Category Archives: Reviews

Top Gear America Episode 2: Movie Magic [Review]

This weeks episode of Top Gear America is all about famous cars, what makes the “coolest” car, and look at some amazing movie tricks.

The first scene features one of the most iconic movie cars of all time. The classic 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt.   The segment, done by William Fichtner, much like in the first episode, is fantastic. Fichtner seems like the most natural person to pair with a vehicle like the Bullitt Mustang and the entire film is just that, natural, authentic, and a pleasure to watch.

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The special guest for this week’s episode is one of the stars of The Blacklist, Ryan Eggold. The show continues the awkward guest drive in by The Stig, but the interview itself is quick, to the point, and a huge improvement over Top Gears of the past.

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The second segment of the show features an Italian beast and the America drag racer, Antron Brown. Antron has chosen to showcase the beautiful Lamborghini Huracan Spyder. With the amazing sound and stunning good looks of the Huracan there’s very little not to like about this film. While Antron is still not the greatest presenter, always coming across as trying just a little too hard, the segment itself is still very good. With little in the way of scenery to distract away from the Lamborghini, it’s all eyes on the bull.

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As the segment progresses we’re introduced to an even more amazing machine, a $250,000 camera which is placed on a crane, which is then attached to a blacked-out, 580 horsepower, Cadillac  CTS-V wagon called the Ultimate Arm. The film rig is exceptionally high end and able to capture the highest quality video in almost any condition.

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filmrig12 But wait! That’s not all that’s in this segment. There’s an even cooler Ultimate Arm! This one, an off-roader with a 650 horsepower motor, allows for the same amazing film capabilities in rough and uneven terrain without breaking a sweat.

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What? Two amazing film cars and a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder aren’t enough for you? Well how about a professional dirt bike rider as well!  Top Gear piles on the action with the film buggy chasing down and filming this pro rider and of course, it looks amazing.

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The show isn’t done with the Huracan though, The Stig takes the Huracan (albeit the all-wheel drive model) around the all new Top Gear test track. So is it faster than the NSX from Episode 1? Any bets? Spoiler alert! The Huracan manages to set a blistering lap time of 1:10:47! Nearly three seconds slower than the Acura NSX,! Ok, so night quite blistering, but still pretty quick. Are you surprised?

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Fichtner is back in another segment following The Stig’s lap. This time he shows us an American classic, the 1955 Cadillac Convertible. Will does an amazing job of taking us down memory road. He gives us a bit of personal backstory, some American history, and as is quickly becoming tradition, an amazing narrative overall. The segment is a must see for anyone who’s a fan of classic cars, Americana, and beautifully restored Cadillacs.

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Carrying over from the initial interview, the show continues with the rest of Ryan Eggold’s interview before his lap in the Top Gear Honda Civic. Ryan gives an excellent interview and we’re sure all fans of Top Gear and The Grand Tour are really going to appreciate the new interview format that Top Gear America has decided to go with. It’s the direction the BBC (and lets be honest, Amazon) should both have gone long ago.

Ryan’s lap starts off pretty rough, but comical, and he doesn’t improve much through the rest of the lap. He does deserve praise for keeping a smile on his face the whole time, but a racecar driver he is not. While there isn’t much to learn from his technique, his segment is a must see for a good laugh.

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Picking up with the next scene, we have all three hosts in a classic Top Gear challenge segment learning to become 70’s stunt drivers. It’s a bit odd not seeing or hearing about the producers forcing the hosts to complete the channel, but new fans of the show won’t know any better.

Their first challenge? Complete a bootlegger turn. A bootlegger turn is one where you drive straight, pull the e-brake to lock up the rear tires, turn 180 degrees, and power out back the way you came. All three hosts manage to get this one done. This segment is great thanks to some humor, a lack of that “overly-scripted” feeling, and obviously, car stunts.

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Moving on to the second stunt, the boys now have to complete a reverse 180 flick. This stunt is when you put the car in reverse, drive at speed, crank the wheel from 3 to 6, and turn it around putting the car into gear and drive away.

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The final stunt of the segment calls for the hosts to drive down the street and perfectly slide into a parallel parking spot without crashing into the barriers on either side which are of course, baskets of fruit. While this may sound like a good premise, unfortunately the stunt is underwhelming which makes for a rather disappointing end to an otherwise solid episode.

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Top Gear America is still up and running strong and it looks like the first episode may not have been a fluke after all.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments!

Top Gear America: Episode 1: Made in America [Review]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

The Best Enthusiast Cars of 2016 (Under 100k)

Here at Garagizta, we are dedicated to the everyday enthusiast! It is in this spirit that we have compiled our list of the best enthusiast cars for 2016 (under 100k). Sure there may be some hypercars or supercars that drive better or put down faster lap times, but those are left for the select few in that income bracket. All of these cars can be purchased, for the most part, by a wide variety of people, and even more important, they are all amazing driver’s cars. Fast, fun, great handling, exciting, and affordable. Check them out, and let us know what you think!

1-      Ford Mustang GT350R

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The GT350R tops our list for the best enthusiast car for 2016 for a multitude of reasons. It’s impressive power from the fantastic flat plane crank V8, it’s superb handling characteristics, and it’s jaw dropping good looks are but a few. Add all of this to the incredible bargain of a price ($63,495), especially if you can find one that hasn’t been ridiculously marked up by dealers for “market adjustment”, and you have a car that without a doubt, deserves the number one spot.

2-      Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

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Small, lightweight, gorgeous design, and a delightfully easy to operate drop top. What does that describe? The number two car on our Best Enthusiast Cars of 2016. The Fiat 124 Spider takes the tried and true formula of the Mazda Miata, throws in a healthy dose of Italian flare, a sexy exhaust note, and gives you one fantastic car for the driving enthusiast. Those looking for high horsepower should look elsewhere, but for those who want to really enjoy the driving experience as a whole, look no further. Take note FRS/BRZ, this is how you make a small, lightweight, and fun to drive car.

3-      Chevrolet Camaro SS

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The newest iteration of the American classic showcases a host of impressive upgrades. Redesigned body styling provides a much more modern look and much needed overhaul to the Camaro. The 16′ model has also improved upon the often maligned interior, which Chevy has always had issues with. In addition to aesthetics, the Camaro SS increases horsepower and loses weight, both welcome changes, and also provides an increase to handling and ride quality with now available Magnetic Ride Control suspension. The Camaro is also an excellent deal priced far below many other brands in terms of performance per dollar.

4-      Porsche Cayman GT4

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The most expensive car on our list (per MSRP) the Cayman offers one of the very best driving experiences available, making it well worth the price. The GT4, making excellent power to weight, partly due to Porsche including components from the fabled 918, is also one of the lightest vehicles on the list, beaten only by the Fiat. The GT4 has been widely reviewed as one of the best sports cars available and the best bang for the buck you can get from Porsche. Add this to the car being a comfortable daily driver, and a true track weapon, and you have a car which undoubtedly belong on any top list of cars for 2016.

5-      BMW M2

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The Germans round out our list with the excellent M2. Hailed by some journalists as being the true successor to the much loved previous generations of the BMW M3, the M2 provides power, style, refinement, and all the driving prowess you’ve come to expect from the M series. Unlike the tacky looking M4 GTS, the M2 still looks powerful, yet subtle, and possesses a wonderful turbocharged, inline-six cylinder with an output of 365hp. An excellent choice for those who want to display a certain image while retaining a car they can hoon about in on the weekends or the drive home from work, the M2 is no doubt one of the best enthusiast cars of 2016.

 

Also posted on Garagizta

Bangin’ Gears Episode 3 Review

Step Aside Top Gear, 

The New Car Show King Is Here

f you’re a car enthusiast and haven’t had the chance to watch Bangin’ Gears yet, let me tell you, you are missing out. The show, which is the brainchild of its main host, Alejandro Salomon ( pictured below), better known as Salomondrin on various social media outlets, features some of the best high end cars, track comparisons, and a good dose of man-child comedy. The cast is large and complex but there are a few consistent faces. The show is surprisingly well shot with excellent cinematics, very high end looking graphics, and profession sound quality and editing.

Bangin’ Gears intro describes it as ” a car show made by a group of car nuts who want to make every car guys wet dream a reality.” The group of enthusiasts is known as “Cup gang” or Cars Unite People Gang.

This episode features a track comparison as well as everyday driving challenges between the Ferrari 458 Speciale, McLaren 675 LT, Dodge Viper ACR, Lamborghini Aventador SV, and the Porsche 911 GT3RS. One of the more notable facts about the show, is that all the vehicles showcased are privately owned vehicles, brought to the show by the presenters or friends of theirs. The tests are therefore, one can reasonably assume, completely unbiased as they have no automotive manufacturer sponsors to sway their results.

The show begins by testing the daily drive-ability of the cars presented. The tests include how much groceries each car can hold as well as how well the car can go through a drive through. The segment features a great balance of comedy, car specs, and some good honest critiques.

 

Following the less serious but none the less very entertaining daily driver segments, the show moves on to the track. Taking place at The Thermal Club private racetrack, the cars are put through their paces on which can get the fastest lap time while being driven by professional racecar driver Alec Udell, as well as an arm drop drag race competition.

 

 

The fantastic film and sound quality continue through this half of the show as does the comedy. Several of the car owners get more than a bit squeamish as they are taken around the track for a lap by Alec, which makes for a good bit of fun. Best of all, none of them through up after their laps, not unlike a certain other car show host… The laps are absolutely great to watch, and the fact that they have recruited a professional driver not only adds to the legitimacy of the show and its test results, but makes it even more fun for the viewer.

The third episode of Bangin’ Gears features some fantastic cars, great comedy, and legitimate car testing, and is truly on route to be one of the best car shows out there, if it isn’t already there. With the high quality of their work, and the originality that they bring to the table, it certainly is a bright light in the car show darkness that has been around since the demise of Top Gear. It should also be noted that even with the premier of The Grand Tour this fall, the shows stark contrast to one another should definitely leave both as equal shows to be enjoyed rather than one or another.

Bangin’ Gears as well as Salomondrin’s other car-centric segments can be seen on his Youtube channel, “Salomondrin“. The show does not have a regular schedule yet, however many other segments are posted almost daily. Be sure and check it out, as well as further reviews of the show here as well as on both The Offical Silverback Motorsports Blog, and Automoguls on Word Press.

Top Gear Season 23 Finale Review; Episode 6

The Season Finale

Chris Evans may be gone but this season of Top Gear continues, and therefor so do our reviews. The show opens with a review of the all new Acura/Honda NSX. The segment is headed by Chris Harris. Chris travels to the USA to test drive #0000. Unfortunately the car is tested in less than ideal conditions, but the segment is still exciting due to the subject at hand, which is lucky for us because as usual Harris is anything but. It will be a bit of good news for car lovers, that the NSX receives overall positive feedback. To quote Harris,  ” If you want it fast and brilliantly engineered, at last, you can go back to Honda.”

Moving on the Stig is given the NSX to take around the track following the now routinely brutal Stig intros. The car makes an admirable time, but you’ll have to watch to see it, no spoilers here folks.

The next segment features Rory Reid taking both a classic and the new Mustang GT and Ecoboost for a drive. The scenery is breathtaking which it’s Top Gear, so of course it is. The review focuses on the fact that for the first time in five decades Europe gets a right hand drive Mustang. He gets a few facts about Mustangs incorrect, such as saying it’s the first Mustang with an independent rear suspension, but overall he does a decent job of it. It is however, towards the bottom of the list if you were rating his segments thus far.

 

The star in a rally car segment features Patrick Dempsey and Greg Davis. The stars are some of the better stars to appear thus far, with a good bit of comedy between the two, but the terrible structure of the segment since the reboot does its best to ruin it. While the comparison of each driver is admittedly very one sided, they both put forth a good showing on the track even on a very wet, very muddy day.

The stars are followed up by Matt taking his turn at the Porsche 911 R. The car is unsurprisingly brilliant, but what else would it be? The car is taken around the Top Gear test track and Matt falls in love with it more than he was before he drove it.

There is an unexpected surprise though. The Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

While Matt decides it’s best not to race the RS ( driven by the Stig ) he attempts to make the point that the RS is somehow not a driver’s car and the R is. There is more than a few people I know who would argue otherwise. The segment is Matt’s best so far even if his opinions may be misguided ( or downright wrong ) . There’s also a bit of an Easter egg for fans of Matt in Friends.

*Side note: it is brilliant watching the GT3 RS hoon around the track.

Going into the next segment, Chris Evans takes us through a bit of history on British cars before introducing us to a classic Aston Martin which has been thoroughly “blueprinted” or updated, much like Singer does to Porsche classics.  He then introduces a similar vehicle in a new Jaguar E-Type. Both cars, he points out are outrageously expensive.

Chris then showcases the modern MGB Roadster for the economical price of $100,000. The segment is, much like Leblanc’s, perhaps Evan’s best thus far is the series. He does seem to be more in his element. Perhaps it is the cars and subject matter in general, perhaps just a lucky strike. Either way, with Chris out the Top Gear door, we will probably never know.

 

The show ends with all six ( yes, don’t forget there are six ) hosts competing in a long jump challenge using the shows Mini.

The typical cheating and underhandedness one would expect is of course ever present, but what isn’t are the jumps… at least at first. The terrible jokes and setups, those are also here. Much like Top Gear itself, the the segment basically falls flat on its face from the very start, and the following picture pretty much sums everything up perfectly…

Naturally,

Top Gear Season 23, Episode 5 Review

The most boring episode yet.

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Whether the rumors of Matt leaving the show or not, at the moment he is still there, so we’re still here, giving you the latest review. Getting right into it, the first segment briefly features “the British super lightweights”. Some amazing cars for sure with some familiar faces in the lineup such as the Lotus, Caterham 7, Ariel Atom,  the Radical, and the real star of the segment, the  all new Zenos E10. Evans leads this segment which as usual is quite unfortunate, although again, he is starting to try and do his own thing instead of blatantly copying Clarkson. At one point they race the Zenos against the Ford Focus ST (from which the Zenos drivetrain is derived) but we won’t spoil the (obvious) results.

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The Segway is awkward, forced, and frankly it is sad, but we’re getting used to it. (Seriously, how sad is that?) They then hand the Zenos over to the Stig and give it a go around the track. Maybe it’s just us, but who else hates hearing Evans name off the corners…  The Zenos is predictably quick around the track.

Heading into Matt’s segment, we see him in the new Rolls Royce Dawn. The monstrous British luxury cruiser, while the size of a small yacht, is none the less gorgeous. The segment, is probably one of Matt’s best. Maybe the car’s subdued personality just matches up with his to make the segment work just right. The filming is of course, beautiful, this is Top Gear after all, but really the segment is lacking any real excitement or even interesting information. The producers seem to be trying to craft Matt into the new James May, but what Matt has in subdued personality, he lacks in automotive knowledge and highbrow British humor, leaving him much like the rest of the show, a shallow reflection of the golden years of Top Gear and the legendary cast.

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Following the Rolls, Matt and Evans take part in a forced bit of what is supposed to be comedy with a back and forth of Matt loving the car and Evans hating it. Skip past it if you have the ability unless you like cringing.

Chris Harris then drives the new BMW M2. He begins by saying it’s essentially the new M3, with the M3 no longer being the M3. All very sill semantics really, but hey so is Chris Harris, and so is the bit. The whole segment follows suit with the rest of the episode, by being extremely boring.

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The stars in a rally car this episode are Paul Hollywood and Jennifer Saunders. Saunders is an English comedian and writer and Hollywood is a celebrity chef. At this point the show has just become hard to get through. They push through the terrible sub-segments, the best first car, and the courtesy intros. The whole bit is just harsh and unpleasant.

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After more terribly written jokes delivered by Matt, Rory Reid follows up with a segment featuring the Jaguar F Type SVR convertible. The intro, in actually quite good with a bit of cinematic storytelling and a recreation of a historic Jaguar road trip to the Geneva Motor Show, only this time instead of unveiling an E Type, it is the new SVR convertible. It should be mentioned at this point, that Reid has become easily the shows best host. The segment is also the best of the episode, especially for fans of automotive history, though it still seems a bit off not having May or perhaps even Hammond driving it and giving the narration.

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The segment also features the legendary Norman Dewis, who if you don’t know who he is, definitely give Google a search and give it a read. Fascinating guy. (Pictured below)

normandewisThe show ends as badly as it started with another awkward segment with Matt and Chris arguing about whether a new Rolls or an old is better, with some input from the locals. Pro tip: end the show at the Jaguar segment.

Top Gear Season 23, Episode 4 Review

Will it improve or continue to crash and burn?

Episode four improves immediately. Gone are the awkward intros from the previous episodes. It immediately moves into a review of the Aston Martin Vulcan with part-time presenter Chris Harris in Abu Dhabi on the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit.

Chris takes the insane sounding Vulcan out onto the track. Your typical stats and Top gear cutaways included, as well as the standard Chris Harris-“ness” ( take it or leave it ) the review all in all is a good one and probably the best of the series so far. This may be due in large part to the amazing car and shoot location, but we will chalk it up to a slight upward trend in the shows quality. A great bit of this part of the episode is the comparison to the current Aston Martin Vantage S, but as it just aired, no spoilers!

Unfortunately in between this and the next segment we are subjected once again to the brutally awful acting of Matt  until they turn the Vulcan over to the Stig for a lap around the Top Gear track. The lap, about what you would expect, turns out an amazing lap time, but you will have to watch for yourself to see it. ( Did I mention it was amazing?) You will find out the time however on something we should mention. They have bastardized the lap time board with a tinny extension ( the naughty laps, actual name) for non-track cars. We’re not big fans, but maybe this is a sign they are finally, albeit slowly, starting to do their own thing instead of blatantly copying the formula of the past.

We then move on to a segment featuring Eddie, Sabine, Chris ( Evans) and Matt. The first thing we find out is Sabine’s acting is about as bad as Matt’s. In the segment they race Eddie taking a luxury train against a series of cheap “luxury” cars including s 2002 Jaguar XJ driven by Chris,  an Audi A8 driven by Sabine, and a 89′ Gold Wing motorcycle driven by Matt. Just when we thought the show was improving, it once again dives deep, deep down into the crapper. Matt and Chris continue being all together unbearable, Sabine is basically an element that wouldn’t be noticed if she was gone, and the challenges are about as dumb as they get. One includes having a chef cook a meal in their vehicle. Do we need to go on?

 

During the intermission after another round of brutal commentary, we move onto the stars in a rally cross car. The stars this time around are Bryan Cox ( an English physicist ) and Bear Grylls, world renowned pee drinker, oh and survivalist.

Aside from the insisted upon awkward introductions of each other, the stars are actually the best of the season thus far. They were both genuinely interesting to listen to for the most part and they each had entertaining laps, Bear’s being the most so of the season. Evan’s commentary surprisingly has begun to evolve and move away from a Clarkson carbon copy to a bit of his own personality. Perhaps a sign of things to come, but don’t hold your breath just yet.

The next segment takes us to New York City in the all new Tesla Model X with Rory Reid. The Tesla as you would expect, is phenomenal. Quite, powerful, and full of Tesla goodness. The review is definitely a step up from Reid’s previous segment on the Focus RS.

He eventually takes the X outside of the city for some proper driving. The segment is well filmed, has great sound and editing, and is again, one of the best for the season so far. He tests the power, tech tools like the filtration system, the doors, and the autopilot. He then takes the Tesla to compare to a group of tuner cars, one of which includes a  new Hellcat which he then proceeds to drag race. Any idea who wins? You will definitely want to watch and find out!

The episode wraps up with the second half of the train vs car vs motorcycle segment which really doesn’t improve as they head to Venice. Who wins? You won’t really care.

So there you have it. The new Top Gear has begun to improve with a few, genuinely good segments. There is still a good amount of crap, but perhaps they really are beginning to come into their own. They have a lot of road bumps to get past, and they may not get their in time to beat the boys on Amazon, but only time will tell. Keep it tuned here for continuing reviews of both Top Gear, and The Tour when it airs this fall.