Voices

Why I like the new Top Gear – Season 24…

Different is not necessarily bad… and I reckon the new season of Top Gear is good.

AFTER JEREMY, JAMES AND RICHARD left to create the Grand Tour their old show, Top Gear, was re-launched with Chris Evans as the lead. We all know how that turned out, so let’s look at Series 24, the current incarnation which has Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid as the three primary presenters. And I’m going to disagree with Isaac Bober – you can read HERE why he thinks it should be binned and replaced with a new and improved Fifth Gear.

Top Gear is about entertainment through cars, and this new series delivers. In an age where everyone has a 4K camera and a drawerful of GoPros, the cinematography is still a cut above the rest; you notice it, but in a good way.

But beautiful camerawork is nothing without content, so it’s a good thing the cars and challenges are fine too. The Ferrari FXX-K track test gave us a window into the world of exclusivity, the test of the old cars in Kazakhstan was lightly entertaining… there’s variation and interest.

But no show is perfect, including the previous Top Gears. I think there’s one thing wrong with the current format, and one big opportunity. The thing wrong is the presenter’s interactions with each other. It’s too forced, too scripted, and in particular Matt LeBlanc needs to stop acting and be himself. He’s the most skilled actor, but paradoxically I think that counts against him.

The opportunity is to educate as well as entertain. This is something that the Grand Tour entirely misses; they travel from place to place but you learn very little about whatever country they’re in and half the time the segments shown are in a different country.

In the same way, Top Gear goes from place to place too, but why? We don’t really get to understand much about the local culture, when surely there’d be a richness of cars, attitudes, personalities and style to explore. The world knows very little about Kazakhstan for example, so how hard would it be to explain where it is and a little of its history, interwoven skillfully with the segment itself? And the Ferrari test at Daytona… well if you want American motor racing history, that’d surely be the place. When Harris launched on his ‘qualifying’ lap why not have it start from the bricks and throw a sentence in about their significance.

Even leaving aside the travel, every segment needs to make a few useful points. We saw a little of this with the old cars segment in Episode 2, when the point was your car isn’t worn out after 200,000km, and a bit with the FXX-K about it not being road legal or able to race, but there needs to be more of that. With older cars – safety, potential increase in value, joy of driving vs new. With the Ferrari – is it that much more fun than a 488? Would racing a slow car be more fun that just hotlapping a FXX-K?

If Top Gear can continue what it does well yet also focus on presenter camaraderie and entertaining education then I think it might just beat the Grand Tour. I’m certainly going to be watching.

  • Juliette Remfrey

    Completely agree, they’re onto a good thing with the new Top Gear. The cinematography is better than the Top Gear of old and The Grand Tour, which is an amazing achievement, as it had set an already high standard. The segments and challenges are more entertaining, as is the way they’ve sequenced them. It just works. I agree that Matt is acting a little too much, but I can almost excuse it as he’s funny and witty, and I’m smiling. And Chris Harris – a completely changed man from the old series. He’s funny, expressive, technical – that’s the Chris Harris we’re used to and it’s good that he’s back. Rory Reid feels like a bit of a hanger on, but he’s not cringeworthy – maybe he’ll improve with time.

    Either way, I think it’s better than Top Gear Season 22 (with the old presenters), Season 23 (with the current presenters) and The Grand Tour Season 1. If they can keep this up they’re onto a real winner. I’ll still watch The Grand Tour – two fun car shows are better than one…

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a freelance journalist, driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com