The second episode of The Grand Tour‘s second season had quite a bit to prove. We knew after the first episode of the season that the show was capable of making improvements, but it was unknown whether the new episode would break from the formula that’s worked so well in the past. After watching it, though, I was very optimistic.
Ford GT VS Public Transport
The episode opened with an introduction to the featured race: Jeremy in the new Ford GT against May and a handicapped Hammond on a plane from Central Park to Niagara Falls.
The scene looks grim initially for Hammond and May, who have to struggle through New York’s labyrinthine subway system and negotiate notoriously strict American airport security (which doesn’t go particularly well for Hammond).
This segment resulted in some genuine laughs, such as James’ caller ID in Clarkson’s phone, which have insofar been too rare in The Grand Tour. Predictably, Clarkson wins in the Ford, though not after being “turned into Richard Hammond” by six hours of the GT’s rock-hard ride and shrieking, un-shut-up-able engine.
Clarkson Reviews The AMG GT-R
Clarkson reviews the Mercedes AMG GT-R at the Eboladrome, which is arguably one of the episode’s highlights. As the first power test of the series, it’s an absolutely classic Clarkson review: dry humor, beautiful cinematography, and the requisite montage of some AMGs shredding their back tires. He is understandably confused by all the technical wizardry the GT-R contains, and overall it’s not really AMG-ish enough for his taste.
It then gets taken round the track by the show’s new driver, Abbie Eaton, who’s quite literally as far from Mike Skinner as they could have gotten, and sets a very brisk time of 1:18.7–right up next to the McLaren 650S.
This episode’s Celebrity Face-Off is between cricketer Kevin Pietersen and baseballer Brian Wilson, who both make a living hitting, throwing, and catching small balls, with Pietersen’s smooth, slow-looking lap just edging out Wilson’s tail-out extravaganza by only .3 seconds. That makes Pietersen the fastest person to ever go around the Eboladrome (out of the whopping four people that have done it so far).
There are a couple of faults with this episode. The first deals more with the overall setup than this particular show, but it bears discussion. The new fast-car-slow-track formula for Celebrity Face-Off simply results in less entertaining laps than TopGear’s slow-car-fast-track setup, even though it’s leaps and bounds better than the general trainwreck that was Celebrity Brain Crash. It would have served the show better to send the celebrities around the Eboladrome in a slower car, but that probably would have resulted in a lawsuit from you-know-who. So they appear to be doing the best they can, but somehow it just doesn’t all add up the way I’d like.
The other problem with this episode deals with the driver. Not her personally, because she’s obviously fully competent, and I have to give credit to the show for putting a woman in a prominent role, which happens all too rarely on car programs. Her name is Abbie Eaton, but, inexplicably, she’s only introduced and referred to as “the driver.” It seems like a careless omission not to mention her name until the credits.
Despite these problems, a declaration must be made: this was the best episode of The Grand Tour. Yes, including Season 1. It followed the presenters’ old formula to a T, which might sound low-effort, but it’s exactly what the show’s audience has been clamoring for since 2015 when Clarkson got sacked from TopGear. It was funny, it was crisply-written, and most of all, it was about cars. (Except for that bit with the plane.) It wasn’t even cringey. Not a single 9/11 joke.