Celebrating Three Decades Of The Lamborghini Diablo With A Drive In The Very Last One
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Enough about the svelte Miura or the muscular Countach. This year Lamborghini’s Diablo—which had the unenviable task of following the queen and king of supercar royalty—takes a deep breath to extinguish 30 candles on its birthday cake. To mark the occasion, Petrolicious received an invitation from Lamborghini to experience a very special Diablo.
Italy has an abundance of wonders, man-made and natural. While the Diablo takes care of the former, the latter falls to the Val d’Orcia, a region in Tuscany renowned for astounding beauty, spectacular red wine, and glorious roads. (Footnote for cinephiles; Val d’Orcia is a filmmaker’s haven. The English Patient, Gladiator, and Fellini’s 8½ were shot here.)
Waiting for us, in a secluded vineyard built in the early eighteenth century, is the Diablo. The car seen here is nothing less than the very last Diablo produced: an immaculate and unregistered 2001 Diablo VT 6.0 SE with just over 20,000 kilometers on the odometer.
Today, we’re celebrating a car that, in its 11-year production, spanned multiple ownership groups that controlled Lamborghini’s Sant’Agata Bolognese factory. Diablo development was initiated by Swiss brothers Jean Claude and Patrick Mimran, but by the time the Diablo was released, Chrysler was in control. A sale transferred stewardship to Malaysian investment company Mycom Setdco and Indonesian V’Power, before Lamborghini’s fortunes came to rest in the bosom of German industry at Volkswagen AG, who placed Lamborghini in the care of Audi, directors of the company to this day.
The story behind the development of the Diablo is an opera in itself. Named, in Lamborghini fashion, after a bull that gored his way to infamy in Madrid in 1869, the Mimran’s Diablo was the replacement for the 16-year-old Countach. The project’s goal? Two-hundred miles-per-hour. Marcello Gandini, who penned the Miura and Countach, was hired to design the Diablo. But when Chrysler acquired the company in 1987, US management was uncomfortable with Gandini’s drawings and commissioned its design team in Detroit to execute an extensive re-design, which smoothed the sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s original away. Gandini, predictably, wasn’t pleased, but had a measure of revenge when elements of his original Diablo design were resurrected for the ultra-low-production Cizeta-Moroder V16T.
The Diablo VT 6.0 SE (Special Edition) I’ll be driving was introduced at the end of the Diablo’s production run, and was available in the gold metallic oro elios pictured here, chosen to represent the sunrise, or the color-shifting dark bronze marrone eklipsis, intended to mimic the sunset—an apt choice for the model’s swansong. Of the 42 Diablo 6.0 SEs made, a small metal plate denotes this car as number 42—l’ultima delle ultime—the last page of the final chapter in the book of Diablo.
When Audi took control of Lamborghini, in 1998, they wanted to refresh and refine the Diablo while its successor, the Murciélago, was in development. Lamborghini chief designer Luc Donckerwolke significantly modernized the Diablo’s exterior and interior.
All the VT 6.0s differ from predecessors due to a revised fascia with two large air intakes, very similar to those later used on the Murciélago. Front spoiler, fenders, and nose panel were reshaped and smoothed, indicator lights increased in size and their position slightly shifted, and the small NACA air inlets above the windscreen eliminated. Aluminum 18-inch wheels became a five-hole design recalling those used in the latter days of the Countach. Open the door, and you’ll find the SE’s interior color-coded with the exterior finish, with new leathers for the electrically-adjustable seats. Interior carbon-fiber pieces are threaded with titanium for additional glossiness, and titanium is used liberally in interior trimming.
The heart of the VT 6.0 is the aluminum 60-degree V12 engine, comparable to those in the GT variants, except for updated ECU software, a new exhaust system, and a revised variable valve timing system. Its figures are a properly brutal: 550 horsepower (at 7,100 rpm) and 620 Nm of torque—sufficient to catapult the car’s 1,700 kilograms to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than four seconds, with a factory-declared top speed exceeding 324 km/h (201 mph).
Power is transferred to tarmac through gigantic 335/30 ZR18 Pirelli P Zero tires so wide that from some angles the Diablo appears to be atop a rolling pin of rubber. Drive to the ground is via an all-wheel-drive system, where a viscous coupling routes power to the front wheels—at most, 28 percent—if traction is lost out back. The system is stellar, and welcome, especially if you’re speeding up and down Tuscan hills during a thunderstorm.
With spring golden hour light poking through the clouds just in time for photographs, the mood was right for contemplating the Diablo’s unmistakable lines.
There is an arc, from nose to tail, that gently tightens behind the Diablo’s cabin. The design perfectly balances strength and glamor—the view is particularly stunning from above—it’s a supercar spaceship landed on earth. The rear bumper with integrated spoiler keeps the engine compartment cool by extracting hot air while massive air intakes neatly incorporated into the body supply air to radiators. Larger than a Countach, the Diablo is more demanding to drive on narrow roads, but it’s arguably a more beautiful-to-witness piece of machinery. More harmonic, more wind-sketched.
Time’s passage has allowed us to view the Diablo on its own terms, and not merely as the follow-up to a pair of automotive icons. Whereas the impulse to supersede the Countach with something more extreme or more outrageous would have been too tempting for many brands, the years have shown us that Lamborghini, by producing the mature, sophisticated, and polished Diablo, had the foresight to strike the balance just right.