Recently Top Gear has had a bit of a rough go. From the separation of its famed hosts, Clarkson, Hammond, and May, and their subsequent success on Amazon’s, The Grand Tour, to the utterly disappointing performance of replacement lead host Chris Evans, which saw the follow up season of Top Gear U.K.’s ratings take a nosedive to their lowest level ever, with only 1.9 million viewers turning in to the season finale.
After Evan’s departure, Top Gear has continued to have a tough time overall, with generally mixed reviews at best, so the question was, will the replacement for Top Gear U.S.A, aptly named Top Gear America, be any better?
It’s with a sigh of relief that I can confidently say, “yes”, it is in fact better. Not only is it better than Top Gear U.S.A, it’s quite easily better than the current iteration of Top Gear U.K.
Featuring three new hosts, NHRA Top Fuel champ, Antron Brown, British motoring journalist, Tom “Wookie” Ford, and actor, William Fichtner. The hosts clearly fill archetypes any Top Gear fan will instantly recognize. One surprise is the chemistry the hosts seem to already have. While far away from the classic trio, they are themselves easily outpacing the current U.K. hosts. Maybe the BBC sent them all away on a team building expedition before filming.
The premier episode features the typical Top Gear segments we’ve come to know and love. There’s an adventure/challenge feature, a celebrity guest who drives a reasonably priced car, and a couple of reviews.
The adventure segment takes our new hosts south of the border to Mexico. Their challenge, to drive two Baja Beetles 212 miles from Mexico, back to the U.S.A, in the spirit of the famed Baja 1000 race.
While the script seems a bit forced at times, the segment is actually really well done overall. There’s the great cinematics that we’ve all come to expect from Top Gear, fun action clips, and a some good humor, even if it is a bit forced, such as where one of the Beetles “runs out of gas” or really without giving too much away, the entire premise of the segment.
The review of the new Acura NSX is a shining feature in the new Top Gear America’s roster. While recent reviews on both Top Gear U.K. and Top Gear U.S.A, before it ended, were pretty bad, if not outright unwatchable, Tom “Wookie” Ford does an excellent job giving the NSX a well deserved review. No condescension, no ridiculous out of left field opinions, and no unnecessary hype. While the back in the studio follow up has the scripted me vs you opinions built in, it does little to take away from the actual segment.
Top Gear America’s celebrity segment is now far improved from even the classic Top Gear. This episode features professional baseball player (now retired) C.J. Wilson. The segment was brief, to the point, and very well done. The chemistry between the guests and the host was there, and the questions related to the show. We didn’t see any of the over the top nonsense from recent episodes of Top Gear U.K. and none of the crazy celebrity “appearances” that many hated in The Grand Tour’s Celebrity Brain Crash. The actual lap on TGA’s new track, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, using a 2017 Honda Civic, was done right as well. Although it lacked any drama, and the track itself is a bit underwhelming overall, it set a good direction for the show and Top Gear as a whole.
The other segment of the show, a review of the new Ford Raptor, was done by William Fichtner. I’ll go ahead and say it now, William is the absolute star of the show and does the segment, and the whole show, masterfully. Whoever managed to get him to do the show deserves a raise because he really does carry the show. Fichtner may be the first solid lead on any Top Gear since Clarkson.
Fichtner manages to capture some of that original Top Gear essence that I think we’ve all been missing since the trio’s departure. The soulfulness, the genuineness, the style that Top Gear so desperately needed, and used to have in excess. If you watch the new episode for one reason, it should be his segment on the Raptor.
So, Top Gear America is off to a great start. Where does that leave us now? The Grand Tour premiers with its second season on Amazon Prime soon and if there’s any indication based off last season, it’s going to be a hit. Top Gear U.K. is still struggling to regain ground, but may very well be recovering, and as for Top Gear America, it just may be the BBC’s new shining star.
Hopefully they can keep it up, all of us in the automotive community need a good show like this. Let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments, and be sure to like and share!
Stay tuned to Automoguls for reviews of every new episode all season long, as well as reviews of The Grand Tour, Top Gear U.K, and much more.
Image Source: BBC America