (1987-1994)
- E31 850i 8 Series (1989-1994)
2. S70 (1992-1996)
Next up on our timeline is the legendary S70 engine.
BMW unveiled the S70 in 1992, and it took the automotive world by storm.
The S70 is a 5.6-liter V12 engine, increased from the M70’s 5.0 liters.
One of the standout aspects of the S70 is its distinction of being the heart of the iconic McLaren F1. Yes, you read that right.
The McLaren F1, often hailed as one of the greatest sports cars ever made, was powered by none other than BMW’s S70.
BMW and McLaren’s partnership led to the creation of the S70/2 variant specifically designed for the McLaren F1.
A fun fact about the S70/2 in the McLaren F1 is that its engine bay was lined with gold foil.
Why, you ask?
Because gold is an excellent reflector of heat, and the S70/2 was a real fire-breather.
In terms of BMW’s own models, the S70 found its home in the BMW 850CSi, a grand tourer still fondly remembered by BMW enthusiasts.
The S70 also departed from the ‘twin ECUs’ concept of the M70. Instead, it had a more sophisticated Siemens engine control unit that managed both banks of cylinders. This was a big step forward in terms of efficiency and engine management.
No wonder it’s remembered as one of the best V12 engines that BMW has ever created!
BMW models equipped with the S70 V12 engine
BMW used the S70 V12 engine in the following models:
- E31 850CSi 8 Series (1992-1996)
3. M73 (1994-2001)
The next BMW V12 engine is the M73. Introduced in 1994, the M73 was a successor to the M70.
However, the M73 was an evolution rather than a revolution. It retained the basic architecture of the M70 but upped the displacement to 5.4 liters, resulting in a bit more power and torque.
For all the tech enthusiasts, here’s something to chew on: the M73 was one of the first BMW engines to feature an electronic throttle control (ETC), also known as ‘drive-by-wire.’
This technology marked a significant shift in engine design and control, effectively removing the mechanical link between the accelerator pedal and the throttle.
It’s like the difference between sending a letter by post and sending an email – faster, more efficient, and just plain cool.
As for the cars it powered, the M73 found its home in the BMW 750i (E38) and the 850Ci (E31).
Here’s another fun nugget: in a slightly modified form, the M73 also powered the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph from 1998 to 2002. Yes, a Rolls-Royce!
BMW models equipped with the M73 V12 engine
BMW used the M73 V12 engine in the following models:
- E38 750i 7 Series (1994-2001)
- E31 850Ci 8 Series (1994-1999)
4. N73 (2003-2008)
The N73 was a 6.0-liter V12 engine designed by BMW. It was a significant upgrade from its predecessor, the M73.
But what set the N73 apart wasn’t just its size or power; it was the innovative technologies it brought to the table.
First on the list is the ‘Valvetronic’ system. It’s a fancy term for a technology that controls the amount of air entering the engine, essentially replacing the throttle function.
This resulted in a more responsive engine with better fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
Another groundbreaking feature was the introduction of the direct fuel injection system, which allowed for better combustion and, as a result, improved fuel efficiency and power output.
The N73 V12 engine powered the BMW 760i and 760Li models, which sit at the very top of the BMW lineup.
And, for a touch of extra prestige, it also powered the Rolls-Royce Phantom, again showing that BMW’s V12 engines are at home in the world’s most luxurious cars.
Now, for a fun fact: the N73 was the last naturally aspirated V12 engine made by BMW. This makes it a bit of a swan song to an era when engines were all about raw, unadulterated power without any help from turbochargers or superchargers.
BMW models equipped with the N73 V12 engine
BMW used the N73 V12 engine in the following models:
- E65/E66 760i 7 Series (2003-2008)
5. N74 (2009-2022)
Unfortunately, we’ve already reached BMW’s final V12 engine, the N74.
The N74 started as a 6.0-liter V12 engine, but BMW increased its displacement to 6.6 liters in 2016.
But something else set the N74 apart from its predecessors: twin turbochargers. The N74 was BMW’s first V12 engine to feature turbocharging, resulting in a massive boost in power and torque.
The N74 V12 has powered several of the most expensive models in the BMW lineup, including the 760i, 760Li, and the M760Li. It also found a home in the Rolls-Royce Ghost, Wraith, and Dawn.
But as impressive as the N74 is, it also represents the end of an era.
In 2020, BMW announced it would be discontinuing the V12 engine. In June 2022, the very last BMW equipped with a V12 engine was built.
BMW models equipped with the N74 V12 engine
BMW used the N74 V12 engine in the following models:
- F01/F02/F03 760i 7 Series (2008-2015)
- G12 M760Li xDrive 7 Series (2016-2022)
What is the best BMW V12 engine?
After taking you through a tour of BMW’s rich V12 history, the inevitable question arises: which of the V12 engines is the best?
Considering the overall performance, technological advancements, and impact on the automotive world, the title of ‘the best BMW V12 engine’ goes to the N74.
This engine marked several firsts for BMW:
- Turbocharged. The N74 was the only V12 from BMW to adopt twin turbochargers, significantly upping its power output up to 601 horsepower in models like the M760Li.
- Also used by Rolls-Royce. The N74 also stands out for its wide use in several BMW models and even outside the brand, powering various Rolls-Royce and Alpina vehicles.
- Technological advancements. The N74 utilized direct fuel injection, Valvetronic systems, and twin-turbo technology to deliver a powerful yet smooth driving experience.
- The last BMW V12. As the last V12 engine that BMW produced, the N74 holds a special place in automotive history. It stands as a monument to an era that may never return due to the world’s shift towards more sustainable forms of transport.
So there you have it.
The N74 is, in many ways, the best representation of what a BMW V12 engine is all about.
We’ve walked through decades of relentless innovation, performance, and refinement, from the groundbreaking M70 to the legendary N74.
It’s clear that BMW’s V12 engines are more than just machines.
As we look forward to a new era of electric and hybrid vehicles, we remember these legendary engines and the joy of driving they brought to countless automotive enthusiasts worldwide!