Hey, Top Gear’s Fifth Episode Actually Talks About Cars!

Perhaps they’ve turned the corner?

bySean Evans| PUBLISHED Jun 28, 2016 9:56 PM
Hey, Top Gear’s Fifth Episode Actually Talks About Cars!

This week, Top Gear decided to become a proper car show. There was plenty of technical talk, stats, and specs, just the right amount of vulcanizing tire smoke from Chris Harris, and even the shout-y redhead seems to have simmered down. It wasn’t without faults, but the bulk of the hour was far more in line with what everyone’s been clamoring for so far this season. It even managed to pull stronger U.K. ratings, up 300,000 viewers over last week. Below, our top thoughts and takeaways on the episode.

Chris Evans finally makes a good film with the Zenos E10

From a compelling opening overhead shot with colored smoke pouring from great British super lightweights like the Ariel Atom, Caterham 7, Morgan 3-wheeler, and others, to the spot-on opening voiceover about how such vehicles are meant to be raucous, uncomfortable, impractical yet exciting, Evans does well to set up the world in which the Zenos E10 lives. The company, founded by two ex-Lotus and Caterham gents, have produced a track-day car that’s fun without being scary, as evidenced by its ability to make Evans look capable on the test track.

We want an E10—like, now

The powerplant is the 2-liter turbo four-cylinder EcoBoost engine from the Ford Focus ST. That’s good for 250 ponies and 145 miles per hour. That combo, given the 1,600-pound curb weight, means the E10 will haul to 60 mph in a mere four seconds. The body is made of many carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic panels, which are easy to replace should you ding one up on the track. The only sad part of the film is when Evans races the Focus ST; sure, they have the same engine, but since the E10 is half the weight, it was never in doubt that it would win. Why not pit it against something with an equal power-to-weight ratio? Perhaps one of those smoky, lightweight treats from the opening sequence?

Matt LeBlanc can barely mask his contempt for Evans

Though he’s grinning his way through the horribly scripted dreck in between films, you can tell LeBlanc would enjoy pummeling Evans’ face

LeBlanc captaining the Rolls-Royce Dawn was quintessential Top Gear

The man does a fantastic job of balancing facts with judgement in this segment. We get all the specs (six-liter twin-turbo V12 with 560 horsepower and a sub-five-second sprint to 60 mph) in between gems like: “The steering feedback isn’t very precise. Just occasionally, you’ll get the merest hint from the chassis that you may have run over something significant. Like a buffalo.” Later, when illuminating how quiet that prodigious engine is, we’re treated to, “You can hear a cricket fart in here.” There was a perfect melange of mockery, specs, and opinion here—just like we used to get week after week with The Trio.

Let’s begin a Kickstarter campaign to buy Evans a new wardrobe

That fucking blue sweater and yellow t-shirt combo has to go. C’mon, fella.

Chris “Scientist” Harris behind the wheel of the BMW M2 wins the night.

You can buy the new M3, but what you really want is the old M3, as Harris correctly points out. But the closest analog to the old M3 is actually the new M2. Quick, RWD, affordable(ish), and capable of big skids on the turns, the pint-size power coupe will leave you wanting for nothing. That three-liter straight-six mated to a manual tranny only differs from the M3 of yesteryear in that it’s now turbocharged, but that forced induction ups the pony count to a small army of 365. The best part, Harris explains, is the lack of a torque-limiter on low revs; you get full grunt from 1,500 rpm on up, which means getting slideways is easier. Cue Harris drifting the bejesus out of the car. He briefly hops behind the wheel of the Audi RS3, since it has the same power, is considerably cheaper, and moves faster thanks to all-wheel-drive. But it’s less fun, proved by his One Corner Challenge. Harris comes alive in selling what is otherwise a cheesy setup, and the M2 gets a happiness rating of 514. “There you are. Science.”

The tale of the Jaguar E-Type's Geneva debut is unreal

Back in 1961, Jag was set to reveal the future Earth-shattering E-Type to the world at the Geneva auto show. The excitement from the assembled press was so great, Jaguar wanted to send a second car. That meant dispatching a driver from the factory in Coventry, some 750 miles away, with only 13 hours to cover that sizable ground. That driver, Norman Dewis, made it with ten minutes to spare.

Because Dewis is the real deal

Following the second World War, Dewis became the chief factory driver for Jag and remained in their employ for three decades. During his tenure he contributed to a number of iconic cars. In 1953, he hit 172 mph in the XK120, setting a record for production cars. In the Seventies, he rolled the XJ13 prototype thrice, demolishing the vehicle. He was back to work the very next morning. Legend.

Rory Reid tries to recreate that exciting drive with the F-Type SVR convertible

The operative word here is “tries.” He’s behind the wheel of the only drop-top from Jag’s skunkworks SVO division, and they’re going to reveal it at Geneva in 13 hours—50 years to the night from when Dewis made his legendary jaunt. The problem is that Reid spends too much time hyping up the trip and not enough time hyping up the car. There’s a cursory spec run-through, but we could stand to hear a lot more about the 567-hp V8. Instead, Reid repeatedly mentions how easily he could fail. He claims he’s still not at Geneva at the deadline time, but when he rolls out onto the show floor in the nick of time, the car’s too clean. It doesn’t look like it ran hard for 13 hours straight; instead, it looks like it had plenty of time to get wiped down and sparkled up. We call bullshit on this one.

LeBlanc trounces Evans in a vintage-versus-modern debate

Evans claims to hate the new Rolls-Royce Dawn so much that he trots out his 1976 Corniche and claims a Rolls must wait decades before it’s able to become beloved. “People can’t fail to smile when this glides by, even with a tool like me behind the wheel,” Evans says. Can’t argue with that last bit, but LeBlanc thinks the first half is inaccurate. It’s off to West Ireland to find out who wins. The tests and trials are engaging, fun, and informative. After townspeople cast ballots, LeBlanc wins with 68 percent of the votes.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments.