I attempted to explain the structure of a W-12 engine to my passengers as we slid through the dappled shade of a narrow, winding mountain route. I followed the technically accurate but visually ineffective “It’s like two VW VR6 engines joined together,” with “It’s like a V-12, but crinkled up.” Finally, I said, “Consider stashing two complimentary six-packs of Coke in the refrigerator. They don’t fit on the shelf if you arrange them in a straight line, but if you stagger them slightly, you can fit them all in.

Bentley W-12

Robert and Suzanne Williams are not your typical backseat luxury passengers. I don’t think most Bentley travellers care all that much about the W-12’s development; all they worry about is how well it performs and how well it has performed in the past. The two are still as interested and technically minded in their 80s as they were when they first met in an art faculty back in the 1960s. Which suggests that while driving up the mountain, they relentlessly grilled me about the features of the Bentley Flying Spur Speed.

After getting lost in the explanation for the 6.-liter W-12’s twin overhead cams, 626 horsepower, and 664 pound-toes of torque, attention was drawn to the numerous controls and features in the roomy back seat. Bob enjoyed creating mystery by raising the side window privacy screens and relaxing his seat to the full extent. Suzanne was delighted by the split climate settings because she is always too hot and he is always too cold. Both were disappointed that it wasn’t air-conditioned like in a Rolls-Royce but delighted to discover the tiny hidden compartment below the heart console that I had filled with sweets.

Not that either has put that much time into a contemporary Rolls. The Williamses are successful artists who, at this point in their lives, could have the luxury car of their choice, but they began as rebels and continue to have a distinct punk-rock aesthetic, which is why I believed they would enjoy spending a day in the back of the Travelling Spur. So to speak, introducing some well-known Ws to one and all.

Fans of comic books may recognise Bob’s name from the infamous Guns N’ Roses “Hunger for Destruction” album cover or from his work with Zap Comix in the 1970s, which also featured R. Crumb. Before that, Bob and Suzanne both worked for Ed “Huge Daddy” Roth, designing magazines and catalogues for fans of custom automobiles and trucks and depicting monsters in muscle cars. As their underground subculture of rat rods and cartoons gained popularity in the cerebral atmosphere of high-quality art, cars and art have fought for the top spot in their life. The Williamses founded Juxtapoz journal in the 1990s as a rebuttal to the art journals that frequently ignored any work that didn’t follow the strict guidelines of the most popular collector trends.

The W-12 is essentially saying goodbye. The final multipot motor is scheduled to leave the production line in April 2024, and Bentley announced the end of 12-cylinder manufacturing in February 2023. There is simply no place in Bentley’s electrified choices for a hand-designed 12-banger outside of 2024 given how much electricity and torque have increased and how much emissions have decreased over the preceding two decades since the W-12 was first introduced in the 2003 Continental GT.

The 30 motor manufacturers who currently use the W-12 production line at the Bentley headquarters in Crewe, England, will switch over to the V-8 and hybrid V-6. The Pace Version 12 trim, which is available as a limited version of each of its four Velocity models, is Bentley’s way of commemorating the end of a unique powertrain. The Speed Edition cars will have outstanding “12” badging, seat embroidery, a tiny “12” engraved in the local climate control pulls, and the engine firing purchase on the sprint veneer. Just in case, you decide to conduct a quick timing check while driving.

Bentley did give a run-through of each of the most recent W-12 products, even if I haven’t had a chance to get behind the wheel of a Speed Version 12 yet (but I have had the chance to check out a Bentayga that was on display in the distinctive Opalite Pearl). The tour itinerary went from Venice, California, to the Griffith Observatory, and then on to Malibu. If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of time spent in cars, you’re right. However, if you must get stranded on a motorway in Los Angeles, it is best to do so in a Bentley.

The W-12 is a spotless driver in all vehicles, from the convertible to the SUV, with plenty of power to steal a rare open lane and luxurious, cooled, and massaging seats for when you’re just sitting down. While the Continental has traditionally been a favourite of mine, I discovered that I was liking the Flying Spur even more on the various stretches of open road. It has a slight rear steer that makes it corner like a smaller car or truck, but its large footprint scares anybody else out of the way. This is the kind of experience you should expect for if you plan to spend $322,595 on a car. The best moments have occurred in tunnels when the mill, which is often quiet, plays a timpani solo of bass beats.