‘Top Gear’ Season 23, Episode 4 Recap and Review

Graham Host

This week’s Top Gear began with some fairly poor choice of words, in which Evans claimed he would be ‘smoking himself’. Something I haven’t focused on before but I feel I should mention now – the new opening. With an all new cast, the footage for the opening has been switched out for new stuff and it looks good. And now, back to the studio.

Segment 1

Matt and Chris introduce the ‘maddest car’ ever that they can’t actually drive it in the UK. So Chris Harris has taken it to Abu Dhabi which is apparently off in a variety of directions that the confused pair point towards.

Top Gear Aston Martin Vulcan

The Aston Martin Vulcan, named for the old bomber, is  a bold name with a lot to live up to. At 0-60 in 2.3 seconds and a top speed over 200mph, Harris pulls over to explain how much horsepower it has. There are three settings, ranging from 550 to 820 horsepower. Chris ‘slips’ and enjoys the full 820 as he tears around a race track. With the Vulcan remaining relatively light for a car it’s size and performance, Chris blasts the powerful V12 around corners at 115mph with ease. With such a track and such a car, a race is inevitable. Facing off against the V12 Vantage S – 573 horsepower, 205mph top speed – the fastest road-going Aston around. His friendly rival is Darren Turner, a two-time winner at Le Mans and is also given a 20-second head start while Chris does doughnuts. It’s a tight race but Harris pulls in a mere hair ahead.

Due to noise and performance restrictions, the Vulcan is banned from being driven in the UK. So Top Gear went ahead and did a lap anyway. Although I don’t usually mention the Stig introductions, these have to go up. Some say he thinks Brexit is a laxative. And that, for tax purposes, he’s classified as a biscuit. With the full crowd of horses unleashed, Stig pulls in a staggering 1-15.2. As the car isn’t allowed on roads, the lap can’t go up on the board so Chris unveils the Naughty Laps Flap, for such cars.

Main Feature – Part 1

For £3660, a ticket can get a person a one-way train from London to Venice. The producers give Matt, Sabine Schmitz, and Chris each the price of a ticket to buy a luxury car to do the same trip as Eddie Jordan takes the train. Chris gets a nice 2002 Jag XJ Exec for £2100, Sabine an Audi A8 for £2750 and Matt? A bike. A 1989 vintage Grand Tourer called the Gold Wing. Over on the train, Eddie receives a challenge for the group. At Paris, each motorist will collect a Michelin-star chef to drive to Lyon. During the journey, they will each make a meal for one of the world’s toughest restaurant critics. Quite how Matt will do it one the bike is beyond me. Chris receives Tom Kerridge, Sabine rides with Tom Kitchen and Ollie Dabbous gets saddled with the bike and LeBlanc.

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Kerridge (left), Kitchen (centre) and Dabbous (right)

Chris and Tom appear to be old friends and Kerridge instantly settles down to do his chicken. There is some tension over in the Audi as Sabine offers tips by way of ‘my grandmother would’ for Kitchen’s fish course. Ollie had planned to slow cook a pigs head between Paris and Lyon in the back of the car with a small cooker. Instead, all three chefs have the same plan: use the heat from their engines to cook the meat. As Eddie sits down for a gourmet dinner, Ollie is forced to pull over to slice his vegetables. Upon arrival at the finishing point, the judge is revealed to be Oliver Peyton. The fish is lemony, the chicken tastes of an engine but the jowl turned out quite nice. Kitchen-Schmitz are crowned winners as Eddie Jorden plays the spoons on the train.

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Stars in Rally Cars

Some quite good names this week – Brian Cox and Bear Grylls. As they recount the crashing of Cox’s first car – when he wasn’t racing a Mini – , he brings out a genius piece of science. As motion is relative, he could have been in an ‘inertial frame of reference’ as long as he wasn’t accelerating. If so, the lamppost technically crashed into him. Unless you happen to be arrested by a physicist, there’s little chance this will actually work for you. Both Grylls and Cox enjoy their laps around the track and score 1-54.4 and 1-53.9 respectively.

Segment 2

Rory Reid takes a crack at something we’re all waiting for – the Tesla Model X. With most other electric cars basically glorified golf carts, the Model X is a six-seater SUV which has passed every crash test it has undergone. Supposedly capable of doing 250 on a single charge, it takes only 30 minutes to recharge on a Tesla Supercharger – less time than a game controller. With a bigger than normal battery, it weighs more than a Range Rover but has a low centre of gravity so it remains firmly on the road. In addition to the medical-grade air filtration, it has an extremely advanced auto-pilot that can adjust speed, steer and even change lane. Tesla believes it to be twice as safe as a human driver. Of course, what about the petrol-heads that love a big noise? Rory heads off against a Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Top Gear Tesla X
Model X (foreground) Hellcat (background)

Rory activates the ‘ludicrous mode’ where the Model X puts everything it can into sheer power and easily crosses the line ahead of the Hellcat. Although the Model X doesn’t directly produce any emissions itself, the energy companies have to find fuel somewhere. And the starting price isn’t exactly cheap – £90,000. But it is the promise of a brighter future.

Main Feature – Part 2

Having hoisted their chefs out (and off) their rides Matt, Sabine, and Chris head through the Alps towards Venice as Jordan tucks himself into a tasty lobster. The challenge for this half is a straight race between the motors and the train. Eddie satisfies himself with asking the train driver to speed up as the road group takes charge and floor their accelerators (and whatever bikes do to go faster). With her more expensive Audi, Sabine is worried that her remaining funds will not allow her to buy enough fuel and pay all the toll booths to reach Venice. With a much smaller fuel tank in his bike than a car, Matt figures that he will have to refill at least twice more before reaching his destination. It’s a tight finish – for three as Matt falls further behind. Chris and Eddie are able to secure water taxis but Sabine is forced to run with no cash left in her budget. Surprisingly, Sabine is the first motorist to arrive but the train beat the cars enough for Eddie to take gold. Chris shows up a few minutes behind Sabine and Matt later on that night.

Top Gear Venice

The show draws to a close with the motorists deciding they spiritually won by getting to keep their transport only for Eddie to trump them by proudly revealing his new musical spoons.

Conclusion

Despite being a fun and amusing episode, Top Gear is in dire need of more attention. Countryfile is produced using a third of the budget and rakes in as many as nine million viewers per episode. This week’s Top Gear? 2.36 million, down from last weeks 2.4 million viewers. Whilst the highlights of the Stig’s entry jokes and the guest stars were good, the public is less than pleased with the net result.

Very bad Colin, very bad indeed.
Graham Host
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight. Contactable only via Twitter or trained carrier pigeon.