- LAMBORGHINI’S SUPERCARS Part 2: 1990 Diablo to 2017 Aventador
- DIABLO: 1990-2001
- MURCIELAGO: 2001-2010
- AVENTADOR: 2011-
- WHAT NEXT?
LAMBORGHINI’S SUPERCARS Part 2:
1990 Diablo to 2017 Aventador
Following on, naturally enough, from Part 1, here we continue to track the lineage of Lamborghini’s flagship models. As before, it was often a rocky road that the company had to follow, strewn with cash shortages and unexpected ownership and management changes, but Lamborghini battled through it all and continues to this day to produce some of the most beautiful and spectacular supercars ever made.
Code-named ‘132’ during development, the Countach’s successor was first presented in early 1990. During its 17 years in production the Countach’s V12 engine had grown from 3.9 to 4.7 litres with power up to 455bhp. In new Diablo guise it was enlarged again to 5.7 litres and now fuel-injected it made 485bhp along with 427lb/ft of torque – substantially more than the final Countach’s 370lb/ft.
Perhaps more significant was that, in conjunction with the superior aerodynamics of the new body, the Diablo was the first Lamborghini to break the 200mph barrier by clocking over 327km/h (203mph) on test, thus eclipsing Ferrari’s stripped-for-action, 198mph F40.
Although the Diablo’s V12 hadn’t fundamentally changed, its chassis was constructed box-section rather than round tubing and it now incorporated crumple zones as well as a revised suspension design to accommodate the forthcoming all-wheel-drive model which was already in the pipeline. Following the experimental Countach Evoluzione the Diablo also wore carbon-fibre composite body panels while its snug but comfy interior was luxuriously appointed.
Production of the rear-wheel-drive, Marcello Gandini-designed Diablo continued until 1998, during which time some 900 were built, but March 1993 saw the unveiling of the AWD Diablo VT at the Geneva show. VT stood for Viscous Traction (in reference to the viscous coupling centre differential) and if, or rather, when the rear tyres lost traction up to 25% of torque could be directed to the front wheels. The VT also featured a number of other updates including 4-piston brake calipers, brake cooling vents at the front, power steering, a further improved interior, some engine refinements and electronically adjustable suspension, and these updates soon became standard on the rear-drive Diablo.
In a somewhat sudden and surprise manoeuvre, in January 1994 Chrysler sold its ownership of Lamborghini to a group of previously unknown Indonesian investors. This had the effect of severely destabilising the firm’s management structure, but as before those at the coalface soldiered on and the Diablo SE30 was introduced later that year to celebrate Lamborghini’s 30th anniversary.
135 SE30s were built, most in a vivid purple colour, and these cars featured a host of upgrades over the standard Diablo. To save weight they were all RWD and had plexiglass side windows, and power was upped to 523bhp. The SE30 didn’t have the VT’s adjustable dampers but it did have adjustable roll bars, carbon fibre seats with racing harness seatbelts were installed, while weighty luxuries like power steering, aircon and the audio system were all removed.
The 501bhp Diablo SV was introduced at Geneva in 1995 and production also continued until 1998. Like the SE30, it too was rear-wheel driven and came with a standard adjustable rear wing along with a few other SE30 features. The SV was also equipped with the creature comforts that had been removed in the SE30.
December 1995 saw the introduction of the convertible VT Roadster. About 200 of these were built, also up until 1998. They were AWD, produced 485bhp (as per the base Diablo) and the composite targa-top roof was stowed atop the engine cover when not in use.
In 1996-97 Lamborghini approached Audi seeking a technical collaboration, specifically the supply of Audi’s 4.2-litre V8 as used in the A8 saloon for use in a new, ‘baby’ Lamborghini. These negotiations sparked interest in Audi/VW acquiring Lamborghini, and in July 1998 the last of the Indonesian-owned shares were transferred to Audi. Within a few months the Ingolstadt maker had installed its management team at Sant’ Agata thus marking the beginning of the current era.
Buoyed by fresh capital, in 1999 the SV (which had by now become the base model Diablo), the VT and VT Roadster were all treated to a full makeover by Audi’s designer Luc Donckervolke. This included fixed headlamps replacing the earlier pop-ups, a completely new wave-shaped dash and the V12s in all three models now made 529bhp.
With the intention of selling a few extra Diablos, back in 1996 Lamborghini had created a single-make race series with similar regulations to those of the established Porsche Carrera Cup. For this Lamborghini built about 30 SV-R track-only racers, and from these came the road-going but very track-orientated Diablo GT of which just 83 were built. Introduced in 1999, the GT had a redesigned bodywork at the front with a wider front track, a stripped-out interior, a sile large ram-air duct on the roof, mostly composite bodywork, special OZ wheels and a 575bhp 6-litre V12.
The GT’s 6-litre motor soon found its way into the mainstream Diablo, now called the VT 6.0. With 337 built from 2000 -2001 this was to be the final full-production Diablo. The AWD VT 6.0 (RWD was optional) was further refined with a number of improvements inside and out which included a reworked front end, one-piece ‘phone-dial’ alloys, a more Germanic dash and interior, and an updated 550bhp V12. As the Diablo’s swansong Lamborghini also built 44 VT 6.0 SEs (Special Editions) which were finished in either metallic gold or an iridescent bronze/maroon.
It’s thought that a total of around 2,900 Diablos were built in all guises.
Low volume Diablos
As before and as would continue to be, Lamborghini was never averse to producing limited-edition versions, and in addition to the low-volume Diablos already mentioned there were several others.
In addition to the 135 SE30 road cars built in 1994, a further 15 were in the track-only Jota spec with a 595bhp V12, twin intake ducts atop the engine cover and a seriously loud exhaust system. A few SE30 Jotas were converted for road use.
In 1999 nine so-called SV SE35s were built by the Swiss Lamborghini importer to celebrate Lamborghini’s 35th anniversary. That same year Lamborghini introduced the Diablo GTR – a lightweight, RWD, track-only 590bhp version of the VT 6.0. Thirty-two complete GTRs were built, with around the same number of chassis prepared to replace those damaged in accidents. Lamborghini also built one Diablo VS Special, six SV Roadsters, 20 SV Montereys, 12 Alpine Editions, 12 VT Roadster Momo Editions and 30 Millenium Roadsters.
When Audi assumed control of Lamborghini in 1998 the Diablo had been in production for eight years and management both old and new were eager to replace it with an all new range-topping supercar. Lamborghini was already well down that road with its Canto prototype, but VW/Audi boss Ferdinand Piech disliked its design and so four different studios were commissioned to create their visions of the Diablo’s successor. In the end it was Audi’s Belgian designer Luc Donkerwolke (who previously refreshed the Diablo), working in conjunction with Lamborghini engineers, who came up with the winning formula, code-named L147.
In a dramatic production staged late one evening on a closed road high up on the barren, rocky slopes of Mount Etna, the Murciélago (named after a famous fighting bull but also Spanish for ‘bat’) was first unveiled to a select audience comprised of about 200 press, dealers, owners and VIPs. The three cars revealed in Sicily were then transported to the Frankfurt motorshow which opened four days later on 11th September 2001…
The Murciélago was powered by Lamborghini’s tried and trusted V12, but it was now bumped to 6.2-litres. Power remained the same initially at 575bhp, but various modifications (eg. a variable induction/exhaust valve system adapted from the Diablo Jota and a fly-by-wire throttle) realised a significant increase in torque with a reduction in emissions. Power was directed via either a manual or an automated-manual 6-speed transmission to all four wheels and the engine was converted to dry-sump lubrication which allowed the V12 to be mounted 50mm lower in the chassis thus improving the car’s handling.
To keep engine bay temperatures within limits VACS (Variable Air Flow Cooling System) was introduced. These powered intakes located on each shoulder were a development of an idea first experimented with on a Countach development car. A powered rear spoiler helped keep Murciélago planted at speed while negating the need for a huge rear wing.
The Muciélago’s chassis was a composite-reinforced tubular steel design, with electronically-adjustable double-wishbone suspension front and rear, while the strikingly beautiful body made more extensive use of aluminium and carbon-fibre panels.
With a removable fabric roof, the Murciélago Roadster was introduced in 2004, and this was followed by the launch of the LP-640 at the 2006 Geneva show. With capacity now up to 6.5-litres the LP-640 made 640PS (631bhp), and, along with some subtle improvements inside and out, features like launch control and optional carbon/ceramic discs made their début.
The LP-640 Roadster followed in 2006, and then the LP-670-4 SuperVeloce was shown at Geneva in 2009. With 661bhp and a 100kg weight reduction this SV could hit both 60mph and 100km/h (62mph) in under three seconds and reach 209mph or 212mph, depending on which of two available rear spoilers was fitted. 350 LP-670s were scheduled, but only 186 were built as the production line had to be cleared for the Murciélago’s successor.
About 4,000 Murciélagos were built in total, of which a little over 3,000 were coupes and around 900 were Roadsters.
Low volume Murciélagos
To celebrate Lamborghini’s 40th birthday in 2004, 50 Murciélago 40th Anniversary Editions were produced. These were followed in 2006 by eight LP-640 Versace coupes, and in 2009 by fifty LP-650 Roadsters. 2010 saw ten LP-670 SV China Ltd Editions built for the Chinese market only. A small number of be-winged Murciélago R-GT, RG-1 and R-SV versions were also constructed for various racing championships.
Arguably the most striking of all the Murciélago spin-offs was the £840k Reventon. First revealed at the 2007 Frankfurt show, the Reventon was a standard LP-640 with body styling inspired by radar-foxing stealth jets. 21 Reventon coupes were built plus 15 LP-670 SV-based Reventon Roadsters.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Miura, in Los Angeles in 2006 Lamborghini revealed its one-off Miura Concept. Although a contemporarily-styled Miura, it too is entirely Murciélago under the skin and it can be seen at Lamborghini’s Sant’Agata museum.
The £202k Aventador took up the mantle of being Lamborghini’s flagship in 2011. That the Aventador’s new, 690bhp V12 engine helps it to 217mph isn’t so surprising, although how Lamborghini continues to create such achingly gorgeous cars is indeed remarkable.
Codenamed LB834, the Aventador LP-700-4 (‘Aventador’ being another valiant fighting bull) was initially unveiled in Sant’Agata in September 2010, but was officially launched at the Geneva show in 2011. Its 6.5-litre engine is mated to a single-clutch 7-speed semi-auto transmission and it was the first entirely new Lamborghini V12 motor since the 350GTV’s of 1963.
Designed by Lamborghini’s Head of Design Filippo Perini, (who took some obvious cues from the 2007 Reventon), the Aventador is built around a carbon-fibre monocoque cell with a square-section steel sub-frame at each end. The central tub was developed in partnership with Seattle’s Boeing Company and it’s twice as stiff as the Murciélago’s.
The Aventador also features cylinder deactivation to help fuel economy, a new electronically-controlled 4th-generation Haldex all-wheel-drive system, and although slightly longer than the Murciélago, it’s appreciably lighter. According to Lamborghini’s then President and CEO Stephen Winklemann, “The Aventador is a jump of two generations in terms of design and technology, it’s the result of an entirely new project but at the same time it’s a direct and consistent continuation of Lamborghini’s brand values”.
With two removable carbon-fibre panels which are stowed in the front luggage compartment when not in use, the Aventador LP-700 Roadster was announced in late 2012. In 2015 the LP-750-4 SuperVeloce was revealed at the Geneva show. With 740bhp, 50 fewer kilos, improved aerodynamics and downforce, increased rigidity and enhanced electronic steering, the SV is capable of 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds with a top speed somewhere north of 217mph. Production was limited to 600 units.
The LP-750 SV Roadster was unveiled in August 2015 at the Pebble Beach Concours event in California (500 built), while in late 2016 Lamborghini announced its new ‘entry-level’ Aventador S which, with 730bhp, is 40bhp more powerful than the first Aventador.
Low volume Aventadors
In early 2012 Lamborghini created the one-off Aventador Dreamliner Edition. Finished in blue on white with black wheels, this car marked the success of Lamborghini’s ongoing collaboration with Boeing. At around the same time the roofless and windowless Aventador J was revealed at Geneva. It too was a intended to be a one-off, but two were built and both were sold.
2013 saw the LP-720 50th Anniversary Edition in celebration of Lamborghini’s 50th birthday. With 100 coupes and 100 Roadsters scheduled, the former was unveiled in China, the latter in the USA.
The 740bhp Aventador-based Veneno was also built to mark Lamborghini’s 50th. Five Venenos were built; one development car, one for Lamborghini’s museum and three for customers. Then in 2014 it was announced that Lamborghini would build nine Veneno Roadsters at $3.3 million apiece, plus tax.
At the 2016 Geneva show the Aventador-based €2.2 million LP-770 Centenario was unveiled to commemorate Ferrucio Lamborghini’s 100th birthday. (He died on 20th Feb 1993.) Later in the year the Centenario Roadster version was unveiled with an intended production volume of 20 coupes plus 20 Roadsters.
To celebrate the Miura’s 50th anniversary, Lamborghini created the Aventador Miura Homage which made its public début at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Fittingly, just 50 of these special-edition LP-700s were planned.
By the end of 2016 a little over 5,000 Aventadors had been built over a five year period. By Lamborghini’s past standards the car would still have at several years left in it, but with Audi still comfortably at the helm, the remorseless advancement of Ferrari’s flagship models, increased competition from the likes of McLaren and, not least, burgeoning hybrid technology, the Aventador’s successor perhaps ought to arrive sooner rather than later.
However, at the Aventador S press launch in early 2017 Lamborghini’s current CEO Stephano Domenicali said, “I think that the V12 is still alive, to be extended, because it is such an important part of our tradition and heritage. The future of the V12 is still important. Emissions are important of course, and our goal is always to improve the efficiency of the engine, but with our numbers we don’t see realistic issues in the short term. The Aventador has more than five or six more years to run and the next platform also has a naturally-aspirated V12 at the center of the project. There is still space for us to extend the life of this iconic car.”
That’s good to hear, and we shall see. In the meantime we should be hugely grateful for the vision, creativity, determination and daring Lamborghini has demonstrated over the past 50 years, and long live the Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murciélago and Aventador.
Meanwhile at JBR Capital we’ve created bespoke finance solutions for many Lamborghinis for numerous clients. To discuss how we might help you own the car of your dreams, please call one of our experts today on 020 3355 0035.
Engine: 5,707cc & 5,992cc 60° V12-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, RWD & AWD
Power: from 485 to 575bhp @ 7,000/7,300rpm
Torque: from 427 to 465lb/ft @ 5,200/5,500rpm
Performance: 0-60mph in 3.9 secs, 202-210mph max
List prices then: £143,937 (‘93 5.7L), £176,450 (’96 5.7L Roadster VT), £152,500 (’01 6.0L)
Values now: from £115k (’93 5.7L) to £530k (’95 SE30 Jota)
Engine: 6,192cc & 6,496cc 60° V12-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual or automanual, AWD
Power: from 575 to 661bhp @ 7,500/8,000rpm
Torque: from 479 to 487lb/ft @ 5,400/6,500rpm
Performance: 0-60 in 3.8 to 2.8 secs, 206-214mph max
List prices then: £162,180 (’02 6.2L), £197,460 (’06 LP640), £265,937 (’09 LP670-4 SV)
Values now: from £145k (’02 6.2L) to £350k (’10 LP670-4 SV), £1.3m (’08 Reventon)
Engine: 6,498cc 60° V12-cyl
Transmission: 7-speed automanual, AWD
Power: 691 to 740bhp @ 8,250/8,400rpm
Torque: 507lb/ft @ 5,500rpm
Performance: 0-62 in 2.9 to 2.8 secs, 217-217+mph max
List prices: £247,767 (’11 LP700-4), £321,743 (’15 LP750-4 SV), £350,000 (’16 Roadster SV) £265,497 (’17 S),
Value now: up to £550k (’16 Roadster SV), c.£6.5m (Veneno)