Terms like “milestone,” “landmark” and “watershed moment” get thrown around way too often these days, such that their verbal potency is lost when they’re most applicable. Which is a shame, because those superlatives perfectly describe what the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster is, yet fall so, so short of accurately framing the magnitude of Sant’Agata’s current flagship. The Aventador is the single greatest waypoint in Lamborghini history since Enzo Ferrari kicked Ferruccio Lamborghini out of his office for saying the 250 GT transmissions were crap, inspiring the latter to found his own company.

That legendary discourse gave rise to the very first V12-powered Lamborghini, the 350GT, and kicked off a 53-year-long Northern Italian rivalry on the side. And, incredibly, the 350GT’s V12 was put to work for nearly as long, doing service in the Miura, Countach, Diablo, and ending its run in the Murcielago in 2011. (Imagine if NASA was still using Kennedy-era Atlas rockets to send astronauts to the ISS.) The Aventador’s engine is the first Lamborghini V12 to be completely new, from the ground up. What Lamborghini has done with one engine over the course of nearly 50 years better underscores how monumental the Aventador actually is.

Lamborghini Aventador Roadster Specs

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Engine: 6.5-liter V12
Horsepower: 690 horsepower
Torque: 509 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 2.9 seconds
Top Speed: 217 mph
Curb Weight: 3,583 pounds
MSRP: $441,600

Like any Lamborghini with a V12, the Aventador is a numbers car: 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, 6.5 liters, 12 cylinders, 690 horsepower, 8,500 rpm redline, $441,600 price tag. But saying you have an idea of the car based on its spec sheet is the same as saying you have a pretty good idea about quantum physics because you read the back cover of A Brief History of Time.

Even as I was about to head up to the mountain roads and tunnels above Sant’Agata in the Roadster, I struggled to appreciate its gravitas. Just looking at it, parked there, it’s something incredible to behold. The bright white metallic paint, vertical swinging doors, the wide, low-slung stance, sharp lines, massive side intakes — it’s a caricature of the idea of what a Lamborghini is, but a concept equivalent to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. I took the two roof sections off, stored them in the trunk, slid down into the cradling bucket seats and thumbed the starter. All 12 cylinders started to dance inches behind my right ear, and the cloudless sky and 85-degree air could do nothing to stop me from getting chills. The Lamborghini ethos started to come into focus.

The exhaust note is more of an organic-digital hybrid than it is mechanical, but still, somehow unmistakably Lamborghini.

Out of town and up in the hills, the vocals of the all-new engine are an auditory anomaly. As the tach needle climbs to a crescendo, the exhaust note is more of an organic-digital hybrid than it is mechanical, but still, somehow, unmistakably Lamborghini. The Aventador, as a whole, is brash and extreme in every facet of its being.

Before I had to hand the keys back, I finally understood what makes a Lamborghini a Lamborghini. But that moment didn’t occur when I was turning tunnels and granite valleys into makeshift opera houses, or putting the spec sheet to the test. Hell, I wasn’t even anywhere near the car’s actual limit. It was when I was trundling around town at pedestrian speeds. Kids would tug at their parent’s arm to get their attention to stop and look, gray-haired vecchie signore would stop and smile, amici tapping each other on the shoulder to turn and look — everyone stopped just short of actually saluting the thing. But everyone took pause to appreciate the Roadster like it was some rolling national treasure. Ferraris are respected around these parts — there’s no questioning that — but they’re subtle. A V12 Lamborghini roadster exudes a certain bravado that many Italians see in themselves, an inherent trait they take pride in.

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The 350GT, Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murcielago — if a Lamborghini is powered by a V12 it’s almost guaranteed bedroom-wall-poster status. Pulling back up to the factory, I parked and opened the door skyward, the Aventador’s place in history not lost on me. I didn’t just witness history, I experienced it with every awestruck sensory avenue possible. It’s a lineage that Italy knows and adores, and one other nations wish they could call their own.