News Culture

What Was the Best Classic Top Gear Segment?

In the early days of YouTube, before everyone with an iPhone was putting a cinematic spin on car reviews, Top Gear in its prime did some amazing things.
Andrew P. Collins

The BBC’s Top Gear TV show has had several good iterations and many memorable episodes over its 33-season lifespan so far. But my fellow millennials and I often put its peak circa the mid-’00s, when YouTube was still nothing but a novelty and Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond were in their show-hosting prime.

That trio was not the show’s original cast, nor were they the last. But in an era when automotive entertainment was limited to either motorsports or cut-and-dry public access car review content, the dramatic delivery and cinematic scene-setting of what I call “classic Top Gear” was really pretty mind-blowing.

Somebody recently sent me this old BMW M3 CSL shakedown hosted by Clarkson from the Isle of Man, having thought of me because I’ve got a silver E46 in my own stable (not a CSL, of course). I hadn’t seen it in years and got sucked in very quickly—there’s just so much cool energy and momentum in the pacing, filming, and hosting of this clip. And this isn’t even one of Top Gear‘s most famous segments.

I’m not saying classic Top Gear was perfect (was a bulimia joke really necessary in this M3 clip?) but there’s no denying it set the bar for car content and set a lot of precedents for the way automobiles would be shown on video.

That said, what I really want to know is, what was your favorite segment from this pre-social media era of Top Gear?