After a failed season of Top Gear, the self-proclaimed (kind of, subtly) “Holy Trinity” of Clarkson, May and Hammond faced an easier return. Expectation has been replaced with comforting relief. The Grand Tour was promoted as a different beast to their former show, well, it isn’t. But this isn’t a bad thing.
The show’s premise is the trio will tour the globe, hosting from a tent. The reality: Top Gear on steroids. Arriving to a Burning Man style concert in an American desert, it’s clear the show has jumped up a scale. Everything’s bigger, including the presenters’ waist lines. Inside the tent (picture the Top Gear studio but with a screen displaying the background in lieu of an aircraft hangar), Clarkson corrects Americans on the correct name of car parts and we’re away.
First segment, they take to the track. It reminds us this is a car show. And who doesn’t like a 950 horse power Ferrari? Nobody that is watching this show. Throw in a McLaren for good measure and it’s clear these big kids have been let loose on big kids’ toys. Albeit, electrical engine toys . . . in a drag race (note the Clarkson-esq pause).
That soon becomes a classic drive through the hills, which May can’t participate in because his Ferrari isn’t licensed for road use. Classic stitch-up, break for a pause, back to the studio. All very Top Gear, but better than Top Gear.
Cars are still put through their paces on a track for testing. An Ebola shaped track, no less. The BMW M2 is the debutant, paving the way for a new (old) regular feature to commence. What it does is give something scarily like a proper review of the car, making it almost feel like a classic style car show.
Of course, the Ebola Drome needs a timed lap. Enter The Stig. Well, almost. Enter The American (NASCAR’s Mike Skinner). Unlike The Stig, he is all chat when behind the wheel.
The Celebrity Brain Crash replaces Star in a Reasonably Priced Car but turns out to be a gag about stars dropping dead on the way to the show. Sadly, the trio can’t see the future, and the otherwise decent joke fails when a “dead” Carol Vorderman is spotted in the audience. It’s kind of distracting when she’s currently in the headlines for getting massages on the most viewed TV show in Britain I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Part two of Porsche vs McLaren vs Ferrari concludes with former F1 driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio performing timed laps after the lads couldn’t split the cars. The winning car doesn’t steal the show, that’s reserved for Clarkson, May and Hammond’s gag should Clarkson’s McLaren not be the fastest.
The verdict is The Grand Tour is an overriding success. Already it all feels familiar but somehow fresh. Those that mourned the loss of Top Gear, rejoice. Get an Amazon subscription and enjoy its rebirth.