Ready to feel old? Well some of us at CarAdvice certainly do, now that we’ve been reminded the incredible Lamborghini Diablo has just turned 30. They say time passes quickly, but it’s hard to believe one of the most iconic supercars of all time has been with us since January 1990.
Originally codenamed Project 132, the Diablo concept started in 1985, when the Countach was entering its twilight years. As such, the new supercar concept had to take the place of the Countach at the top of the Lamborghini performance tree, and it needed to be a genuine evolutionary step forward.
As he had done with previous Lamborghini models, design maestro Marcello Gandini put pen to paper and came up with a clean, aggressive style, that was every bit as eye catching, but not ultimately as sharp, as the Countach. The cleaner design was undoubtedly more modern though. The final design for the Diablo was partially revised by Chrysler’s design centre – no surprise as the American giant had become the majority shareholder by the mid-eighties.
At launch, the Diablo was officially the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed eclipsing the magical 200mph mark – 325km/h in our money. Rally champion Sandro Munari was involved with the dynamic development of the chassis and handling package, something that moved drivability well beyond the 1980’s.
In classic Lamborghini tradition, the Diablo was powered by a rear mounted V12, 5.7-litres in capacity with quad overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and multi-point electronic injection, capable of generating 361kW and 580Nm.
Initially only available in RWD, there were no electronic driving aids available until 1993 – the Diablo was the epitome of a hardcore, intimidating supercar. Put simply, you needed to know what you were doing, to get the best out of it. And you needed a hefty dose of respect. The cabin was luxurious however, with sumptuous leather, air conditioning, electric windows and electric seat adjustment.
Along with the electronic driving smarts, 1993 saw the introduction of the VT model, the first Lamborghini GT to be equipped with 4WD. The VT also featured a series of mechanical improvements and styling changes, which were also added to the retained 2WD variant.
Other special models followed, like the SE30, to commemorate 30 years of the company, with a power increase to 390kW. The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only in 2WD form, with 380kW and an adjustable rear wing. Lamborghini’s first open-roof, mass produced (in Lambo terms anyway) model came next in the form of the VT Roadster.
In 1999, after Lamborghini had been purchased by the Audi Group, the company’s first in house designer, Luc Donckerwolker, penned a restyled SV, which joined the VT and VT Roadster, with all three models showing clear signs of evolution and progress. The V12 now generated 394kW and 605Nm, featured a variable valve lift system and for the first time on a Lamborghini, owners would get ABS.
Diablo production rounded out in 2001 with special edition variants that were powered by a 6.0-litre engine, bringing down the curtain on a worthy successor to the venerated Countach – a supercar that probably featured on more posters than any other.