What are the Mercedes Benz V12 engines?

In this article, we find out what are the Mercedes Benz V 12 engines? Which Mercedes Benz models have V 12 engines? And should you buy a Mercedes Benz with a V12 engine?

What are the Mercedes Benz V12 engines?

The Mercedes Benz V 12 engines are 12 cylinder engines arranged in a V shape at a 60-degree angle. The M120, M275 and M279 are the original Mercedes Benz V 12 engines. These engines are also slightly modified and used in different states of tune; some of the examples are M120s and M158.

Mercedes Benz produced the massive V12 engines to compete against its rivals such as the BMW s70 V12 which was used in the Mclaren F1, Ferrari Colombo v12 were also very popular and offered in The Ferrari 125, 166, 195, 212, 250, 365, 400, and 412.

Mercedes-Benz needed a reliable and high-performance V12 engine that can be used in different models. Therefore, the V configuration and aggressive 60-degree angle allow for close packaging and scope for further development in the exhaust manifolds to accommodate the Turbochargers. The M120 developed in 1990 was the result of extensive research and years of knowledge in manufacturing reliable components.’

What are the specifications of the M120 family of V12 engines?

The M120 engine was developed in Stuttgart and was widely used from 1991 to 1999. It has an aluminium crankcase with an engine block to help keep the weight down. 

The cylinder head housed double overhead camshafts with variable timing and 4 valves per cylinder, that is why it was also called M120 48V. 

The engine featured the latest sequential fuel injection system and the displacement was 6.0 litres, it also had connecting rods made by forging and steel was used to increase durability. Mercedes Benz always used a cracking method to separate the connecting rods and form a stronger bond with the crankshaft.

The power output of the naturally aspirated 6.0 litres engine was 400 horsepower and later higher displacement versions of M120 were also manufactured. The 7.0 litres engine produced an impressive 700 bhp and it was used in the SL73 AMG.

Mercedes Benz also supplied M120 engines to Pagani from 1999 to 2005 in different states of tune. The M120 6.0, 7.0 and 7.3 litres engine was used in the Pagani Zonda C12, Zonda GR and the Zonda F.The M120 with 6.0-litre displacement was also used in S class and CL-class in 1992. 

Which is the latest Mercedes Benz V 12 engine?

The latest Mercedes Benz V12 engine is M279, it is only available in the Mercedes Benz Maybach S680 4MATIC. The M279 is the successor of the M275 V12 engine which was used from 2000 to 2010. The M279 was developed with the main goal to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and finding a way to increase engine performance. 

The displacement of the M279 is 6.0 litres but unlike its predecessors it is turbocharged. The two turbochargers supplying compressed air to the two-cylinder banks are modified with anti-friction bearings and have their lubrication and cooling systems. The intercooler used to cool the compressed air is also liquid-cooled and the temperature of the intake air does not exceed 70 degrees celsius.

The M279 was first introduced in 2012 with the Mercedes Benz SL class model series R231 but after that in 2014 Mercedes Benz transferred the future development and modification to the Mercedes AMG division in Affalterbach which is more equipped and focused on high performance. Even Though the design of the M279 is now more than 15 years old, Mercedes AMG has constantly performed modifications so that the engine meets current emissions limits and also delivers good fuel efficiency.

What are the modifications made by Mercedes AMG to the M279?

When the M279 engine was introduced back in 279 it already had a reinforced full-aluminium crankcase with an engine block. Mercedes AMG has used their motorsport experience and made the crankcase even lighter by using a special aluminium-silicon alloy. 

The crankcase and the timing case cover has specially drilled holes to facilitate the easy free flow of coolant and engine oil. The design of the crankcase also allows for individual bolt-on main bearing caps made out of cast steel.

Originally the cylinder walls or liners had a silitec coating to get a mirror finish and reduce the friction by 8 per cent but the latest cylinder walls are coated with Nanoslide coating. 

Nanoslide is an extremely thin coating applied to the inner surface of the cylinder to reduce friction between the piston. Twin-wire arc spraying (TWAS) is used to spray an extremely thin coat of iron-carbon alloy on the cylinder walls.  The friction between the piston and piston rings is reduced by almost 50 per cent.

Following are some of the other modifications:

  • Two modified turbochargers with air/water intercooling and vacuum-operated wastegates.
  • New engine control unit with OBD-II diagnostic protocol.
  • New dedicated ignition coil capable of producing multiple sparks for the Multi spark mode.
  • One-piece timing chain drive and variable camshaft actuation.
  • Forged crankshaft made of high-quality alloy steel and re-engineered piston with hollow bores for better lubrication.
  • The 3 valves per cylinder are carried over from the M275; however, the exhaust valves have a hollow stem.
  • The low-temperature coolant circuit used for the cooling of the intercoolers has its dedicated coolant reservoir and switchover bypass valve.  

Previously the M279 was mated to AMG speedshift 7 G Tronic transmission that increased fuel efficiency by 16 per cent. The latest iteration M279 is paired with the 9 G Tronic transmission. The Mercedes Maybach S680 M279 also comes with an integrated starter-alternator which is an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the transmission.

In addition to starting the engine, the integrated starter-alternator can also assist the engine by giving additional power and reducing the turbo lag. The engine cut off mode (ECO) is also possible so vehicles can save more fuel by turning off the engine at traffic signals. 

Why is the popularity of V12 engines going down?

Carbon emissions of vehicles are being closely monitored by transport authorities, therefore it is getting difficult to meet the emission requirements and still be able to use massive V12 engines. Currently, only Mercedes Benz sells the V12 engine in one model and Lamborghini is the only other car manufacturer that has V12 engines available in more than one model. 

The smaller V8 engines are also getting more fuel-efficient with cylinder shut off functions and by turbocharging the V8 engines it is possible to get the same power output as the V12 engine. Therefore, customers usually prefer buying the turbocharged V8 models compared to the V12 model.

The overall cost of production of the V12 is significantly high, only limited models are produced each year if the emissions laws get more strict then it will no longer be possible to purchase a car with a V12 engine.

Other articles about Mercedes Benz you may be interested in

What is the Mercedes Benz special order?

What is the most expensive Mercedes Sports car?

Does Mercedes Benz make good cars?


The demand for the V12 engines was high in the late nineties and early 2000 but over the years the appeal and demand have reduced significantly. Even If the fuel economy and emission are higher compared to the V8 engines, the V12 engines develop maximum torque at much lower RPMs. It is sad in the near future it will be impossible to experience driving a fast V12 engine powered Mercedes Benz car.

FAQs: What are the Mercedes Benz V12 engines?

Did Mercedes make V12?

yes, Mercedes Benz did make V 12 engine in the later 90s and early 2000s but strict emission rules and the popularity of turbochargers made it impractical to use V12 engines in the mass-produced models.

What is the most reliable V12 engine?

The most reliable V12 engine is the M279, it is also heavily modified by the Mercedes Benz AMG division so that it can meet the emission requirements and also produce more power than the turbocharged V8 engines.