The last time Mercedes-AMG was tasked with building a model from scratch, it went to town.

Not only did the SLS evoke the 300SL with its gullwing doors, but it also housed the M159 engine in its long nose, a reworking of AMG’s own V8 and the last naturally aspirated engine to feature in a Mercedes.

It was, in many respects, marvellous – and because it was AMG’s first go, momentous, too. Its replacement, although similar in some respects and not entirely unrelated beneath, is not to be thought of as a successor.

Whereas the SLS was a supercar in the mega-GT mould, AMG’s follow-up is smaller, cheaper, turbocharged and conventionally doored. It’s a two-seat sports car, says Mercedes, which means that the manufacturer is less interested this time around in making a splash and more concerned with stealing customers from under the noses of Audi and Porsche.

That’s considerably more difficult than building a low-volume supercar, particularly as Mercedes has stuck with the SLS’s gameplan: keeping its big engine in front of the driver rather than behind, nestling the cabin to the rear of a long-nosed body and even providing a decent boot, this time with a convenient liftback.

It is also comparatively large and not tremendously lightweight. But it is beautiful. And it’s still powered by a hand-built V8 – AMG’s newly developed biturbo unit, producing 456bhp in the standard car and 503bhp in the more expensive (and likely more popular) S model tested.

As in the SLS, the power goes to the rear wheels via a transaxle, which helps to keep the weight distribution at what Mercedes calls an optimum 47/53% front-rear split. The V8 itself is mounted sufficiently far back on the aluminium spaceframe that the manufacturer prefers to describe it as front mid-engined.

In point of fact, it describes the GT as a lot of things, most notably the embodiment of the “spirit of the glorious Mercedes sports cars”. That it may be, but is it sufficiently good to outshine the Porsche 911 Carrera or new Audi R8?

Top 5 Super sports cars

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Audi Sport drops a sub-4.0sec-to-60mph bomb into Porsche Cayman territory
  • First Drive
    9 December 2016
    Plug-in-hybrid 3 Series shows the benefit of BMW's experience with the i3 and i8. Sophisticated, swift and broadly talented to drive – and sweet-handing, too
  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Italian brand emerges as a true luxury power with a large SUV
  • 2016 Porsche Panamera Turbo
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    A smaller engine doesn't prevent the new Porsche Panamera Turbo being a ridiculously quick and capable sporting GT. We've driven it in the UK
  • 2016 Vauxhall Adam 1.0i Turbo Unlimited
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    The 1.0-litre turbo engine and Unlimited trim combine to make this the best Adam in the line-up