Was the Grand Tour what we expected?

It all started when Clarkson foolishly threw a punch at Oisin Tymon, a BBC Top Gear producer at Simonstone Hall in the Yorkshire Dales. Obviously, the whole ‘fracas’, as it was widely reported in the media, was an arduous process for everyone involved and nobody would want something of its nature to happen again. Nevertheless, what it did result in has to be remembered as one of the greatest motoring shows of all time – The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime.

Anybody who knows me will know that my favourite television show was Top Gear as it was in its previous format before it was re-invigorated with a host of new presenters, including a Mr Chris Evans who, it can be said, unequivocally failed in making it great again. Anyhow, despite the endless controversy that it undoubtedly attracted every single Sunday evening it remains my favourite show of all time. The reason why I was so obsessed with Top Gear as it was had to do with the way the show was put together, in terms of the cinematics and brilliantly thought out structure, the endless banter and humour that never failed in making me laugh, and the relationship between all three presenters. That programme had a fantastic collection of elements that came together every week to give the die-hard petrolhead what they wanted aswell as the not-so-car-obsessed individual the ability to have a great laugh. The key to Top Gear’s success arose through its ability to be a show about cars but not being boring to the average person either.

And here we are, in 2017, with all three presenters back together, falling over, and with an astronomical budget. Could it have ever failed being like this? I doubt it. From the first episode I was hooked. The cinematics have quite clearly been taken to the next level, with the entire first series being filmed in ultra-high-definition 4K, bringing The Grand Tour to another level of cinematic excellence than the already astonishing Top Gear. They really pulled out all the stops with this first series; the opening sequence was a brilliant story of Clarkson in rainy London travelling to sunny Los Angeles to meet up with the other two in different versions of the Ford Mustang. It culminated in a huge selection of vehicles fly across the wide open desert plains, ending up at a huge festival-like structure at the end. It was epic.

The next twelve episodes all followed a similar formula thereafter, with two episodes being another of their acclaimed specials in Africa. Being in a tent in a different location each week enabled the three boys to go overboard in the jokes department; never failing to incur a roar of laughter at the start of each episode amongst the audience. A lot of hilarious discussion would then be followed by several ‘feature films’ where a well-known ‘Top-Gear style’ would reappear, mixed in with a variety of studio based silliness. It cannot be said, therefore, that The Grand Tour disappointed in ensuring the laughter and humour, whilst also making a great deal of very incisive decisions on recent models and situations, all through their jovial style but with a rather important point being made. The way the producers have been able to deliver such a high-quality programme mixed in with such a great variety of cars, adventures, and modern day debates (like the BMW i3 vs VW Golf GTI) has been nothing short of incredibly successful and enjoyable.

To be more critical, the first few episodes started off very well but soon started to go downhill in terms of inventiveness and audience connection but they then started to pick up again nearer the end, where they were much more effective at ensuring absolute laughter and connection throughout. What the final few episodes were able to deliver which the previous ones lacked was a sense of purpose, to be rather dull. Some of the episodes seemed to lack substance and they concentrated on situations which were, at first very funny, but soon became wearing and rather boring, like the enviro-mental episode. That was pure stupidity. It seemed like they had gone too far but everything was brought back under control with the 4×4 episode where they were comparing the Range Rover, Bentley Bentayga, and Jaguar F-Pace against one another which was hilarious but also brilliant at the same time.

Overall, The Grand Tour has delivered on its promise of being very similar to the previous Top Gear but with a few changes here and there to liven it up and force re-invention. The same outspoken humour is still sufficiently present with a show that is undisputedly one of the best car shows on the planet. You only need to look at the cinematography to see that it is beyond anything from a few years ago. All in all, die-hard Top Gear fans remain pleased and newcomers are now engaged by the magical formula which is created by Clarkson, Hammond, and May. A triumph.

Jamie Moffatt