Development of the Lamborghini Diablo began in 1985, only a few months after the Mimran brothers purchased the company out of the receivership it had entered following the 1978 bankruptcy. The Mimrans invested heavily in the company’s expansion and Sant’Agata Bolognese was finally able to work on a successor for the Countach.

Development took more than four years, and the finished product was shown to the public in January 1990.

Like most Lamborghinis, the Diablo was named after a bull. Diablo, which is Spanish for devil, was a ferocious bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century, famous for fighting a battle with famed matador "El Chicorro" in the late 1860s.

Production of the Diablo lasted until 2001 and included nearly 2,900 units built in various specifications. A significant facelift was completed in 1999. The Diablo was replaced by the Murcielago, and it is part of a lineage of range-topping supercars that also includes the Miura and the Aventador.

Continue reading to find out more about the Lamborghini Diablo.

  • 1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo
  • Year:
    1990- 2001
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V12
  • Transmission:
    5 speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    492 @ 7000
  • MPG(Cty):
    11
  • MPG(Hwy):
    17
  • Torque @ RPM:
    427 @ 5200
  • Displacement:
    6.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    204 mph
  • Price:
    239000
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution Exterior
- image 631728
The design of the Diablo was contracted to Macello Gandini, who also designed the Countach and the Miura.

The design of the Diablo was contracted to Macello Gandini, who had already penned its predecessors, the Countach and the Miura, as well as the Espada, Jarama and Urraco. However, Gandini’s original design didn’t make the cut on the production car, as Chrysler — who had bought Lamborghini in 1987 — wasn’t happy about the Italian’s trademark sharp edges. Detroit commissioned its own design team, led by Tom Gale (who also penned the Dodge Viper and the Plymouth Prowler), to revise the Diablo’s styling. Gale softened the wedge-style cues of the car, giving it the final design we’re familiar with.

Disappointed by what Chrysler did to his design, Gandini went on to use it for the Cizeta-Moroder V16T, a supercar developed by a group of ex-Lamborghini employees.

The Diablo created quite a stir when it debuted in 1990.

But despite Gandini’s disappointment, the Diablo created quite a stir when it debuted in 1990. It combined some of the Countach’s sharp cues, such as the protruding front bumper and the upswept rear fascia. It had a more modern design approach, and an overall look that hinted toward a race car rather than a road-going vehicle.

Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson said the Diablo was designed "solely to be the biggest head-turner in the world." And, he was right.

The Diablo’s design remained relatively unchanged (not counting the Roadster version it received in 1995) until 1999, when a facelift replaced the pop-up headlamps with fixed composite lenses, new 18-inch wheels, and mild nips and tucks.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2650 MM (104.15 Inches)
Overall length 4460 MM (175.28 Inches)
Overall width 2040 MM (80.17 Inches)
Overall height 1105 MM (43.43 Inches)
Front track 1540 MM (60.52 Inches)
Rear track 1640 MM (64.45 Inches)
Ground clearance 115 MM (4.52 Inches)
Front overhang 930 MM (36.55 Inches)
Rear overhang 880 MM (34.58 Inches)
Weight 1576 KG (3475 LBS)
Distribution 41/59% front / rear

Interior

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution Interior
- image 25069

Though it may seem spartan to today’s standards, the Diablo’s interior had the finest hand-stitched Italian leather, and an Alpine stereo system with either a cassette or CD player. Standard features also included fully adjustable seats and steering wheel, as well as electric windows. The Diablo didn’t receive power steering, however, until 1993. The driver-oriented divider was split in two by a wide and tall center console and a steeply raked center stack. The dashboard was simple and clean, as were the door panels, while the instrument cluster had several gauges.

The options list was short and included a custom-molded driver’s seat, remote CD changer and subwoofer, a luggage set, and an exclusive Breguet clock priced at $10,500.

The biggest improvement compared to the Countach, came in the practicality department.

The biggest improvement compared to the Countach, however, came in the practicality department. Ingress and egress was much easier due to revised doors that opened wider, while side visibility was improved thanks to the one-piece door windows. The adjustable dashboard and steering wheel also improved comfort.

As the years passed, Lambo made several improvements to the Diablo’s interior. The 1999 facelift brought a new, wider instrument cluster fully integrated into the dashboard, a redesigned center console, a new steering wheel, and revised door panels. Lamborghini also introduced carbon-fiber components in range-topping VT models, as well as improved fabrics, and various upholstery options.

Drivetrain

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution
- image 25058

Originally, the Diablo was powered by a 5.7-liter, V-12 based on the same design Giotto Bizzarrini created back in 1963 in the form of a 3.5-liter unit for the 350GT. The Diablo’s version was a 48-valve version of the existing Lambo V-12 and featured dual overhead cams and computer-controlled multi-point fuel injection. The mill was mounted behind the seats and used a five-speed manual transmission to send its power to the rear wheels.

Top speed was rated at 204 mph, which made the Diablo the first Lamborghini to surpass the 200-mph mark.

Speaking of power, the Diablo came with 492 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque, and needed 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Top speed was rated at 204 mph, which made the Diablo the first Lamborghini to surpass the 200-mph mark.

In 1993, Lambo introduced the VT, an all-wheel-drive version that used a modified version of LM002’s four-wheel-drive system. Though the engine remained unaltered and the curb weight increased by about 100 pounds, the Diablo VT was a tenth-second quicker to 60 mph.

The first power update came in 1994 in the Diablo SE30. The V-12 was tweaked to deliver 523 horses and 428 pound-feet, which decreased the 0-to-60 sprint to four seconds flat and increased top speed to 207 mph. In 1995, Lambo built an even more powerful SE30, dubbed Jota. It had 595 horsepower and 471 pound-feet and charged to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 211 mph. The Diablo SV followed the same year with 510 horses and 428 pound-feet, as well as the VT Roadster, which was identical to the VT in terms of drivetrain components and specification. The SE30, SE30 Jota and SV were rear-wheel-drive.

Lambo launched a track-ready GT model that featured a larger, 6.0-liter V-12 with 575 horsepower and 465 pound-feet.

The 1999 facelift also brought changes in the engine department. The base Diablo was eliminated, leaving the SV as the entry-level model. The 5.7-liter V-12 now pumped 529 horsepower and 446 pound-feet in the SV, VT, and VT Roadster. In 1999, however, Lambo launched a track-ready GT model that featured a larger, 6.0-liter V-12 with 575 horsepower and 465 pound-feet. In 2000, the VT was upgraded to the same engine and called VT 6.0. However, output stood at "only" 550 horses and 457 pound-feet, leaving the GT as the most powerful road-going Diablo ever built.

The supercar also received two track-only versions. The SV-R was launched in 1996 with 533 horsepower, while the GTR arrived in 1999 with 590 horses. The latter had an upgraded 6.0-liter V-12 with revised fuel and ignition systems, individual throttle bodies, a dynamic air intake duct system, variable valve timing, titanium connecting rods, and a lightweight crankshaft.

Drivetrain Specifications 1990-1998MY

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 25079
Diablo Diablo VT Diablo SE Diablo SE Jota Diablo SV
Type V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree
Cyl.Capacity 5707 cc / 348 ci 5707 cc / 348 ci 5707 cc / 348 ci 5709 cc / 349 ci 5707 cc / 348 ci
Bore & stroke 87x80 mm 87x80 mm 87x80 mm 87x80 mm 87x80 mm
Compr. Ratio 10.0:1 10.0:1 10.0:1 10.0:1 10.0:1
Max.power 492 HP @ 7,000 RPM 492 HP @ 7,000 RPM 523 HP @ 7,000 RPM 595 HP @ 7,300 RPM 510 HP @ 7,100 RPM
Max.torque 428 LB-FT @ 5,200 RPM 428 LB-FT @ 5,200 RPM 428 LB-FT @ 5,200 RPM 471 LB-FT @ 4,800 RPM 428 LB-FT @ 5,200 RPM
Top speed 328 KM/H / 204 MPH 328 KM/H / 204 MPH 333 KM/H / 207 MPH 340 KM/H / 211 MPH 328 KM/H / 204 MPH
0 - 60 mph 4.5 seconds 4.4 seconds 4.0 seconds 3.8 seconds 4.2 seconds

Drivetrain Specifications 1999-2001MY

Diablo SV Diablo VT Diablo GT Diablo VT 6.0
Type V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree V-12 60 degree
Cyl.Capacity 5707 cc / 348 ci 5707 cc / 348 ci 5992 cc / 366 ci 5992 cc / 366 ci
Bore & stroke 87x80 mm 87x80 mm 87x84 mm 87x84 mm
Compr. Ratio 10.0:1 10.0:1 10.7:1 10.7:1
Max.power 529 HP 529 HP 575 550 HP
Max.torque 446 LB-FT 446 LB-FT 465 LB-FT 457 LB-FT
Top speed 328 KM/H / 204 MPH 328 KM/H / 204 MPH 338 KM/H / 210 MPH 335 KM/H / 208 MPH
0 - 60 mph 4.0 seconds 3.9 seconds 3.6 seconds 3.8 seconds

Prices

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution Exterior
- image 631722

At launch, the base Diablo retailed from $239,000 in the U.S., which made it the most expensive mass-produced Lamborghini. Though it was significantly more affordable than Ferrari’s range-topping model at the time, the F40, it was a bit more expensive than its direct competitor, the Ferrari 512 TR.

Current prices vary depending on production numbers, trim, performance, and condition. While high-mileage, base models can be purchased for less than $100,000, well-maintained GT- and VT-spec models can fetch in excess of $300,000.

Competition

Ferrari 512 TR / F512 M

1991 - 1994 Ferrari 512 TR
- image 324524

Though the F40 was Ferrari’s range-topping model until 1996, the 512 TR was actually closer to the Diablo in terms of drivetrain and pricing. While the F40 used a turbocharged V-8 and fetched in excess of $400,000, the 512 TR had a naturally aspirated V-12 and a $200,000 sticker.

Introduced in 1991 as a revision to the Testarossa, the 512 TR featured a 4.9-liter V-12 rated at 428 horsepower and 362 pound-feet. Though it was no slouch, the 512 TR was slower than the Diablo, hitting 60 mph from a standing start in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 195 mph.

The engine was upgraded in 1994, when the 512 TR was replaced by the mildly redesigned F512 M. Output increased to 440 horses and 370 pound-feet, resulting in a 4.6-second 0-to-60 sprint and a top speed of 196 mph. The model was discontinued in 1996, when it was replaced by the front-engined 550 Maranello.

Originally sold for $190,000 to 200,000, the 512 TR and F512 M can now fetch between $100,000 and $500,000.

Read our full review in here.

Cizeta-Moroder V16T

Even though Cizeta built only 19 customer cars between 1991 and 1995, the V16T became famous for its outlandish design, unique drivetrain, and for sporting the exterior design Marcello Gandini penned for the Diablo. But, while the V16T and the Diablo shared many styling cues, the Cizeta used a different drivetrain to move about. Developed by a team of ex-Lamborghini engineers, the V16T received a V-16 powerplant made from two flat-plane V-8s sharing a single block. The unit was mounted transversely and mated to a longitudinal five-speed manual gearbox. The V-8 engines were sourced from the Lamborghini Urraco, while the drivetrain configuration was similar to the Miura’s.

The V-16 cranked out 540 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque and was capable of reaching a top speed of 204 mph. Sprinting from 0 to 60 mph took about four seconds, which made it one of the quickest supercars of the early 1990s. The V16T retailed from around $300,000. Unlike the Diablo and Testarossa, the V16T is illegal to drive and own in the U.S. because it does not meet emissions and safety standards.

Read our full review in here.

Conclusion

1990 - 2001 Lamborghini Diablo High Resolution Exterior
- image 631727

Much like its predecessor, the Countach, the Diablo marked many firsts from Lamborghini. It was the brand’s first supercar to hit 200 mph and the first to receive features like power steering, airbags and all-wheel-drive (aside from the LM002 truck). It was also the first to be made available in so many versions, as well as Lambo’s first range-topping supercar to get a roadster variant. More importantly, it was the only sports car the Italians offered in the 1990s, as Lamborghini didn’t sell an entry-level model between 1988 and 2003. The Diablo saw no fewer than four ownership changes, and helped the company survive until Audi AG took over in 1999. Sure, it might not be as iconic as the Miura and the Countach, but the Diablo is a legendary supercar in its own right and what most consider as the last true Lamborghini.

  • Leave it
    • * Initial design altered by Chrysler takeover
    • * Still overshadowed by the Countach
    • * Not yet a classic
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