Four down, two to go. The new Top Gear line-up is reaching the end of their first season together and it’s been somewhat mixed so far. The first two episode were endurable and the next two were manageable with some amusing bits thrown in. This week’s episode opened with Matt referring to Evans as a lightweight before we go onto our first segment: lightweight supercars.
Evans gives a brief introduction to this bizarre brand of car. Built to weigh as little as possible but with plenty of ‘oomph’, the drivers will even shed a few pounds themselves in order to go that little bit faster than the competition. But with all that stripping down comes a lack of comfort that you would find in any other car. So what is it like in the new Zenos E10? Well, it’s designed and built in Britain by ex-Lotus and Caterham workers. There are actually three versions of the E10. The ‘entry level’ for £25k, the top of the range ‘R’ and the ‘S’ that Evans tests and boasts a two-litre turbo engine for £30. According to Chris, it has the same engine, gearbox and other hardware that is found in the Ford Focus ST. There’s only one way to see how well the E10 actually compares – race the ST. Weighing in at just 725kg, the Zeno leaves the Ford in the dust. But it does lack windows, roof and boot to get that low mass.
Chris takes the Zenos around the track a few times and comes out with a big grin on his face. There are some criticisms, though. The gear change is a bit long and the breaks are tough but it’s still great. Zenos made the smart choice of letting customers drive their various prototypes and adjusting with their feedback. Now, what do we actually do with fast cars? Give it to the Stig. Apparently, all that weight shedding really makes little difference – the Zenos runs in at 1:25.1. Fairly average for the board.
Matt takes the new Rolls-Royce Dawn for a spin. At £250,000 and 17 feet long, this convertible is like shouting “I’m rich, look at me!” but the 6.6 V12 engine does so in a whisper. The ride so so smooth that Matt claims it only alerts you if you “happen to run over something significant. Like a buffalo.” Although most convertibles have loud and flappy canvas roofs, the Dawn is so quiet that you can “hear a cricket fart”. The doors open from the front rather than the rear and the driver’s side includes a little niche for the free umbrella to hide away in. As it drives, the Dawn will circulate warm air through the compartment to dry off the umbrella for you. According to Rolls-Royce, rear passengers do not simply ‘get out’ but disembark as if from a yacht onto a private jetty. When Matt tries, he can practically smell the ocean. But all this greatness does come at a large price. The Dawn is somewhat larger than most typical cars.It’s difficult on narrow roads, a nightmare to park and easy to ding. With all the money you spend on it, it’s probably not worth the risk.
Chris Harris steps up now, beginning with a flashback to the 90’s BMW M3. Over the intervening years, the M3 has become less of a teenagers cheap super-car-stand-in and become more sensible. But what if you liked the old model? Well, BMW now sells the M2. Based on the 2 series, it’s based off the coupé series. Like the old M3, it has a manual gearbox, a three-litre straight-six engine and now does 365 horsepower with 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. But the Audi RS3 is out to beat the M2. At just £40K, it’s four thousand cheaper and has four-wheel drive. On paper, it beats the M2 in every way that matters. So Harris straps on the Funometer 3000 (Top Gear’s own invention) to test out the two cars. The Audi gets 76 and the BMW comes away with 514. There we are, the BMW makes you happier. According to Chris, it’s not really an M2. It’s an old M3.
Stars in Rally Cars
Paul Hollywood and Jennifer Saunders. Jennifer Saunders is proud to show a clip from her upcoming film ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ with over 60 well-known cameos in the film, including Kate Moss. Paul has a new cookbook out and is currently filming for the next season of The Great British Bakeoff. With what could easily be a swimming pool atop the muddier parts of the track, Jennifer scores 2:21.6 and Paul scoots in ahead with 2:16.4.
Back in 1961, Jaguar was planning to reveal their new E-Type at the Geneva Motor Show. With the boundless excitement from the media, Jaguar needed a second E-Type. A driver was dispatched with only thirteen hours to reach Geneva – 750 miles away. The car arrived with ten minutes to spare. 55 years after Norman Dewis drove from Coventry to Geneva to unveil the E-Type, Rory Reid will drive the F-Type SVR convertible on the same journey but there’s one catch – he’s driving the only one. If he fails, Jaguar will have nothing. Dewis may have been driving an older and slower car but he didn’t have modern police, modern traffic and modern problems.
As Rory travels across France, he realises the biggest problem he’s having. The car is fine, the petrol stops are quick but the driver is suffering from lack of sleep. As daybreak slowly happens, Rory realises that he has lost time somewhere – he has to cover 100 miles of mountain roads with only two hours to go. As he nears Geneva, the timer hits ten minutes. Thankfully, Rory pulls in at the last minute and is welcomed by Norman Dewis himself as he breezes onto the stage. Norman then makes a special appearance back in the Top Gear studio with him.
Following up on Matt’s Dawn film, Chris explains that any new Rolls-Royce is hideous. It takes time for them to become classic and loved. Matt disagrees so the pair head off to Dingle in Ireland with Matt back in the Dawn and Chris driving his own 1976 Rolls-Royce Corniche. Quickly descending on a football match at half-time, the crowd warms to the Dawn and Matt’s charm. Whilst Chris jabbers away about boot space, Matt is explaining how the satnav will adjust the driving for the roads ahead. Asking for a quick poll, the consensus is that the Dawn is superior.
Getting somewhat weird, Chris drives their pair to a whisky distillery and has a professional smell tester come to smell the insides of their cars. With Matt’s roof going up far quicker, his car is described as smelling ‘interesting’. Chris wins this round with Michael (chief smeller) awarding him the round for the smell of leather and wood in the older model. The pair continues to drive around town, asking for opinions before eventually sitting down and discussing it between the two with each sticking to their guns. Arriving back in the studio, Harris votes for old, Rory for the new and tie-casting vote of Norman Dewis sticks with the old. As the studio watch with rapt attention, Dingle reveals that the winning 68% is the Rolls-Royce… Dawn.
Top Gear began with promise but quickly dropped into a well of despair. The group have no working relationships or previous experience with each other. Worse, the leading man is actually designed for radio. Fewer expressions than a brick and constant talking. Although last week’s episode was fun, the series has taken on a ‘when will it end?!’ feeling. This episode tried to cram in so much that it was overwhelming. There was a car review, another car review, car review number three, an overly detailed Star section followed by another (admittedly worthwhile) review and then a dual-review between two separate Rolls-Royce. Rumours are starting to travel that LeBlanc is going to quit if Evans doesn’t go first. This is probably going to be one of those shows that ends up with a final season we would prefer to forget.
BBC, you can’t whip a dead horse. Five down, one to go.