The debate between people who love American muscle cars or classic European sports cars can keep gearheads entertained for hours. Similarly, Porsche fans will happily spend hours debating the merits of rear-engined cars versus their front and mid-engined siblings, and eco-conscious consumers can go on and on about plug-in hybrids versus fully electric vehicles.
In the end, preferences in the automotive world are just like anything else: it all comes down to taste. But certain facts can't be argued. One debate that will likely keep roaring forever in car culture is whether V8 or V12 engines are better (and even W12 or W16 powerplants get into the mix these days). But for every great V8 or V12 car, there are plenty of awful ones, too. The simple rarity of V12-powered vehicles, though, makes this argument a simpler study of pros and cons.
Keep scrolling for 10 V12 cars worth every penny and 5 to avoid at all costs.
15. Worth Every Penny: Mercedes-Benz SL600
via MB World
McLaren F1 and Lamborghini Miura auctions can run into the millions, while BMW 850CSi examples in good shape can crack six figures. But what about a V12-powered car that's attainable for everyday people? Well, the late-1990s Mercedes-Benz SL600 has a silky smooth V12 that flies under the radar and can be found for only around $10-15,000.
14. Worth Every Penny: BMW 750iL
via RM Sotheby's
Gordon Murray has admitted that he wanted Honda to build the McLaren F1's V12, though that job eventually went to BMW. And BMW made the most of V12 engines during the 1980s and 90s, with another stellar car coming in the form of the E38-generation 750iL. Long and luxurious, this was an executive sedan for the ages when it debuted in 1994. No wonder it appeared in the James Bond film Die Another Day.
13. Worth Every Penny: Lamborghini Countach
Very few commuter cars that remain affordable use V12 engines, which are mostly used in sports cars and supercars. Case in point is the epic Lamborghini Countach, which built on the Miura's V12 layout but featured much more radical exterior details that would come to define the Italian company's aesthetic for decades to follow.
12. Worth Every Penny: Ferrari 250 GTO
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about V12 engines is that the world's single most desirable car, the Ferrari 250 GTO, has one under the hood. And the Colombo V12 that powered this homologation special would become synonymous with Ferrari's development, remaining in production over many generations all the way until 1988.
11. Worth Every Penny: Ferrari F50
via Fastest Laps
Ferrari built the F50 as the successor to the F40, which was the last car Enzo Ferrari personally signed off on. The F50 replaced the F40's twin-turbocharged V8 powerplant with a naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V12, which though less powerful, might sound better given the inherently simpler construction methods used in building perfectly balanced V12 engines.
10. Worth Every Penny: E-Type Jaguar
via Car Pixel
E-Type Jaguar values are all over the map, though it's hard to argue that finding an original, unrestored and V12-powered example is the best bet. Jaguar was a luxury brand that remains one of the pioneers of V12 engine usage, though the E-Type hails from a simpler era when Jaguar could at least be trusted to have a bit more reliability with their engines.
9. Worth Every Penny: McLaren F1
via Business Insider
The McLaren F1 might be one of the most valuable cars of all time, given that very few owners ever want to sell and when they do, can get into the tens of millions of dollars for each example. That's a lot of pennies, to be fair, but each one is worth it given this might just be the best car ever made, thanks largely to its BMW-sourced S70/2 V12 engine.
8. Worth Every Penny: Lamborghini Miura
via Girardi & Co
Another ridiculously valuable car with a mid-mounted V12 engine, the Lamborghini Miura is widely regarded as one of the most gorgeous automotive designs ever. The Miura paved the way for the mid-engined supercar world of today, though few cars can ever hope to look as good as the transversely-mounted V12, especially with velocity stacks up top.
7. Worth Every Penny: BMW 850CSi
via Road & Track
BMW might have recently revived the 8 Series in an attempt to prove that the company hasn't lost sight of its "Ultimate Driving Machine Slogan," but there's no doubt the original E31 generation was way better. That's especially true given that range-topping 850CSi and its V12, which was a close relative of the McLaren F1's powerplant.
6. Worth Every Penny: Porsche 917
Wait a second, surely the 12-cylinder engine that powers the Porsche 917 is a flat-twelve, much like the company's iconic flat-sixes, right? Well, it turns out that the 917's powerplant is actually a V12 with a 180-degree layout, which is a technicality because its crankshaft had two rods sharing each set of six journals. But that means that technically, the 917 remains a V12-powered car that's about as ridiculously awesome as possible.
5. Avoid At All Costs: Aston Martin DB7
Aston Martin might have a reputation for building some of the most beautiful cars in the world, but that doesn't mean they're a great idea for anyone to buy. Even the wonderful V12 engine sounds from cars like the DB7 aren't great enough to overcome serious reliability concerns, especially when there are so many other great V12 options out there.
4. Avoid At All Costs: Jaguar XJ12
via Vintage Car Collectors
Jaguar was a pioneer in the arena of V12-powered cars, though much like Aston Martin, more recent versions of the company's cars just aren't worth the hassle. As much fun as a long, luxurious sedan with a V12 under the hood might seem to offer, the old saying that any Jaguar owner should buy two of whatever car they have stands true for models like the XJ12.
3. Avoid At All Costs: Ferrari GTC4Lusso
via Digital Trends
Most of Ferrari's cars have moved towards forced induction and V8 powerplants in an effort to improve low-end torque and fuel economy. But some retain traditional V12 powerplants, which is nice. Unfortunately, early examples of the GTC4Lusso are included in that number, though this ugly hatchback really should be avoided both with the V12 and with the V8 that replaced it shortly thereafter.
2. Avoid At All Costs: Jaguar XJS
via Harry Asunta
The long hood on the Jaguar XJS can be had with a V12 underneath, which undoubtedly makes a purring, sweet noise when it runs. Doug DeMuro even discussed the XJS as being the cheapest V12-powered sports car on the secondhand market—but there's a reason why demand is so low on these cars and it's that they're absolute nightmares to own.
1. Avoid At All Costs: Aston Martin V12 Vantage
via Top Gear
Aston Martin uses a V12 engine in the Valkyrie hypercar that sounds just as great as the car looks. And the V12 powerplants under the likes of the Vanquish and V12 Vantage also sound great in cars that look great. But the Valkyrie's engine has to be rebuilt every 62,000 miles, and this is a unit that's built by Cosworth and way more reliable than Aston's other factory V12 powerplants.
Sources: Motor1, Autotrader, History Garage, and Wikipedia.