Top Gear’s Fourth Episode Was Perhaps the Worst So Far

Record-setting low live ratings confirm this one stunk.

Top Gear Episode 4 Review

To the producers of Top Gear: What happened? Last week, we were full of hope and promise that you had begun to turn it all around. Sure, you were off to a rocky start, but that’s okay. A little leeway was granted for you to find your footing and muffle that shouty man who can’t drive. (Hell, everyone rejoiced at the unconfirmed news that the yelling would soon diminish dramatically.) It seemed like we were headed to a better place.

Then, this week’s episode took a harder nosedive than a Kamikaze pilot with an Allied ship in sight. The numbers confirmed it as well. A mere 2.34 million watched live, essentially half of the tune-ins from the premiere episode and the lowest audience in more than a decade. Sheesh. Below, our musings from the episode.

Chris Harris dominates the best and most watchable portion of the show. The madman is given Aston Martin’s Vulcan and free reign of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Watching Harris, in a carbon fiber helmet, flick the fastest, most powerful Aston around will make your tongue fall from your mouth. Then you hear it. Holy. Shit. The Vulcan sounds louder than the legendary British Cold War jet it was named after. Harris channels Evans, screaming over the V-12. Bless him for that because everything he yells is worth it, including dubbing the coupe “a knuckle dragging caveman.”

The Vulcan has adjustable horsepower. Twist a console knob between three different settings and access as little as 550 ponies or as many as 820. Harris was asked by Aston Martin to keep it to 550 until he got the hang of things. Good lad that he is, he immediately cranked it to 820.

Credit scrappy engineering for the Vulcan’s powerplant. Harris notes Aston Martin has no F1 team to cull technology from so that roaring V12 started out as two Ford Mondeo engines cobbled together. Time, testing and redesign means the fire-breathing monster now has double the initial power output. That means a sub-three zero to 60 time, and a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour.

This beast creates its own body weight in downforce. In theory, the Vulcan can be driven upside down. (I presume they didn’t test that because each of the 24 produced cars go for $2.6 million.) However, Harris does keep it planted into a turn at 115 mph. Harris shouts how his face is bending. Lucky devil.

The competition films were duller than watching paint dry. This week, Eddie Jordan sat on a train from London to Venice while Matt LeBlanc, Sabine Schmitz and Evans bought vehicles costing as much as the train’s ticket price (about $5,400). Then they were all to race Jordan. Not the worst premise, however the paltry action was so freaking stale, it was hard to stay awake during the first segment. For the money, Evans gets a 3.2-liter V-8 2002 Jaguar XJ, Schmitz gets a 2.6-liter V-6 Audi A8 but never bothers to tell us the year, and LeBlanc buys a 1989 Honda Gold Wing, with a 1.5-liter flat-six. That’s just about all we hear about the vehicles because now it’s time for the trio to pick up Michelin-rated chefs who are to cook a gourmet meal in the vehicle during one leg of the journey. Again, a passable set-up that’s underwhelmed by the execution and comes off as trite and lame.

The show must be hurting for Stars in a Rallycross Car. Because this week it’s Bear Grylls and Brian Cox. No, not the actor Brian CoxThis scientist guy who does something with nature, I think. I don't know. I zoned out when he spoke. Look, I get it. This show has to appeal to the U.K. audience and thus we Americans may not be familiar with everyone plopping on the couch but surely they can elevate the “stars” somewhat.

They should eliminate the chicane before the Mini hits dirt. That little addition scrubs too much speed. Let the stars go in full throttle. Give us some element of danger, please.

The Tesla Model X drags a Hellcat Challenger and wins. No surprise here. Anyone who has access to the Internet has seen a Tesla trounce all manner of super or turbocharged, petrol-powered anything. They sent Rory Reid to New York to drive the Model X and the best the producers could muster was a drag race between an EV and a gas-powered car? Come on.

Reid says the Model X is to be driven with your ears. There’s so little feedback from the steering wheel, and since there’s no engine, he uses the tire squeal to know where he is in terms of grip limits.

The most boring race known to Top Gear concludes dully. The train tops the trio and Jordan takes the victory. This whole piece started to make me angry at how poorly it was assembled. Nothing felt right. The void of vehicular information, the lack of anything used and old breaking down, the absence of proper smack talking between competitors, and worst of all, the dearth of stakes. Watching the loser(s) pay the piper used to be a great bit of television for this program. Without it, contests feel more contrived and meaningless than ever.

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