New Cars - Lamborghini Diablo

There are certain things in life that are unattainable for the average person — buying a Rembrandt, purchasing a case of Chateau Margaux every week, owning a Scottish castle or skiing at Saint Moritz. Into this category falls staying for a weekend at the Loews Hotel in Monte Carlo and owning a Lamborghini.

While we cannot claim to any such aspirations, MOTOR SPORT at least had the privilege of staying in that hotel as a guest of Lamborghini for the launch of the exciting Diablo as pictured in last month's issue.

It is hard to believe that the Countach has been around for almost two decades, its exotic, some would say exhibitionist, design is still such an eye-catcher.

The 350GT, the 400GT 2 + 2, the Espada, the Jarama and of course the Miura have all been desirable cars, but have never been the ultimate in quite the same way as the Countach has been. With such a mould-breaking car, as Volksswagen found with the Beetle and Porsche with the 911, it is a well nigh impossible task to replace it — for once etched into the public mind, it is difficult to eradicate it.

In the Diablo, Lamborghini has made a bold move to replace the Countach although the older model will still be produced for a few more months.

That the Diablo is ultimately a Chrysler product is irrelevant and apart from a few modifications, it remains true to the original concept as drawn up by Marcello Gandini, the man who can take credit for both the Miura and Countach.

The car is more rounded than the Countach and less aggressive in looks. The steep rake of the windscreen, which joins the bodywork over the front axle, is continued forward to the nose. From the side, the frontal aspect of the car is blunted by the deformable one-piece lower section which houses fog and sidelights.

While the sweep of the windscreen flattens out and then falls into a slight descent along the rest of the length of the car, the front windows have a distinctive shape all of their own. The upper section follows the contour of the huge windscreen and roof while the lower half has a kink in it to make the windows slightly banana shaped. Lamborghini's unique front-hinged doors swivel up to open à la Countach, but are so far forward that their front edge follows the line of the rear part of the front wheel arch.

Gandini's answer to clothing the rear half of the car is to continue the sweep of the waistline from the lower part of the window in a slight crescent until it meets the continuation of the roof somewhere over the rear axle. The large intakes of the small rear window, smoothly sculptured to the contour of the car, direct the air flow to two radiators which flank the 100 litre, 21.0 gallon, fuel tank.

The duct on the bottom flank of the car just in front of the rear wheel directs air to oil radiators on both sides, the air then passing through vents to cool the ventilated 284mm rear discs. The final aerodynamic aid is the rear bumper which also acts as a wing to decrease the turbulence of the air as it passes underneath the car./p
While Gandini's work is a masterpiece of design, Luigi Marmiroli, Lamborghini's technical director, was keen to point out: "The gap between everyday cars, which have advanced so much, and supercars has decreased over the years. When the Miura was announced, almost a quarter of a century ago, there was nothing quite like it. Our engineers were not constrained by regulations, and the everyday car was not the technological masterpiece of machinery it now is. While the design of the car had to look good, the mechanicals of the car were ultimately more important."

There can be no doubt that the Diablo is a Lamborghini. Marcello Gandini's influence, as seen in the Miura and the Countach is followed through to the Diablo. As mentioned, it is blunter, smoother and a little more rounded than the Countach, but its lineage can be easily traced.

Every inch a supercar, Luigi Marmiroli is still keen to define its place in the market as he sees it: "Where the Ford Mark II and the Ferrari 275LM were the only cars that could possibly be uttered in the same breath as the Miura, the Diablo is something more than a Ferrari F40 or Porsche 959. Where the Diablo is every bit as good as these two cars, it will not be a limited edition. In this respect it is more of a Testarossa."

This is where the Chrysler factor comes into play. While there have been less than 2000 Countachs produced in its 18 year old history, Lamborghini, with Chrysler's backing, intend to produce up to 500 Diablos a year. As the Countach is finally phased out in June, its place will be taken by even more advanced Diablos, such as the VT, a four-wheel drive model, which will have automatic transmission as an optional extra.

The heart of the car is the 5.7-litre V12 engine. In the early days of the project, a 5.0-litre and then a 5.2-litre V12 were installed in the prototypes, but they were deemed not to be powerful enough for the new model. The 5.2-litre was consigned to the Countach Anniversary and work began afresh on the 5.7-litre.

The 60° four-valve, four-camshaft engine has a bore of 87mm and a stroke of 80mm and a compression ratio of 10.0: 1. Every unit will be installed with a catalytic convertor and Lambda sensor so that there will not be any variation between countries.

At 7000 rpm, a thumping 492 horses are unleashed which catapult the car from standstill to 100 kph in 4.09 secs while a speed over 200 mph has been attained on the Nardo high-speed bowl in Italy. The Diablo, however, is not just about brute force. The 428 lb ft of torque at 5200 rpm, 206 lb ft of which is available at a low 2000 rpm, is courtesy of the innovative Lamborghini lniezione Elettronica system, the new sequential multipoint fuel injection system. Each cylinder block is independently controlled by its own electronic control unit which is constantly receiving information via sensors on the engine speed, piston position, fluid temperatures, combustion levels and the throttle position. The driveability is improved at both high and low speeds and give the car the feeling of being carburettor-fed while also dispensing with the peripheries necessary for fuel injection.

Until the arrival of the semi-automatic version, the Diablo will have a five-speed gearbox located ahead of the engine. The suspension follows usual Lamborghini practice with anti-roll bars, independent double wishbones, coil springs and twin dampers, but rubber bushes are used on the mountings to the body frame. The steering is rack and pinion and enable the car to have a turning circle of 11 metres.

Compared to the Countach, the Diablo is quite large. The wheelbase has been increased by 6 ins. to 104.3 ins., the width by 1.6 ins. to 80.3 ins., the front track by 0.2 ins. to 60.6 ins, and the rear track by 1.3 ins. to 64.5 ins. More importantly, though, an extra 1.4 ins, headroom has been found for increased driver comfort. Despite being a mixture of steel, light alloy, composite plastic material, carbonfibre and fibreglass, the Diablo is still heavier than the Countach, accounted for by the 'extras' the marketing department insisted the car should have.

The interior, well equipped and trimmed in hand-stitched leather, is elegant and the hand adjustable bucket seats comfortable. For the first time the steering is adjustable as is the main instrument cluster, housing the speedometer and tachometer and oil pressure, oil temperature, water temperature and fuel and battery condition gauges, which can be adjusted vertically.

Luggage space is at a premium. With the space at the rear of the car taken up by the exhaust system and catalyser, an area for bags has been allocated at the front of the car, but to take full advantage of the 5 cubic feet available, special fitted luggage is an optional extra. Oddment space inside the car is minimal. There is no doubt that the Diablo opens a new chapter in Lamborghini's history. It is every inch a supercar and does the makers from Sant'Agata proud. It will be a tough act to follow in the Countach's tyre tracks, but if any car is going to do it, then the Diablo will. SK