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The Lamborghini Diablo Is the 1990s Supercar Legend Your Dreams Deserve

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Talk about big shoes to fill. As the Lamborghini Countach entered its twilight years in the late 1980s, the company had the onerous task of designing a car that exceeded the visual, aural, and dynamic sucker-punch provided by its iconic neck-snapping V-12 super-wedge. The new Lambo had to vaporize eyebrows and buckle knees at a thousand feet if it was to be labeled as anything other than a letdown.

Yeah, well, you can see where this is going. Despite a top speed of over 200 mph—only the second production car to do so—and being far easier to drive than its pappy, the Diablo is a bit of a middle-child. As far as the big Lambos go—of which there have been only five to date—the Diablo is relatively unloved.

We must stress that all of this slight negativity is best read through the lens of Lamborghini, and not the general public. Take a Diablo of any color or vintage out into public, and you risk a ticket for public disturbance with the amount of phones coaxed from pockets and pedestrians you stop dead in their tracks. Us? Oh, we’re big fans of the 1990s Bull. Let’s take a look as to why you should put more rispetto on the Diablo’s name.

Development for the Countach replacement began in 1985, first known internally as Project 132. Lamborghini heads Patrick and Jean Claude Mimran stipulated the new supercar should be capable of 196 mph, and the Italian brand commissioned legendary designer Marcello Gandini to pen Project 132’s slippery profile. Before development could truly get underway, the Mimrans sold Lamborghini and all its assets to Chrysler in 1987 for a piddling $25.2 million. Chrysler, in turn, invested much-needed funds into the nascent project that eventually brought it to completion.

Under the purview of Chrysler, Gandini’s original design was altered to be less angular, with final finishing done by Dodge Viper designer Tom Gale. The finished Diablo lived up to its name; power came from a 5.7-liter configuration of the longstanding Bizzarrini V-12, supplying 492 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. So, did the production Diablo meet the Mimran’s mandate of a 196 mph top speed? Please. On a long enough straight with a brave enough driver, the Diablo cruised to an easy 202 mph, taking just 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph on the way there. All this in an era when the contemporary Mustang GT struggled to crack 6.0 seconds to 60 mph.

It was a much easier car to both live with and drive than its immediate predecessor, which isn’t saying much, especially with the Diablo’s dramatic improvement in interior ergonomics and space. Leather-lined and kitted-out, the Diablo sold like free beer during its first production year, only for sales to drop off dramatically soon after.

A new all-wheel-drive Diablo debuted in 1993 to improve general livability. The Diablo VT—or ‘Viscous Traction’—yoinked the four-wheel-drive system from the brutish LM002, allowing the front wheels to handle up to 40 percent of the available power when the system detected slippage. The VT carried 25 percent new componentry as part of the all-wheel-drive shift, including a new clutch, wider seats, brake cooling vents, electronically adjustable dampers, and power steering.

Also introduced in 1993 was the mighty Diablo SE30, so-named in commemoration of the automaker’s 30th anniversary. Power jumped to 523 hp thanks to an updated fuel system, new exhaust, and intake manifolds. The VT trim was not an option here in the pursuit of weight savings; even the VT’s new adjustable suspension was left on the workshop shelf in favor of electronically adjustable anti-roll bars. The diet continued with fixed Plexiglas windows on Euro-market cars, along with the omittance of A/C, power steering, and the sound system.

Visually, the Diablo SE30 tweaked just about every aspect of the exterior design, including both front and rear fascias, rear decklid, spoiler, and bumpers. The most striking difference was the light purple metallic paint, a color officially known as Lambo Thirty. Yes, really. If the above asceticism wasn’t enough, a rare Jota package was available for the SE30, boosting power to 595 hp and 471 lb-ft and adding a neat-o roof-scoop that rendered the rear-view mirror legitimately useless.

The inevitable roadster variant arrived in 1995, offered only in VT configuration, and incorporated some of the SE30’s aesthetic changes. The carbon fiber targa roof was (surprisingly) electronically actuated, and stowed above the rear decklid when the driver opted to get his daily dose of vitamin D. On the opposite side of the Diablo range, the new base-level Diablo SV debuted that same year. The SV package bumped power to 510 hp and added an adjustable rear spoiler and slightly larger rear brakes.

The 1999 model year saw Lamborghini’s new owner, Audi, levy a significant refresh onto the Diablo. Headlights were now fixed—yes, pulled from the contemporary Nissan 300ZX—and the base non-SV Diablo was eliminated, making the SV the entry point. The interior received the largest rework, with a new steering wheel, gauges, and surfaces, while output from the 5.7-liter V-12 jumped to 529 hp and 446 lb-ft.

With the Audi-designed Murcielago just over the horizon, the Diablo went out with a sizable bang. The 5.7-liter V-12 was enlarged to 6.0 liters for a special run of cars, starting with the incredibly track-focused 1999-2000 Diablo GT. Aside from oodles of functional aero and a set of nifty three-piece O.Z. wheels, the interior was stripped out with carbon-fiber trim, race seats, and a smaller diameter steering wheel. That new 6.0-liter screamed at 575 hp, and it sent all that grunt to the rear wheels through the same five-speed manual that’s stuck with the Diablo since day one. Only 80 were ever built, and most were sold overseas.

Less hardcore but no less exciting was the Diablo VT 6.0 and VT 6.0 SE produced between 2000 and 2001. Think of this as the middle ground between the regular VT and the GT, with an ever-so-slightly detuned version of the 6.0-liter, now rated at 549 hp for a top speed of a nice, clean 205 mph. Lambo plucked 40 of these VT 6.0s off the assembly floor for the SE, coating each in either metallic gold or bronze. SEs also got cool kit such as shorter gears, upgraded upholstery, “Lamborghini” script on the brake calipers, carbon-fiber trim, and a magnesium intake manifold.

Eleven years of Diablo production ended in 2001, making plenty of room for the stupendous and tremendously popular—for early 2000s Lamborghini, that is—Murcielago that arrived for the 2002 model year and set the standard for Audi’s Lamborghini going forward. As important as the Murcielago is for the marque, we love the Diablo—all 2,884 of them. We’ll take an early-build car, in black, with a red interior. Call us when it’s out front.

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2022 Volkswagen Taos Gets Basecamp Accessory Package for More Effective SUV Cosplay

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Volkswagen is introducing an outdoorsy accessory line for the all-new 2022 Taos. The accessories add a rugged look to the compact SUV and are available bundled together in a package or sold separately.

Inspired by the Basecamp line for the Atlas, the package includes custom plastic body cladding, front and rear fender flares with integrated splash guards, and lower side plates. The grille also gets a Basecamp badge. The Basecamp package gives the Taos a more aggressive appearance and creates a cohesive styling upgrade that extends from the nose to the rear.

In addition to the new Basecamp accessory line for Taos models, Volkswagen has a full suite of equipment options that bolster convenience and vehicle protection. Featured gear from the extensive catalog consists of Rubber MuddyBuddy and carpeted floor mats and Bumperdillo guards for the rear bumper that help prevent damage when loading and unloading cargo.

Aimed at folks with an adventurous lifestyle looking to boost functionality while adding distinctive styling, Volkswagen seeks to build on the vehicle’s dynamic exterior design. Except for the Basecamp badge, which is only a part of the complete package, the dealer-installed components are available individually. The Taos Basecamp bundle costs $999 and is on sale now.

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Tesla’s New AMD Graphics Chipset Should Have Sony PS5 Performance

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During Computex 2021 (aka Taipei International Information Technology Show), AMD disclosed it is providing APU- and RDNA2-based GPUs to Tesla to use in its new Model S and Model X’s infotainment systems. That explains Tesla’s bold claims, noted on its website, that “[u]p to 10 teraflops of processing power enables in-car gaming on-par with today’s newest consoles” in its Model S and Model X vehicles. Essentially, Tesla is putting a gaming computer on wheels, but more importantly, it shows the company is doubling down on a smart-connected vehicle future.

The Hardware

The current MCU2 (the second-generation media control unit) found in all Tesla models on sale today uses an Intel Atom processor, which is a lower-end product usually found in budget laptops. This new chipset from AMD—some Tesla fans have dubbed it “MC3″—should be a major upgrade, and Tesla claims it will be in vehicles this month. The APU (a CPU with an integrated, lower-performance GPU) generally handles the media system, using less power to handle simple tasks. The high-power dedicated GPU kicks in for high demand applications such as AAA games.

According to an earlier leak from developer Patrick Schur on Twitter, this high-power chip is based on AMD’s Navi 23 GPU, which should put it more or less on par with Sony’s PS5 gaming console in terms of raw computing power. Since the new Tesla infotainment screen has a 2200 x 1300 resolution, gaming performance should be at least equivalent to a PS5 hooked up to a 4K (3840 x 2160) TV.

Overall, this new chipset from AMD is a huge leap from the old Intel chip; think of it like going from a $400 netbook to a $2,000 gaming laptop. However, this change to a higher end chipset may put Tesla in a slight manufacturing disadvantage for a while, as the current global microchip shortage and strong demand from both gamers and crypto miners means GPUs are scarce. The demand is far bigger than supply, and manufacturing can’t scale up quickly to accommodate the demand, so don’t expect this new chipset to trickle down to higher volume Teslas such as the Model 3 and Model Y any time soon.

(Speaking of crypto-mining, the AMD GPU should provide 40-60 MH/s—millions of hashes per second—for mining Ethereum, but don’t buy a Model S as a mining rig. At the current rate, profit is roughly $4 a day, you will need 20,000 days to reach ROI, unless you “diamond hands” hold and ETH moons someday. And it’s not like Tesla would let you install any mining software, anyway.)

The Software and Future Potential

Nerdy hardware talk aside, what does this new chipset bring to the in-car experience? A smoother infotainment UI should be the most noticeable benefit. The Intel Atom chip from 2018 has started to show its age as Tesla added more functions throughout the years; the in-car browser can’t even scroll smoothly on this site, motortrend.com. And entertainment features such as Netflix and YouTube UI have started to feel sluggish. The new chip will almost certainly improve the UI experience.

Being able to run AAA games—big-budget blockbuster video games, in other words—is a gimmick that helps sell an expensive car, but it’s a gimmick no other brand has attempted. But there is more to it below the surface: This highly capable hardware paves a path for extra revenue for Tesla in the future, should it decide to sell games and apps on its own platform. The gaming industry is worth $150 billion; Apple’s AppStore made an estimated $64 billion in 2020.

Tesla has the ability to reach a user base of over a million owners, so selling software and subscription features is a potential revenue stream that is difficult to ignore. When driver-assistance technology becomes more mature in the coming years, and drivers don’t have to monitor the road at all times, the in-car infotainment system may become the major feature for car buyers.

It took Apple’s iOS 13 years to build up a customer base capable of generating $64 billion in one year. Since Tesla is intent on developing true self-driving systems in the future, it makes sense to start thinking about how to lock their customer base into their software ecosystem.

Game Time

To see how the current MCU stacks up, we booted up some AAA games for an unscientific test. It worked … with a few caveats.

As mentioned above, due to chip shortage, don’t expect to play AAA games in the Model 3 and Model Y anytime soon. But what if you really wanted to play high-end games while waiting in line for an available Supercharger in a parking lot (stationary, absolutely NOT driving on the road), and you didn’t have the latest Model S or Model X? Well, Tesla’s in-car browser is based on Google’s Chromium—the open-source code that underpins Chrome and many other browsers—and Google has a game streaming service named Stadia, so in theory you can play AAA titles through the in-car browser.

I plugged in my Stadia controller to an in-car USB slot, opened up the browser and logged into my Stadia account. And … it worked. I was able to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on a Tesla Model 3’s screen.

But it didn’t work well. In fact, it was nigh-unplayable, due to frequent disconnects and numerous input lags. Game streaming requires a stable internet connection, and the car’s network module failed to provide that. Whether it was on full bar LTE cellular or a stable WIFI home internet, the MCU2 struggled to maintain a stable connection. Still, it works, in a technical sense, and the better internet module that will come with the MCU3 hardware improvements should bring Tesla’s dream of premium gameplay to a small screen near you.

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Obscure, Futuristic ’70s Mazda RX500 Concept Was Immortalized in Die-Cast Form

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With a wild, eye-catching wedgy shape, it’s no wonder the RX500 inspired a Matchbox model that outlived it.

It’s late 1970. Mazda has been at the rotary engine game for almost a decade, developing the problematic Felix Wankel/NSU design into a formidable, powerful, and futuristic little powerplant. It was the highlight of the forward-looking production 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S. While beautiful, and interesting, the Cosmo Sport merely (albeit expertly) epitomized the now. The RX500 Concept, which took the stage at the 17th Tokyo Motor Show, envisioned a rotary-powered future straight out of a Syd Mead sketchbook.

The RX500’s aesthetic is pure ’70s sci-fi, with a wrap-around windshield that makes it look like a starfighter for the road. The ports on the engine cover and fenders look like exhausts for some sort of fusion reactor, the mirrors look like sensor pods, the large inlets just behind the windows could be jet intakes. Fair in the wheels, and it looks like it could hover, or fly. Pop up the butterfly doors and the impression is enhanced.

But the profile is the most striking. The high, nearly horizontal rear decklid streams backwards from the roof, terminating in a bluff rear flanked by a quadrangle-vented dark ring. Inset is a huge red-painted stripe emblazoned with the words “Powered by ROTARY.” Underneath, two prominent square exhaust outlets are painted red. There’s a loose thematic link with the Ferrari 250 GT SWB known as the “Breadvan,” but the RX500 is much busier in the details, yet arguably more elegant overall.

The shape came from Mazda’s design team, in particular Shigenori Fukuda, who later became head of the company’s design team. The designer admitted some influence from Italy in an interview with Pen, in particular Bertone’s work, but the design is on the whole original. And the spaceship influence is quite overt, directly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fukuda told the outlet.

It wasn’t enough to simply build a futuristic mid-engined supercar, albeit one with a modest (by today’s standards) 247 horsepower from a modified two-rotor 10A engine that revved to a stratospheric 15,000 RPM. As was the trend at the time, the RX500 explored safety concepts, with a taillight cluster that used colored indicators to show whether the car was accelerating, braking, or coasting. That particular concept didn’t catch on, but adaptive brake lights did, decades later.

What did endure was the shape, although not in a full-size vehicle. In 1971, Matchbox immortalized it with a die-cast model, which differed from the fantastic RX500 mainly in the re-imagined engine cover, which opened as one piece (as opposed to the gullwing engine bay doors on the RX500).

The RX500 speaks to a future that never was for Mazda, and one that arguably wouldn’t have worked out very well considering the oil crises that followed shortly after the concept’s debut. While Mazda never built a road car much like the RX500, its mid-engined race program eventually led to an overall win at Le Mans with the legendary 787B in 1991—after which rotary engines were banned from the series. The Autozam AZ-1, a mid-engined kei car with gullwing doors, is perhaps the closest thing to this RX500 to hit production, and it utilized a Suzuki I-3 engine.

Just one RX500 was made, and it was restored in 2008 to display at the Numaji Transportation Museum in Hiroshima, the home of Mazda. But the 1:59 scale Matchbox model remained on sale for over a decade, with a hiatus of several years in between, giving the RX500 a broad fanbase and a stronger legacy than it might have had otherwise.

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