The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT was originally shown at a private event in Stuttgart, but the first public chance to see the car is at the Paris Motor Show 2014. The GT is significant because it effectively replaces the gulwing-door SLS and becomes Mercedes-Benz's new flagship sports car; one that's pitched to rival the default Porsche 911 that has ruled this class for several decades. But without those doors does it have the wings to fly?
The first surprise is that after the drama and bombast of the SLS, the GT is noticeably smaller and less dramatic in its proportions. Yes, it's still got a comically long bonnet, but the whole car's a good degree smaller than the SLS and, most importantly, it's narrower so should work better on British roads.
But like we pointed out in our opening gambit, most significant of all is the absence of those gulwing doors. Those wearing restrictive attire will rejoice because getting in and out is now way easier, but those who like to make a dramatic entrance will perhaps rue their passing (they were always guaranteed to draw a crowd out on the street).
We think the GT is a decent looker, but it's a curious mix of the old and unheard of designs in the world of Mercedes. The long hood recalls the SLS, the lamps and the grille are now a generic Mercedes look with a bit of added steampunk style, but it's at the rear where things get interesting - because the forms are more reminiscent of certain cars from Porsche than any previous Mercedes.
In this segment though, and perhaps more important than looks, is the way a car drives. And while no one's been behind the wheel yet, the bald figures for the AMG GT are promising. It comes in two formats: standard (the silver/grey car in our photos) and the nippier "S" model (in yellow). Both formats get a bi-turbo, 4.0 V8 engine, which in normal format cranks out 462bhp, while the hotter S gets 510bhp. That makes good for 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and 193mph on Germany's Autobahns.
As you might expect with a car like this the drive is put down onto the road via the rear wheels, through a 7-speed dual clutch auto gearbox. If previous AMGs are anything to go by, this could be the only fly in the ointment of an otherwise rosy driving experience.
Clamber inside and things feel snug. Or "intimate" as sports car makers tends to say. There's actually plenty of space - so long as there's just two of you - but the way the centre console widens and rises as it meets the dashboard creates a large barrier between you and your passenger and makes the cabin feel tighter than it is. The shape of the centre console is based on the inlet manifold of a V8 engine (apparently it's the designer's idea of humour) and is packed full of buttons for you to adjust the driving experience.
We did expect something of a tech fest on the inside too, but sadly the cars on the show stand in Paris weren't powered, so we can't really tell you that much about how the digital bits look or feel. What we do know is that the control interface is the same as we've seen on the new C-Class, and the GT runs the latest version of Merc's "Comand" infotainment system - primarily displayed through a larger, 8.4-inch screen. We'd expect it to work just like in every other Merc, which means easy to get on with and relatively intuitive to use, with a nice secondary display in-between the rev counter and speedo.
It's far from hard to get along with the AMG GT, the motoring journalist in us can't wait to get behind the wheel. And once we get in one that's running properly, we're sure we'll discover Mercedes has packed it full of leading technology and clever systems to help you drive more quickly, efficiently and without crashing.
Ultimately we can't help being just a tiny bit disappointed by what this AMG represents. The GT lacks the completely nuts character - not to mention the show of drama qualities - of the SLS it replaces. It also sticks to a very traditional and old school sports car format, so lacks any of the futuristic, techie appeal of the BMW i8. And a Porsche 911 is slightly smaller and easier to park, cheaper in its basic form and has a pair of rear seats that tend to come in more handy than you'd think. So, beyond novelty, it'll be fascinating to see just who this car appeal to and whether it has the enduring appeal to fill the boots of the previous SLS.