We’ve grown accustomed to watching BMW, Mercedes and Audi battling it out in the horsepower wars. But a new front has now opened up on another level entirely – with twelve-cylinder engines and the most prestigious of badges.
Where the battle has typically been waged between models like the M3, C63, and RS4, or between the M5, E63, and RS6, this latest campaign pits the very top of the luxury marketplace under the badges of Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes-Maybach. It’s a fight that Bentley had until now been undertaking largely on its own. But both Rolls and Maybach have recently launched more potent models that put the Flying B marque on notice.
After shunning such bourgeoisie boastfulness for much of its history, Rolls-Royce heralded its arrival on the battlefield with the debut of the Black Badge earlier this year. Offered on both the Wraith fastback coupe and the Ghost sedan, the Black Badge models pack the same 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 as the “standard” models, but increase their output up to the stratosphere. Where the stock Ghost offers 563 horsepower and 605 lb-ft of torque, the Ghost Black Badge packs 603 hp and 620 lb-ft. The Wraith takes things even further, with 624 hp in both standard and Black Badge versions, but increases torque from 590 to 642 lb-ft. (The convertible Dawn retains the same engine specs as the base Ghost.)
Daimler loosed its own volley just weeks ago when it revealed the Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet. For the first time since reviving the marque, the Maybach treatment has been extended to a two-door production model – and a convertible, at that. But more to the point, it offers a more potent engine as well. Like the Maybach S600 sedan, the S650 is motivated by a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 – but its output is in another league altogether. Instead of 523 hp and 612 lb-ft in the S600, the S650 packs a massive 621 hp and an even more mind-boggling 738 lb-ft. (As keen as Mercedes is to keep its AMG and Maybach sub-brands apart, those specs are tellingly identical to the former’s 65-engined models.)
This compared to the Bentley Continental GT, whose 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 churns out 582 hp and 531 lb-ft in standard specification, or 633 hp and 620 lb-ft in the top-of-the-line Speed model. (Similar levels of output are available in the convertible and Flying Spur sedan as well.)
Those figures leave Bentley with the bragging rights to the highest horsepower rating, but hands the vital (if less attention-grabbing) torque crown to Mercedes. (The average between the two measures of output put Rolls-Royce ahead of Bentley, but Maybach surpasses them both.)
For the time being, the limited-production S650 Cabriolet is the only Maybach to offer that engine (though it is also available on the AMG S65 sedan, coupe, and convertible, as well as the SL65 roadster and G65 sport-ute). With an updated version of the S-Class expected to arrive sometime around fall 2017, we would not be at all surprised to see Mercedes offer a Maybach S650 sedan as well, complete with its stretched wheelbase and all the creature comforts you could imagine – bragging rights included.