It’s back! Dre back at it again, with my Grand Tour Episode reviews! Sadly, I did stop with Season 1 by Episode 4, but its a long off-season, and there’s no sign of Top Gear being back anytime soon, so I thought I’d get back in the reviewers chair and have a look again now Season 2 kicked off this morning!
In “Past, Present or Future”, Hammond nearly dies again. That alone is worth a watch, surely?
First thing to point out, a different intro this time round. No comedic sets of cars, or drones being shot this time, more a red line going around the world, like an old Indiana Jones movie. I like it, better than the old one that got stale in seeing Jezza’s name spelt wrong every week.
The boys rock up, and the tent is back in England. There’s some opening jokes about it being right by Clarkson’s “house”. Well… backup house, we all know what happened in Season 1 after all. We also get an extended trailer, turns out we’re only getting 11 episodes in this season, rather than 13 last time. Also interesting, Hammond’s shown in crutches and in a wheelchair. More on that at the end.
The main piece of this episode? A triple test, like in Season 1. The boys are debating what’s the best – The past, with pure engine power, via Clarkson and a Lamborghini Aventador S, the present, with James and the hybrid-powered Honda NSX, or the future, with Richard Hammond in the new electric Croatian supercar, the Rimac Concept. Hammond got to chose the location, and we’re going to… Switzerland?!
To be fair, Switzerland is beautiful, I suspect they may have used some of these roads in their “Greatest Driving Road” piece from Season 10 of “Old Top Gear”. Also, that Rimac concept apparently has 1,250bhp. That’s… bonkers. Clarkson responses regarding the Rimac’s silence, with blasting the Aventador through a tunnel, with his mere 730hp 6 litre V12. Hammond’s great response: “It’s like watching the Battle of Waterloo through a spaceship!”. Nice. I also like that with the Swiss views, Clarkson can’t even keep a straight face when he says they’re doing “important” work. Yes, its the line in the trailer. Still funny.
They pull over to rest their nuts on the table. Hammond talks about Rimac’s Aston Martin/Koenigsegg affiliations, and May talks about the tech making the NSX more user-friendly, while Clarkson talks power and Italian stuff. Also, he couldn’t help taking a shot at James via McLaren-Honda’s F1 engines. James’ response? “Formula One is irrelevant.” HA. Also, Clarkson starts a running joke about the Honda’s fuel gauge not being in the middle. No, really.
And here’s the biggest running joke for the piece, Hammond had made the boys stay not at a standard hotel, but at a wellness retreat. You know, one of those places they’ll stick a tube in your arse. “James, Would you like a glass of water and some Kale?” They literally eat some leaves for dinner, with some water. Clarkson with the “You know who eat these? Women.” joke to end Part 1.
Conversation Street is back, and there’s updates on May’s new identity after his haircut, the fact all three presenters had been in a hospital during the filming of the show. Clarkson catching pneumonia in… Mallorca?! Of course. Oh, and Nissan now have seats that monitor sweat.
Part 2 of the main story now, and on Day 2, Hammond takes the boys into the city for a trip to a museum. Problem was, the main road was closed, and they had to go back through a gorge and building site. Turns out the Aventador is big and stuff, and kerbed its underbelly down the steep re-entry, with Jezza causing a jam.
By the time they get there and Jezza catches up, they have to literally drive through the city streets with pedestrians because the ring road “takes too long”. As a result, we get more clips of Jezza being unable to move his wide Lambo where cars weren’t really meant to be in the first place. Cobbled streets and narrow avenues! Funny? Not really. But still.
They eventually get to the transport museum, Hammond charges his car, and the whole place is… “underwhelming” according to Clarkson. I actually thought it was quite cool, because any exhibit, can be brought down to the floor, via an automated crane system, like one of those games you get at the circus, only without losing a tenner trying to get a Funko Pop for your sister.
Best part, Clarkson breaking the fourth wall, saying “Yes, I know you want to see which one the cars is the fastest, which handles the best, etc.” I need to point out, this episode is already 33 minutes deep and we’ve not seen these cars anywhere outside of road trim.
Day 3, same trip is repeated, but only this time to the chess museum. Until… the penny dropped. Hammond had only brought the boys on this boring trip, because they were the ONLY PLACES THAT HAD A QUICK CHARGING STATION. Bang! Hammond is promptly sacked as tour guide, and on Day 4, they head to an airfield.
They start with a drag race and.. Hammond destroys the Aventador and the NSX. Seriously, the sight is a spectacle. Most of us know that electric cars and that instant torque is scary, but to see it in real time was astonishing. 0-60? 2.5 seconds. Clarkson’s own words: “I’ve never seen anything like it. It just f***’s off.” Clarkson reacts with some powersliding and then goes full Jonathan Rea at Donington, where the rear tyre falls completely off the rim. Shit. Clarkson wants a track, but James has to remind him that Motorsport’s been banned in the Swiss since the 50’s due to that awful Le Mans crash that killed five dozen people. That ends Part 2.
Back to the studio, and Clarkson complaining about said rule with the joke of: “It’s like the United States of America bombing Iraq because some Saudi Arabians flew into the World Trade Centre.” No comment.
The crew acknowledged that Celebrity Brain Crash was scrapped because everyone said it was rubbish. Agreed! It’s been replaced with “Celebrity Face Off”, of “F off” for short, because they needed an f-word joke? Anyway, it’s two celebrities in the same field who have a time trial to see who’s fastest on a custom track (half tarmac, half gravel), with a Jaguar F-Type. This week, it was Ricky Wilson vs David Hasselhoff in the battle of former talent show judges. It’s your bog standard double celeb interview. Ricky wins.
Part 3 of the main film and the boys are on a massage table. Clarkson can’t think because he actually DOES have a tube up his arse. James proposes a hill climb instead, and they have to travel 200 miles to get there. James and Jezza had no problem, but Hammond had to be in a lorry, as his Rimac doesn’t have the range, or a charging station. He compares it to horses. No. Just no.
They show up at the hill climb, and there’s actually a big turnout. James and Jeremy after 4 days of leaves, demolish some sausages “Yum, brown food, brown drink!”, and then they do some practise runs.
Because Clarkson can’t fit in his Aventador with a helmet on for the timed runs, he gets a Lamborghini test driver to do instead. Trying to make it look like him, he gets the guy to say “Hammond, you idiot”, and “This is the fastest car… pause… in the world.” They literally made him say pause. Clarkson taking the piss out of his own phrases were a good laugh.
James and the Lambo test driver complete their runs, and then Hammond has his… then promptly is carried off in an ambulance. They find out back in the studio that Jezza was the fastest, followed by the Rimac, and the Honda. Fun fact: That car was still on fire, FIVE days after . End of episode, and BOY do I have some words here.
Okay, if you’re a fan, you probably already know the story. Hammond really DID very nearly die in that crash. No joke. It had an effect on the entire series. This wasn’t meant to be Episode 1, but it sort of HAD to be because that was one of the first things they recorded, and Hammond was in crutches for the rest of the shooting. It’s why this series was pushed back to December in the first place. The way they handled this accident was always going to be eye-opening… and I feel like they dropped the ball on this one.
I know, the Top Gear gang don’t really do serious very often. Last time Hammond had an accident, they gave him a tissue “incase he started dribbling”, but to just end the segment on the crash, then immediately pretend it didn’t happen as a joke, only when you’ve spent the entire episode hyping it up with more jokes… it just felt “off” to me. The presentation was always going to be limited. No-one official filmed the crash as it was beyond the finish line, they just used the third party YouTube footage, but kept the audio, but it just left the whole thing hollow.
This episode was as flat as a pancake. They did next to NOTHING with the cars. The hill climb segment was a nothing burger because we all knew how it was going to end, and Parts 1 and 2 had next to nothing with the actual cars in it. Just a bit of driving, and a lot of poor situational comedy. I don’t mind these guys drifting away from cars and using them more as props for entertainment, but that entertainment better be good, otherwise you look stupid.
Celebrity Face Off is definitely an improvement on Brain Crash. But the segment went on for too long and I was losing interest. Not bad, just okay filler depending on who your guests are. Conversation Street is what it is.
This episode will live or die on how entertaining the first 40 minutes were in your mind. For me, they were bang average. Nothing straight up bad, but just… sort of there with the boys doing their thing. And as I’ve said before, even the greatest hits have a limited shelf life, and this is what they’ve been doing for 15 years. If your biggest punchline is impractical electric tech… how good was your material really? Because we all already know that, and Switzerland limited every chance to showcase the upsides of the Rimac.
Past, Present or Future is a tame, safe start, in circumstances that weren’t ideal, but I also feel like it could have been so much more, with a lot of what they could have done with the ending, was instead used on “DriveTribe” when the accident happened. A shame, but not the worst. Hopefully, next week improves. Till next week, thanks for reading, and sayonara.
PS: I wrote nearly 2,000 words and didn’t once manage to piss off gay people. Take that, Hamster.
5/10 – Average