The verdict is in and last week’s Top Gear episode with the new crew bombed pretty hard. But this show will go on as contractually necessary, and the second offering was just aired last night. Was this a continuation of the awkwardness found in the first episode or does the crew finally get into some semblance of chemistry, so sorely missed from the Clarkson, Hammond, and May days? Read on to find out.
Right out of the studio gate and through a human tunnel, Matt LeBlanc and a passed out Chris Evans rolls out on a stretcher. LeBlanc explains that Evans had to be sedated because of their first segment, the filming of the McLaren 675LT. Top Gear had done a proper job summarizing the McLaren’s history starting with the F1, with a top speed of more than 240 mph resulting in holding the trophy of world’s fastest car for over a dozen years. The McLaren F1 Long Tail, which McLaren only built 10 and costs £10 million each, also made an appearance which resulted in more Evans shouting for a minute or so.Enter the McLaren 675LT. Top Gear claims the Long Tail name represents McLaren at its most extreme, and that none of the other cars that came after the F1 Long Tail has been considered outrageous enough until the 675LT. This road going car possess a 3.8 liter twin turbo v8 engine and a 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. As the car crosses over 200 mph Evans claims “That’s the fastest I’ve ever been in a car.” British Formula One driver, Jenson Button, fills in for Evans to drive the car without the “Hero Buttons” and wring the McLaren to its limits, while nonchalantly talking about the interior appointments. The film ended with a touching moment when the old McLaren F1 makes a side by side appearance with the 675LT.
The moment was almost as touching as Evans thanking LeBlanc for nursing him back to health, until the hand holding was brushed off by LeBlanc’s over-protectiveness of his masculinity. The duo still seem to be working out the kinks in their introduction of the Tame Racing Driver, but it’s a marked improvement over Evans’ shouty and boyish introduction found in the first episode. The 675LT managed to smash the lap times by setting a new benchmark with a 1:13.7 time, besting the Pagani Huayra by 0.1 second
The next film features the very first Group Test featuring a SUV race between LeBlanc, Evans, and “Top Gear’s weird uncle” Eddie Jordan. This is the first episode in which the ex Formula One commentator makes an appearance. The SUV race between the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan, Mercedes Benz GLC, begins in Durban, South Africa and climb to the highest pub in Africa, located 2874 meters above sea level. The banter between the presenters were still a little forced and stiff, as they try to pooh-pooh Jordan’s tiny 4 cylinder 2.1 liter turbodiesel GLC. The presenters were then provided with VIP musician co-drivers, Scottish songwriter Sharlene Spiteri for Jordan, American blues musician Seasick Steve chauffeured by Evans, and British rapper Tinie Tempah with LeBlanc. The film was filled with various challenges as evidenced by the Jessica ringtone beeping whenever a new challenge arise. The first being racing through an urban street course. Throughout the first challenge it’s clear Eddie Jordan doesn’t like to speak very much, which goes against expectations set by his old profession of being a Formula One commentator. In that challenge Jordan came in last, despite cheating/having a senior moment, and Matt LeBlanc’s Porsche took first place by a large margin.
The next challenge was to check the “off-road stability of your sporting cross overs,” where they transported massive South African cocktails while traversing a 2 mile off-road track. Needless to say there were some chicanery that went on, and in these moments you get to see some genuine reactions that may bring laughter to some harsh critics. However, this bit reveals Eddie Jordan has the least personality out of the group.For the star interview, Damian Lewis, also known as Nick Brody from Homeland, makes an appearance and sits beside the other stars from the first bit (sans Tinie Tempah). This second episode also used the act of other stars introducing what the other star is currently doing in their life, and we found this to be totally awkward and strange. We hoped the act didn’t go past the first episode, but yet here it is again. One interesting fact about the whole interview was the possibility of Damien Lewis becoming a potential Bond, Ginger Bond.
If Chris turns it down, I’d be far too happy… No one’s called me… It’s you (Evans) or me
In the continuation of Top Gear does South Africa, the crew continues on in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, where they must test their vehicle’s stealth capabilities. The challenge was to film the wildlife using the SUV’s backup camera. The crew managed to get a snapshot of some fantastic animals. Seasick Steve mentioned “If we see a Rhino I’m going to shit myself” to which Chris Evans reacted by spitting out his drink a little too forcibly. LeBlanc and Tinie Tempah managed to film some Zebras, while Evans failed to capture an impala crossing the road behind them. And Jordan and does his best impression of Crocodile Dundee which resulted in some wildebeest and giraffe footage, netting them the victory.
The group continued to trek through South Africa’s truly breathtaking scenery, testing the SUV’s capabilities, and crossing over rickety makeshift bridges and rocky terrain. Perhaps the strangest moment of the entire episode came when Jordan wrecked his Mercedes SUV while climbing over rocks. Jordan failed to put the SUV in off-road mode, which would have raised the Mercedes’ suspension and provided much of the necessary ground clearance. Jordan made this mistake not once but twice, which caused LeBlanc to step in and commanded Jordan to let his VIP Spiteri take the wheel for the remainder of the challenge.
The remainder of the challenge was a race to a pub located miles above sea level. The path between them and their destination was a treacherously beautiful road filled with switchbacks and cliffs that guarantee certain death. LeBlanc managed to finish the trek in the least amount of time, which awarded Tinie Tempah with the task of providing entertainment, while Evans and Seasick Steve manned the bar. Jordan and Spiteri were unhappily cleaning dishes, one seemingly more unhappy than the other.
In summary, the second episode was more entertaining than the first iteration. The McLaren film was shot well and had entertaining driving, despite Evans shouting in the background. The South Africa film was also done well albeit containing stiff and forced chemistry, similar to that of a group of summer camp kids meeting each other for the very first time. But after seeing just two episodes a couple of things are clear: First, LeBlanc is the more likable character out of the main two. His more genuine moments and decent driving skills gave the viewers a reason to keep tuning in to see what other off-the-cuff remarks he’ll make. Second, Evans will grow on you despite his shouty nature. His experience with radio shines through his narration of the films, and the chemistry between him and LeBlanc might be a fun one to watch in the future. Finally, Jordan is the WORST presenter on Top Gear as evidenced by his senior moments in the films and other speaking bits which sound overly rehearsed. At this point we’ve seen everyone on air via Top Gear and Extra Gear, and Jordan seem to be the most out of place and the least impressive out of the bunch.
What do you guys think of the second episode?