Category Archives: Reviews

Top Gear America Episode 5: Humble Beginnings [Review]

Episode 5 has aired and as always we have the review! Top Gear America has done a great job tying in their content with their title, Top Gear America, and this episode is no different.  In this weeks episode we have some segments based on, you guessed it, “humble beginnings”.

Bill Fichtner is back to giving us solid segments, a welcome sign for those disappointing by his work in Episode 4, with a video about NASCAR.

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While NASCAR has seen some rough times lately with dwindling followers and lost revenues, you wouldn’t guess it from the way Top Gear and Mr. Fichtner give it justice in Episode 5. With a bit of backstory about where the sport came from and where it is now as well as a bit of a throwback “NASCAR” competition between the hosts, the show does well and maintains an entertaining momentum continuing it’s overall solid performance this season.

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The guest on this weeks episode, another fairly random celebrity, is the singer Aaron Carter, brother of famed Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter. Aaron has some odd and fairly awkward interactions with the hosts, no surprise really since he seems to be almost a polar opposite of Fichtner in particular, but he puts down an impressive lap and has a lot of energy which was not a bad thing to bring to the table.

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The shining star of Episode 5, especially to the Gran Turismo generation, is no doubt the segment with Tom “Wookie” Ford and the legendary car known as Godzilla, the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R. Tom absolutely nails it in this segment giving fans exactly what they want to see in a video showcasing what has been an idol to most for many years. It really shows that Tom has a passion for this car and I would go so far as to say this may be his best segment yet this season because of it. Tom if you’re reading this, you killed it and we want more!

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Another highlight of the Episode, is the showcasing of the Audi Vets to Techs program and the new Audi R8 V10. It’s great to see a company providing such a valuable service to veterans and to tell an audience as massive as Top Gear’s about it.

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In addition, we get to see The Stig take the R8 out on the Top Gear America track and set the first Top Gear lap time to ever include a passenger in the car, a veteran and member of the Vets to Techs program to boot. A tip of the hat is most appropriate to Top Gear for this one.

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Episode 5 is definitely a big step in the right direction for Top Gear America. We’re happy to give this weeks episode a 4 out of 5 stars.

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What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments!

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Top Gear America Episode 4: Drive of Your Life [Review]

If you’re still with us watching Top Gear America, we’ve made it to Episode 4. This episode has some clear highs and lows, some winners and some losers.

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The show starts out with a strong segment. Wookie is challenged with learning how to drag race from none other than his co-host Antron Brown, at the legendary Doug Foley Racing School, in Mooresville, NC. For fans of drag racing, it’s a must see, and the entire part of the show is done well. We get to see a more natural Antron in the depth of his element, and the level of comfortability in this setting really shows.

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Now, if only he could bring just a bit more of that back into the studio.

TGA follows up this segment with a rather random celebrity guest, Haley Joel Osment. While Haley looks like a young, up and coming Santa Clause actor, with the personality to boot, be sure to stick around for his hot lap because it is legendary. We won’t tell you why, but it will definitely go down in history as a Top Gear best, and we’re talking all Top gears.

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Unfortunately, Episode 4 also features the first truly bad film done by the current favorite host of TGA, Bill Fichtner. In what could’ve been a great segment, Bill reviews the new Cadillac CTS-V and instead of it being exciting, or even mildly interesting, all we get are a few straight line shots, boring music, and a disappointed Bill. Hopefully, this won’t become a trend for Bill.

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The final segment of the show features Wookie once again in action. This time he’s learning to drive the new Dodge Charger police vehicle. The segment also briefly features the Fiat Abarth 124 Spyder. Fans of the show will appreciate the dry British humor and the well shot slow-mo bits which have become a staple on Top Gear, but overall the segment is a bit rushed and feels choppy.

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While there was certainly some great high points and hilarious bits of laughter, Episode 4 was overall down a bit from Episode 3, so we’re giving it a 3 out of 5 stars.

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What did you think of Episode 4? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Top Gear America Episode 3: Life On The Go [Review]

So we’ve made it this far. While Top Gear America has received poor reviews overall, we at AutoMoguls still feel that the BBC is on the right track this time. Episode 3 improves on the previous two, and while it still feels a bit forced at times, it seems like TGA is finally picking up some positive momentum.

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Episode 3 takes us on a wide array of adventures this time. The main segment features a classic Top Gear challenge in which the hosts must go off-roading and camping with a minimal $3,000 budget.

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The celebrity guest, a surprising high point for TGA, continues to shine with an appearance by legendary comedian Russell Peters.  Russell brings some great jokes as well as some hilarious back with Antron and the rest of the crew that really helps to keep the viewers entertained.

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A great and fairly unusual appearance for Top Gear, Ep.3 features a tuned vehicle, and if the tuning wasn’t enough, it’s also a minivan. While it may sound off-putting at first, give the segment a chance and you’ll see it’s actually quite good.

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The real highlight of Episode 3 comes about three-quarters of the way through with a segment featuring the one and only Magnus Walker. If you don’t know about this guy, can you really call yourself a car guy/girl? In what seems like a clip taken from any number of Magnus Walker featurettes, Magnus and his cars shine like always. If you only watch this episode for one reason, it will be this segment.

Overall we would give Episode 3 of Top Gear America a 3.5 out of 5.

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What did you think of Episode 3 of Top Gear America? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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.