With the first season of The Grand Tour now in our rearview mirrors, it is time to reflect on how this inaugural season stacks up to the best of old Top Gear. It’s not necessarily fair to compare TGT with TG, but in spirit, it’s essentially the same show, right? It’s not like we’re comparing TGT to Law and Order. Short of a few minute differences, we’re dealing with virtually the same thing.
The following list will compile what I feel is the most significant Top Gear/The Grand Tour seasons of all time. Keep in mind, this is merely what I personally feel makes the top ten; your choices will differ, I’m certain. We most certainly want to hear what your picks are, so please do not hesitate to tell us your picks in the comments and our Facebook page!
10. The Grand Tour Season 1
It has its ups and down and is far from perfect, but I am very comfortable putting the first season of The Grand Tour in this top ten list. If you take away low points like Celebrity Brain Crash and The American, it feels like a larger budget Top Gear season. Maybe I have rose tinted glasses on because I’m just so relieved that Jeremy, James, and Richard are back in any capacity after the steak punching incident, but for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed every episode this season, even the oft-maligned Episode 2. It’s the start of a new era for the trio and I can’t wait to see what Season 2 has in store for us.
9. Top Gear Series 23
Surprised to see Series 23 on here? Yeah, me too, but in my defense, I’m including it in the “top seasons of all time” more for its significance than its quality. For better or worse, Series 23 will be regarded as a major turning point for Top Gear, with the original three hosts being replaced by a new group. Ten years from now, we’ll either look back on Series 23 as the season that proved the show could go on without Jeremy, James, and Richard, or we’ll look back on Series 23 as the season that killed Top Gear. It really is that important. What’s more is that Season 23 showed us what clearly does not work, so one can only assume the show gets better form here on out, right?
8. Top Gear Series 20
Just the Hovervan piece alone makes Series 20 one of my favorites of all time. It has been a while since I laughed that hard with any show, and that single segment made up for what I felt was a rather flat Series 19 (except for the episode where they design a car for the elderly). In addition to the Hovervan, we also got the rental Corolla vs the racing yacht, a new Reasonably Priced Car, a truly interesting look at post-recession Spain, Hammond’s quest to find the best taxi in the world, and an awesome tribute to British manufacturing. Other than the Hovervan, there wasn’t anything that stuck out as brilliantly awesome, but the series as a whole was very solid.
7. Top Gear Series 6
Series 6 proved that you can indeed play sports using cars, something that previously was such an absurd idea that it never even crossed my mind. Now, it’s a reality. The piece with the presenters’ mothers was also gold, especially James’ mom who apparently is much more of a petrolhead than anyone, including her son, could have thought. For those who like explosions and vehicular mayhem, Series 6 also included a world record attempt at the number of times a car has rolled at high speed. A personal favorite of mine is when the Top Gear theme song was recreated using engine noises, and of course, my personal favorite moment form Series 6, when Sabine Schmitz attempted to lap in the Nurburgring in 10:00 while driving a Ford Transit van. It was quite awesome.
6. Top Gear Series 2
I voted Series 2 onto this list for much of the same reasons that I voted Series 23; because of its significance and not necessarily its quality. Series 2 is important in that it is the very first series to give us the Top Gear that we know and love today. It was the debut series of James May, and while the chemistry between the three hosts hadn’t yet reached the level it is at now, you could see the beginnings of greatness. I wouldn’t say there is one particular moment or episode that I felt what great, but a personal favorite of mine was the rally pit crew vs the women getting ready for a night out.
5. Top Gear Series 18
Series 18 had some truly memorable moments, including the rallycross vs the cost of golf test, the building of mobility scooters (James’ gravel deployment system still brings about chuckles), James taking out Chris Evans’ Ferrari 250 GT California, a look at China’s car industry (I want a Hongda), a brilliant film on the history of Saab, and my personal favorite, Jeremy and Richard creating a car chase for The Sweeney. Seriously, every time I think of “You haf to hold ze button for 10 seconds!” I laugh my butt off. I don’t care how scripted the sequence was; it goes to show that the boys can still be side splittingly funny even while going off a script.
4. Top Gear Series 15
Series 15 had my favorite “We have a new Reasonably Priced Car so lets invite a bunch of random celebs over” film of all time. It also gave some memorable moments with Mr. Manlove, Rubens Barrichello making a mortal enemy out of The Stig, three eye opening motorhomes built by the boys (Jeremy’s Japanese contemplation area was awesome), a hilarious challenge where the boys had to be wedding day drivers (James’ navigational skills were on full blast here), and the awesome sequence with James attempting to hit 258 mph in a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Of course, the single thing that Series 15 will forever be remembered for is Jeremy drive across town in a Reliant Robin.
3. Top Gear Series 9
Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy every episode in Series 9, but the ones I did like, I liked so much that it puts Series 9 as one of my go-to series’ whenever I’m hankering for a re-watch. The episode I’m referring to is when the boys build their own stretch limos, of course. James’ Alfa Rome-ab will forever be one of my favorite things ever done on the show. In addition, Series 9 also included a trip through the US South where there were nearly stoned to death (and where Jeremy had a dead cow on the roof of his Camaro), building a space shuttle out of a Reliant Robin, the now famous Bugatti Veyron top speed test at Ehra-Lessien, and the boys’ homemade biofuel. Fun fact, Episode 2 was the very first episode of Top Gear I had ever watched.
2. Top Gear Series 10
We now come to the two series’ of Top Gear that I will re-watch over and over. First up is Series 10, which had, hands down, some of the greatest moments in Top Gear history. It’s almost hard to start; Series 10 had the awesome road trip through Italy and the Stelvio Pass, a second attempt at building amphibious cars in order to cross the English Channel, Jeremy road testing the Peel P50 and driving it straight into the BBC offices, the Britcar 24 Hour Endurance Race (one of my favorite films in all of Top Gear), and the Botswana special where we were introduced to Oliver (which has now become a major piece of Top Gear lore). Nearly every episode in Series 10 is great, and even the “least great” ones are better than pretty much any other episode on the show. It would easily be #1, if not for…..
1. Top Gear Series 14
…my favorite series of all time. Every single episode in Series 14 is one I could watch repeatedly. Series 14 is the pinnacle of Jeremy, James, and Richard’s Top Gear career. Starting with the Romanian road trip, we are introduced to the mighty Transfagarasan Highway. Then we get to see the birth of the Hammerhead Eagle iThrust and a brilliant series of safety tests to follow. We then follow with an episode where James flies a caravan airship into all sorts of trouble, which is also the same episode as the Lancia history film, my favorite of all the “look back” films the boys have done. After that we get the airport vehicle motorsport race, probably the weakest episode of the bunch. That is then followed up with the boys taking over the MOMA art gallery in order to fill it with automotive themed art (James’ tour notes is the best). We then finish up the series with the Bolivia special and Jeremy’s “low budget” review of the BMW X6 (which also included Hammond’s equally “low budget” review of the Lexus LFA. It’s all good!
So now you guys have a lot of work to do. Let’s hear what your picks for the best season are!