Lamborghini Diablo

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Lamborghini Diablo

1990 - 1998
5707 cc
492 bhp
5 spd. man
Top Speed:
202 mph
Number Built:
3 star
Lamborghini Diablo
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The Lamborghini Diablo was launched in 1990 as successor to the legendary Countach. It was developed under the investment from Chrysler which bought Lamborghini in 1987. With more money, no wonder the Diablo was better developed than any other previous Lamborghini.

Eventually, it survived for 11 years and 2884 cars were built, breaking the record held by Countach. The name Diablo means "Devil" (in Spanish, not Italian).

Like the Countach and most other Lamborghinis, it was designed by Italian styling master Marcello Gandini, and it is no wonder the car had a strong resemblance to its predecessor, such as slant front end, steeply raked windscreen and scissors doors.

However, the final design was refined by Chrysler's studio in the USA, where they smoothed all the sharp edges and corners, making for not only improved cooling, but even better aerodynamics. In the end, it was changed so much that Gandini was understandably a little miffed.

As a revenge to Chrysler and Lamborghini, he simply adapted his original design and offered up the Cizeta Moroder V16T. However, it is undeniable that the Chrysler-refined Diablo was more beautiful and more enduring than the Cizeta.

It looked pure yet aggressive, futuristic yet mature. Chrysler designers' attention to detail complemented what Gandini himself was famous for. Best of all, the Diablo felt truly exotic, which was exactly what contemporary supercars of the early 1990's lacked. Sure, the McLaren F1 and Jaguar XJ220 looked sexy, but purists argued they were still not "exotic".

The Lamborghini was different. Its styling meant velocity, acceleration and power. Even when at a standstill, its appearance told you it was a 200mph supercar, or perhaps 250mph (if you could find a suitable road).

When the Countach was launched in the early 70s, its spaceframe chassis, aluminium body and transmission layout were very advanced. Then through the 1980's the concept matured, with such iterations as the Porsche 959, Ferrari GTO and F40. Light-weight construction was certainly in vogue, as were the use of twin-turbo engines and space-age carbon-fiber materials.

In contrast, the Diablo maintained much of the "yester-year" technology as found on the Countach, without any significant changes. The chassis, body and the big V12 were more evolution than revolution. And unsurprisingly, it gained more length, width and wheelbase as well as a touch more (desperately needed) cabin space. As a result, a standard Diablo tipped the scale at more than 1600kg, about 130kg heavier than the last Countach.

Straight-line performance was never a problem to the Diablo, the 5.7 litre V12 producing close to 500 horsepower. It recorded a 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds, and boasted a top speed of 202 mph - the wild claim of early Countach was finally fulfilled by its successor. At the time of writing, the Diablo still holds the record of being the fastest production car.

Of course, some limited production supercars did record higher speeds. The V12 was always the jewel of the crown. Powerful, sharp throttle response aside, it impressed most with its thundering roar that would set the heart racing. Louder and rawer than Ferrari's V12, the Lamborghini engine noise was hardly forgettable.

The Lamborghini Diablo's Achilles Heel

The achilles heel frot the Diablo was in the handling department. The philosophy used during the Diablo's design, being that a supercar should be both big and powerful, was somewhat outdated. That design concept made the Diablo too heavy, too wide and too bulky to handle anywhere near what was needed when punting it at the limit. Although its supercar tyres produced massive grip while its extra track aided cornering stability, it never felt as agile as the "smaller" supercars, let alone the Porsche 911 Turbo.

Poor visibility, both front and rear, also limited driving confidence. Unless you found yourself on a smooth and wide racing track, the Diablo could hardly keep up with a 911 Turbo, and when you consider the 911 was half the price, it's pretty amazing that anyone actually purchased the Diablo. And did we mention the brakes?, too small to handle its weight effectively, they were yet another disappointment.

A Gradual Evolution

During its 11-year life, the Diablo evolved gradually. The SV from 1995 to 1999 was perhaps the best Diablo, thanks to the diet it underwent. The GT of 2000 was even developed into a respectable racing machine, pushing performance to the peak. Because of the emergence of many super-expensive supercars in the early 90s, such as Bugatti EB110, Jaguar XJ220, McLaren F1 and Ferrari F50, the Diablo was almost forgotten. Being slower, heavier, cheaper and less exclusive, the Diablo failed to recapture the fame of Countach, a car that had been regarded as the world's top supercar for many years.

Admittedly, the Diablo was the only product of Lamborghini, so it had to be relatively cheap to build in order to sell 300 to 400 cars annually, in contrast to the aforementioned one-off exclusive. This relegated it to the "second division" supercar club, whose members left only the last breed of boxer Ferrari, that was, 512TR / F512M. Undoubtedly, the Lamborghini was always rated as the best one of its kind. Since the death of the F512M, the Diablo became the only mid-engined production supercar in the world.

Then people could only compare it with the front-engined GTs such as 550 Maranello and Aston Vantage. Diablo's production dropped gradually despite of a revision every 1 or 2 years. Perhaps people became more concern about drivability and comfort, perhaps the old Diablo could no longer get people excited, it had to retire in 2001. However, we will always remember the best things of Diablo: the exotic appearance and the thundering V12.

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Lamborghini Heritage
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