automotive:LAMBORGHINI Diablo 6.0 VT (2001)
First TestAs a 16-year-old, I fantasized about hearing, "Mr. Penske is on the phone. He wants you to drive for him at Indy." But age fades dreams. Penske doesn't race at Indianapolis any more, not that he'd let this old showroom stock racer touch his car even if he did.
But recently I received a call that rivaled my wildest teenage fantasy: "Lamborghini wants to fly you to Europe to test its new Diablo."
Thirty years-to the day-after I received my driver's license, I was in Vairano, Italy, charging into a test track corner at 180 mph-a bit too hot, perhaps-in a 2001 Diablo VT 6.0. It was just one of three Diablos I'd sample during a birthday party to make every boy-and many girls-envious.
To top off the celebration, I snapped off a scorching 3.4-second 0-60-mph run in the Diablo: The quickest we've recorded with a production car on street tires. Hennessey Vipers and Lingenfelter Corvettes need drag slicks-and skill and practice-to challenge that. But a maximum acceleration launch in the all-wheel-drive VT 6.0 is simple: Rev it to 6500 rpm, dump the clutch and simultaneously go to wide-open throttle-and hang on. The rear tires spin just enough to create a light haze of tire smoke and lay down 20 or so feet of rubber. To limit speed-robbing wheelspin, the viscous center differential transfers 25 percent power to the front Pirelli P Zero Asimmetricos.
The last time we tested a Diablo (a rear-drive model), it ran 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. And in this ultra-exclusive performance arena, one full second may as well be one full eternity.
Simply put, the Diablo becomes its own catapult. Fifteen seconds after launch, assuming you can work the gated shifter, you're doing more than 130 mph. Practice well, and you'll be a hero at the dragstrip, too, with an 11.8-second/120.9-mph obliteration of the quarter mile.
Changes to the Diablo for '01 are relatively minor. There's new lighter, carbon-fiber bodywork. Enhancements to its DOHC V-12 include a larger bore diameter to increase displacement 285 more cubic centimeters, lighter crankshaft and titanium connecting to increase revving velocity, a 32-bit microprocessor for the engine management system, and coil on plug ignition. These combine to increase horsepower to at least 550, which Lamborghini apparently means as a minimum: The company says most of its cars produce between 560 and 580 horsepower, and one serendipitous combination of parts produced 600 horses.
Other changes include a wider track for better cornering power and, more important, additional (translate: some) driver foot room. Few will notice the increased cornering power offered by the wider track, but most will appreciate the increased space in the driver's footwell. (When I last drove a Diablo, I had to go barefooted to work the gas and brake independently. With the wider track, you can drive in cowboy boots.)
The Diablo, introduced in '90, is in its last phase, possibly its last year. Audi, the new owner of Lamborghini, which has suffered from numerous acquisitions, is developing its as-yet-unnamed successor. Code named L147, it will be revealed next year and will employ the same 550-plus-horse V-12 introduced in this VT 6.0, but with enhancements like a dry sump oiling system to lower the car's center of gravity. Diablo production will likely continue alongside the new car as long as demand holds. Hey, it's a handbuilt car: It's not like they have to move tooling dies or anything. Besides, there are a lot of 13-year-old boys determined to own one.
For a blindingly fast car, the VT 6.0 is surprisingly easy to drive. It's very tractable whether negotiating Roman-chariot-width backroad bridges over Po River tributaries or accelerating into the Mad Max traffic on A7. Steering effort and feel, two previous complaints about Diablos, were excellent. Ride can be harsh over rough roads, but it's just what you'd expect from an almost-a-race-car. Feedback through the carbon-fiber seat was superb, though the wide-of-beam may not fit. Headroom was (as always in a Lambo) at premium. In fact, the EPA rates its interior space equal to that of a mini-compact.
Combine its all-wheel drive with the fact that its massive 335/30ZR18 rear tires hold a 100-millimeter edge in section width over its fronts, and the Diablo is a serious understeerer. This helps prevent Lamborghini from losing customers in headline-grabbing fashion. Exiting test track corners, you have to be almost as patient as if you were in a front-driver, which it partially is.
Still, oversteer is possible, especially under lift-throttle: I damn near spun it on an early lap of the handling course, but Mario Fasanetto, test driver for Lamborghini's R&D department, attributed that more to worn rear tires on the orange car. The tail also stepped out under hard first-gear acceleration exiting a tight hairpin, but a hint of opposite lock and the all-wheel-drive system diverting torque from the rear tires kept it in check.
The Diablo's five-speed transmission is another story. The gated shifter is bad enough, but also first gear and reverse share the same branch of the shift pattern-first is to the left and down. Combined with its aluminum shift gates, this makes the 1-2 shift a look-down-at-the-shifter-to-change operation. This awkward design must be left over from Ferruccio Lamborghini's initial vehicles-the ones with which he earned the fortune necessary to start an exotic car company-farm tractors. Fortunately, the 1-2 shift occurs a hair after 60 mph. During acceleration testing, I matched Fasanetto's 0-60-mph time, but fell behind on the upshifts (especially since, on my best of two runs, I banged the rev limiter while performing the look-down-to-shift technique), so we used his 11.8-second 120.9-mph quarter-mile time. The strain of such launches meant additional runs would move into the realm of needless abuse.
Every teenage boy wants to know the Diablo's top speed. Fasanetto, a brave man, reports seeing 201 mph on a test track. I couldn't challenge this, since the autostrada was so crowded that even 200 kilometers per hour was only rarely possible.
Lamborghinis vary. "Every car we make has its own personality," said Fasanetto. Certainly, each of the three I drove was notably different from the others. The orange car was loose under trailing throttle, the gray car did not like braking while turning, and the blindingly yellow had a hint of high-speed oversteer.
So, there you have it: 550 horsepower in a 3600-pound car still equals a good time, whether the country of origin is Italy or the USA.
By Mac DeMere
Saturday, February 26, 2011
supercar :LAMBORGHINI Diablo 6.0 VT
automotive:LAMBORGHINI Diablo 6.0 VT (2001)