This year, Lamborghini is celebrating the V12, the legendary 12-cylinder engine that has powered its most iconic models for almost 60 years. The Diablo is one of its models: The first-ever Lamborghini super sports car offered in a four-wheel drive version. When it made its debut, the Diablo was so ahead of its time that it was identified as a series production hypercar. Officially presented on 21 January 1990 — during Lamborghini Day at the Sporting in Monte Carlo — the 12-cylinder engine initially delivered a displacement of 5.7 liters and later 6.0 liters, producing a maximum power output of nearly 600hp in the road versions and 655hp in the GT1 Stradale model for the racetrack, of which only two units were made.
The “pure” V12 combustion engine in its final form will go out of production before the end of 2022, when the last Aventador Ultimae will be made. From next year, the heir to the Aventador will be fitted with a new plug-in hybrid version of the V12 engine.
A commercial success
The Diablo holds a special place in the history of Automobili Lamborghini and in the hearts of enthusiasts, and not just because of its amazing performance and driving experience. This was the model that propelled the automaker into the modern era. Project 132 — as it was called by the company — came into being in 1985 to replace the Countach, so it had to convey the full power of the Sant’Agata-based automaker: Appear sporty and muscular yet always appealing; deliver the aesthetics Lamborghini has always been renowned for; and be future-proof — to remain as the world’s fastest production car for years to come.
The way it handled the road during the initial tests was astounding, a success achieved through the intense development work that involved former Rally World Champion Sandro Munari. During the course of its commercial life, which lasted until 2001, the Diablo also demonstrated its ability to transform itself and adapt to market demands and the expectation of its customers. With 2,903 units made during the 11 years it was in production, the Diablo was a huge success.
Development of the V12 engine
The technical cornerstone of the Diablo remains the 60° V12 engine, which was directly derived from the 1963 3.5-liter engine, increased to 5.7 liters over the years. The latter, in fact, was the engine size when the Diablo made its debut. In this configuration, the rear longitudinal position with catalytic converter generated a maximum power of 492hp at 6800 rpm and a torque value of 580N-m at 5200 rpm. It also boasted a Lamborghini-Weber Marelli LIE electronic fuel injection. In 1999, first with the Diablo GT and later with the Diablo 6.0 SE, the engine size was increased to 6.0 liters and thanks to improved fuel injection calibration, it reached 525hp and 605N-m of torque.
Diablo second series:
Faster and more powerful
The turning point for Lamborghini came in 1998, when Audi bought the company. The automaker finally had enough resources to develop a more refined industrial plan and gained access to components and technology once never dreamed of. The new owners also saw the Diablo as a product worth keeping; and hence, needed to be further developed. This led to the birth of the second series of the Diablo, designed in the brand new internal Centro Stile. Even faster and more powerful than ever, thanks to the bigger V12 six-liter engine, it also boasted more luxurious finishes and increased reliability during daily driving, a product of rigorous quality control during design, testing and production.
Later on, it further developed into the Diablo VT (Vicious Traction) Lamborghini’s first four-wheel drive super sports car was presented in 1993, becoming the benchmark in terms of road holding and driving safety in any condition; and in 1995, the Diablo Roadster, which sports a carbon fiber Targa top housed over the engine cover when down.
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