Conventional wisdom (and Wikipedia) tell you that the Lamborghini Diablo is the successor to the Countach, but it's not. That's because the BMW i8 is.
Yes, the Diablo was the car Lamborghini replaced the Countach with so technically it was the Countach's successor but spiritually speaking? That's a different matter. The i8 has taken up the Countach's mantle in a way that no other production Lamborghini has done since.
Let me use a little bit of history to explain myself.
At the 1971 Geneva Motor Show Lamborghini showed a concept car designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone to be the replacement for the revolutionary Miura. It was called the Countach, named for an Italian exclamation that roughly translates to "holy shit" in English – an appropriate name given its wild styling.
The Countach wasn't the first concept car to have an outlandish wedge shape design, or even the first production car for that matter, but it was easily the wildest. By the time it hit the streets in 1974 the only thing that looked even remotely like it was the also Gandini- designed Fiat X1/9, of which the Countach only bore a passing resemblance.
Frankly, the Countach hardly resembled Lamborghini's own Miuria, a car which wasn't what you might call conventional itself. The Countach was (to use a term I hate) disruptive.
The original Countach was impossibly low and wide, in a way that pictures can never do justice. If you've never seen one in person you won't quite understand just how extreme the car is. Nearly 40 years after its debut, it still looks like nothing else and still has the power to shock.
Even as the pure lines of the 1974 original were compromised as the Countach was brought into the 1980s, it still blew minds. Check out the 60 Minutes profile on Lamborghini from 1987 to get an idea of the incredible effect it had on people.
The Countach wasn't a car, it was an icon.
In 1990 Lamborghini replaced the Countach with the Diablo, and while that car was objectively better than its predecessor, much of the magic was lost. Don't get me wrong, the Diablo is great but it's not really disruptive in the way the Countach was.
The Diablo was an improvement on the Countach, but wasn't really new. The difference between the Diablo and the Countach is much smaller than the difference between the Countach and the Miura.
No Lamborghini that followed (with the exception of one-offs like the Veneno and Egoista) was a game changer like the Countach was. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – especially considering their strong sales figures – but just a small observation on my part
This is where the i8 comes in.
Like Lamborghini, BMW stunned the world with the Vision Efficent Dynamics Concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 2009, which became the i8 Concept at Frankfurt in 2011. It looked more like a futuristic space ship than a car.
As was the case with the Countach, BMW put the i8 into production looking very much like the concept. The first time I saw one at this year's New York Auto Show, I couldn't believe that it was a car that, provided you had $140k, you could just buy at a BMW dealer– it was the one car at the show that genuinely blew me away, and it seems my coworkers shared my sentiments.
In terms of presence, it's just miles ahead of everything else on sale today. No, the i8 isn't in the same performance league as the 918/P1/LaFerrari trio, but it has a more futuristic design and is within the realm of affordability for (admittedly well-healed) mortals.
I didn't spend nearly enough time with the i8 Travis reviewed, but even in a relatively quiet area it attracted attention like no other car I've ever seen. People loved it, and when I say people I don't just mean auto enthusiasts, I mean normal people who had no idea what it was.
Not unlike the Countach in its day.
Now, I'm not sure that the i8 will achieve icon status like the Countach has – it certainly has the makings of an icon – however I think it's too early to tell. What is clear is though, is that it's arguably the most disruptive exotic car since the Countach.
For that reason the i8, more than the Diablo, Murcielago, and Aventador, is the true successor to the Countach. Not bad for a 3-cylinder hybrid made by BMW of all companies.
Photo Credits: BMW, Lamborghini