Warning: The following post contains SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk.
Episode 5 is not how you turn around your ratings downward spiral. Ever since the first episode debuted the ratings for each successive episode has been more disappointing than the next. And the 5th iteration does not make a case for more viewers.
The episode begins with a stunning start with a cavalcade of super lightweight cars like the Caterham, Ariel Atom, Morgan, and the Zenvo ST1. Each one of those cars deserving of its own 10 minute film. Chris Evans dives deep into the Zenos E10, a car built by ex Lotus and Caterham guys, so you know this car will be a blast around the track.The entry level Zenos E10 starts at a decent £25,000. The S version that Evans is driving a 2.0 liter turbo Ford Focus ST engine, 250 brake horsepower 145 mph and 0-60 in 4 seconds. Evans compares the stripped down racer which lacks windows, a roof, and sturdy panels to something that Darth Vader would drive on the weekends. It’s unfortunate being Darth Vader isn’t it? Not only did he live a tormented life split apart by the light and the dark, but he’s constantly being compared to many cars that have a futuristic nose. Point is, a lot of people like to compare things to Darth Vader and what he does, and they should just stop. But I digress.
When the E10S was paired up against, literally its donor car, the Focus ST, the outcome was not surprising at all. The E10S borrows the engine, drivetrain, and other mechanical bits from the Focus ST. This was like comparing a Cobra kit car against any Fox body Mustang. The much lighter car was always going to win.
The rest of the film was Chris Evans sliding the British super lightweight around the Top Gear test track. Despite his animated voice and tire screeching ability of the E10S, the film fell flat and failed to make the audience care. This was unlike the McLaren 675LT film in episode 2, where the story between the new and the old not just provided entertainment but gave us a glimpse into Evans’ personality.
Handing the Zenos to the Stig, who always clips the Apex on first dates, and have touched all the Untouchables. The super lightweight E10S with Focus ST hardware was disappointingly slower than the Caterham 620R with a time of 1:25.1.
Rolls Royce Dawn
Next was Matt LeBlanc’s turn to further showcase his Top Gear chops. He hopped into a Rolls Royce Dawn, a £250,000, 17 foot long convertible that has a 6.6 liter twin turbo V12. Strangely it pushes out a 563 horsepower with a 0-60 in under 5 seconds. We would have expected a much larger number out of a large displacement small piston engine, but to design the car as such may be missing the point of a Rolls Royce. Likewise, for a car like the Rolls Royce to be reviewed from a performance perspective is similar to judging an Elephant for its electrocution ability. LeBlanc struggles to describe its absent steering and infuses it with a lighthearted joke, but those accustomed to a Clarkson-esque commentary may find this segment a little bit rehearsed.After difficulties parallel parking the 17 foot yacht in a small town, LeBlanc becomes accustomed to the Rolls Royce Dawn, comparing it to a ship and the driver is the captain. Rather than talking performance figures, talking about experiences is the right way of reviewing these hyper exclusive and expensive cars. Companies like Bentley and Rolls Royce do not try to impress other car companies. In their eyes, they ARE the only car company.
“So nice, so so nice. I like it!” He states. I expected him to continue with “What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Goooood!”
After the film, Evans argued with LeBlanc that the Rolls Royce Dawn is awfully styled and copies elements from the Rover 75. The bantering between the two co-hosts still needs a lot of work and seem completely rehearsed. It’s manufactured enough to the point where opinions were probably falsified in order to generate interesting back and forth. The piece ended up portraying LeBlanc as an American with poor tastes and manners while Evans looked more like the opinionated one. This film, along with the first, gave me the impression this episode was going to be one hour of my life I’ll never get back.
Thankfully, they handed the next piece over to Chris Harris, who brilliantly muscled the Aston Martin Vulcan in episode 3. In this film he discusses the M2, a celebration of the M3 from the 90’s. The M2 contains a 3.0 liter inline six engine that has been turbocharged to the tune of 365 horsepower and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. Harris proceeds to slide his way around the Top Gear test track, describing the lack of turbo lag, as torque is readily available starting at a very low 1,500 RPMs. He suggested the M2 has a temperament of “Pent-up bloke in the corner of the bar, who’ll start a fight with anyone.” This harkens back to Clarkson’s piece between the old EVO VIII and WRX STI, and we have a feeling Harris might have stolen this bit from that old comparison. However, we forgive him as Harris seems to have the natural talent that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have, and that is to be capable of entertaining while wringing the crap out of a car.The M2 was then compared to its cheaper alternative, the Audi RS3. On paper it’s a quicker and better car, as it has more utility. However, Harris objects, you shouldn’t buy a car based on what it says on the paper. He puts on the patented Top Gear Thought-O-Meter and performs a one corner challenge, using the Chicago corner as a happiness test. Unsurprisingly, the rear-wheel drive platform M2 won the challenge over the all-wheel drive RS3, therefore it is the better car.
Star In A Rallycross Car
The Star in a Rallycross Car of this episode was probably one of the worst we have seen so far. The guest star segments were not very entertaining in the Clarkson, Hammond, and May days, and it hasn’t improved with the rebooted Top Gear. In fact, it’s a whole lot worse and includes elements that we could not care less about. Best First Car and Best Car Ever segments are downright terrible and only serves to eat up television time.
This week’s guests were chef Paul Hollywood and actress Jennifer Saunders. This portion was the dullest in an already boring episode, the only upside being the way Top Gear test times are described. Rather than a Wet, and Very Wet designation, there’s now an additional ‘Appalling’ road conditions. This may prove a flaw in the design of the new test track as the times are grossly different, even more than before, depending on the road’s conditions. The dirt sections of the track became unbearably slow resulting in a disastrous time.
Jaguar F-Type SVR
The next piece was the second highlight of the episode as Rory Reid takes the keys to a very special Jaguar F-Type SVR. His task was to take this one of a kind vehicle (at the time) from Coventry to the 2016 Geneva Motor Show to be shown at their press conference. This challenge mimicked the instance, 65 years ago, when Jaguar needed a second E-Type to be displayed at the Geneva Motor Show. Jaguar’s test driver, Noman Dewit, made the 750 mile trek in under 13 hours with 10 minutes to spare before the reveal. Reid, in a self deprecating manner, couldn’t believe that “an idiot from the internet” has been handed the responsibility to recreate this spectacular event. He manages to complete the challenge despite losing to Dewit.
Rolls Royce Corniche
The last segment of this episode was a comparison between LeBlanc’s Rolls Royce Dawn to Evans’ personal 1976 Rolls Royce Corniche. The test was to win the hearts of the people of Dingle, West Ireland, to determine which one can out-Rolls-Royce the other. The campaign trail to win votes began at a gaelic football sporting event, where the two Rolls were judged by the football players. The integrated umbrella and self closing doors of the Dawn seemed to have won the favors of the athletes.
The duo continued on their next challenge, a smell test performed by a whiskey distiller, a truly odd test. LeBlanc tried to upsell the smell of the Dawn by sharing the story of special non-mosquito-bitten bovine that now covers the interior. The head distiller went with the Corniche’s old musk despite LeBlanc’s Rolls Royce esque salesmanship. The two then continued to appeal to the Dingle public by driving around and campaigning dancers, pub-goers, and bystanders.
In the end, the people of Dingle have spoken and chose the Rolls Royce Corniche over the Dawn, with 68% of the votes. Coincidentally, 68% of this week’s episode was terrible. Episode 5 was not the episode the BBC executives were looking for, needed to reverse the downward spiral rating. However, this episode is further proof that Chris
Evans Harris and Rory Reid are the most interesting and relatable presenters in the Top Gear stable. They’re able to deliver their opinions sincerely and do so in an entertaining manner, without sounding forced or rehearsed. With the latest news that LeBlanc will quit if Evans isn’t fired, this episode further solidifies who should stay and who should go.