In this week’s episode of The Grand Tour, James wears a tablecloth, a Ford goes fast on a track, and all three presenters change gears.
The episode’s primary film is a comparison between a brand-new 1950s Jaguar, a brand-new 1950s Aston Martin, and a brand-new 2010s Honda hatchback. Hammond champions one of only nine new XKSS models painstakingly recreated by Jaguar themselves, which costs $1 million, while Clarkson counters with the Aston Martin DB4 GT Lightweight, which costs $2 million. They are quite expensive, then. And the Jaguar is quite ugly. But they make for one hell of a film.
I cannot imagine how much fun this segment would have been to make, and that really shines through in the finished product. It’s truly exceptional, full of beautiful, warmly-color-corrected shots of the two cars racing through Pau, set to a rollicking drum-heavy soundtrack. James then arrives in a Honda Civic Type R, which proceeds to be mercilessly mocked and then sadly not pulled over.
Up next, the Ford GT finally gets a turn on the Eboladrome, where it probably should have been in the first place. We get the requisite shots of the GT’s incredible suspension lowering, and some surprisingly brief powerslides indicative of both how much power it has and how much grip it has. Generally standard Grand Tour fare. All very good.
In Celebrity Face-Off, two drummers from bands beginning with P, Stewart Copeland and Nick Mason, take to the track in the F-Type. If not for anything else, you might remember Nick Mason as the guy who lended Top Gear his Ferrari Enzo many moons ago, in return for some very subtle plugs for his new book. You also might remember Jeremy Clarkson as the drummer for the Top Gear band, which was famous for doing nothing famous at all, ever. Mason turns a 1:21.3, smashing Copeland’s more dramatic 1:24.2.
Then we return to France, and to Hammond, who’s stood outside the hotel all night to make sure his roofless, lockless Jaguar wouldn’t get stolen. May decides to take them from Pau down to Barcelona to prove on track that his Honda is better than the Jaguar and Aston. I do agree with May on most of his points, to be honest, and I’m part of the minority who thinks the new Type R looks great. After a series of increasingly painful shots of Clarkson slowly mangling the Aston’s synchro-less racing gearbox, Hammond’s car finally succumbs to the fact that it’s a 50s Jaguar and breaks down, leading to Jeremy having an incredibly awkward encounter with two…good friends in a Toyota when he pulls over to help then loses his car in the fog.
On an ancient, disused banked circuit in Spain, the Aston and Jaguar prove to be horrifying on their prehistoric cross-ply tires, while the Honda’s no treat either, even on modern rubber. The Honda nevertheless manages to outpace the Aston on the speed test, turning a 93mph compared to the Aston’s 89.
I didn’t really expect to say this, but I think this was definitely one of the strongest episodes of the season. As is very rare, they get through the entire show without a single contrived joke or over-the-top accidents, and it really is petrolhead pornography for the entire hour. It’s 100% worth a watch, even if you’re someone (like me, I admit) who still wasn’t convinced the show was quite living up to its potential.