Engineering Hall of Fame: The Volkswagen “W” Engine and the Bugatti W16

You’ve probably heard of the “W” engine before, but maybe never gave it a second thought. Even if you haven’t heard of the engine design, you’ve surely heard of the vehicles housing these amazing power plants. W-powered cars include: VW Phaeton, Audi A8, the Bentley Continental GT and the Bugatti Veyron, as well as many other, less notable, vehicles.

Engineering Hall of Fame: The Volkswagen “W” Engine and the Bugatti W16

Why a “W” Configuration?

It’s all about power and weight. Back in the day, VW used Inline four (I4) engines almost exclusively, although they weighed very little, they could only provide so much power. They began to use V6 engines but these are much larger and weigh a lot more, considering they need two cylinder heads etc. Now is where it gets cool. VW designed a VR6 engine, with staggered cylinders in a very tight “V” design, this gets 2 more cylinders in a similar weight and size as a four-banger. Brilliant!

Engineering Hall of Fame: The Volkswagen “W” Engine and the Bugatti W16

We need more power!

As it always goes, someone always needs more power.  With the VW offering more cars in the $100,000 to $1,000,000+ super-car price range they needed as much power as possible, but weight is always a factor. Where many exotics still utilize V8 and V12 engine platforms, VW saw an opportunity for greatness. VW essentially combined two VR6 engines, creating a W configuration. By utilizing a W12 engine they get all of the power which would come from a V12 in a V8 sized package. Double Brilliant!

As if the W12 didn’t provide enough power, VW developed the 1000+ horsepower W16 variation with 4 turbos for their Bugatti brand in their 250 mpg Veyron super car.

Check out this awesome Autodesk animation of the W16

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Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A Marketing graduate from the Miami University, Farmer School of Business in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries.