The Grand Tour Episode 3 Review

On this week’s episode of The Grand Tour, titled “Opera, Art, and Donuts”, the three biys go on a literal grand tour around some of the beautiful ancient cities of Italy which are Verona, Modena, Florence, and ending at Venice. Also, the demolition of Clarkson’s home after he said that he would allow May and Hammond to destroy his house if his McLaren P1 lose to the Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari which eventually Clarkson had to eat up his words and kept that promise when the P1 ended being dead last.

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For starters, let’s begin with the main film of the episode, and from the trailer which aired a few days before the episode was shown, it looks like this episode is a visual apology to fans for last week’s episode which accomplish nothing other than comedy (but the Vulcan review is not THAT bad). Sure enough, this episode brings back the good old days of Top Gear going on a road trip with three of their choice of cars.

I remember the supercar challenge to discover the greatest road in the world and the journey to the highest suspension bridge in Europe as Top Gear’s best feature. They were honest, and speaks about how beautiful these cars were but at the same time how much of a hassle it is to drive one. The Italian Grand Tour though does feel a little bit like those episodes but they were not all that perfect.

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Their choice of cars though were spectacular. Clarkson chose the brown sunset orange Aston Martin DB11, May chose the Rolls Royce Dawn, and Hammond being the brash little Yorkshire terrier  American chose the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. The latter proved to be an annoyance to both Clarkson and May who eventually developed a twitch every time he hears it pass by.

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Remove the comedic elements and you actually have something reminiscent of an old Top Gear episode. The boys gave their thoughts on the cars they selected and the part where Clarkson and Hammond duke it out at the Mugello Circuit to see which is faster makes me forgive them for last week’s bad seed. Then, there are the jokes which feels forced this time around. The point of this feature is to enjoy a grand tour just like back in the old days where European travelers travel around and Hammond’s portrayal of a yokel who cares little about the culture kinda describes most tourists today, especially millennials.

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At least today’s episode is a big improvement over the last one and in my opinion, it’s the best episode so far this season. I particularly love Conversation Street (there’s an Easter egg in the montage) and this week shows them discussing about cars again albeit with a joke about Whitby’s jets at the beginning.

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This week, there’s no car lap times at the Eboladrome, which also means one less shouty American to deal with. Anyway, if Mike Skinner hears about the way Clarkson and May describe the Hellcat, he’s gonna be raging throughout the whole lap. Instead, we have a demolition. Though it is just a singular house and there are only two of the hosts, it does remind me of the demolition challenge in Top Gear a few years ago but this segment is purely comedic and nothing more. Also, it is probably to show Amazon’s large budget for the series.

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Episode 3 in the end shows the transition that The Grand Tour aims to do; an entertainment car show with bits of factual information and a slightly more comedic feel. At least this week they show the true meaning behind the name of the show. And made me optimistic about the next few episodes.

THE HIGHS

  • No Mike Skinner
  • Conversation Street
  • Elements of a grand tour with them giving car reviews
  • The sound edits when the Hellcat and DB11 faced off

THE LOWS

  • Forced comedic elements
  • Demolition segment is an excuse for filler
  • Celebrity Brain Crash. We get it, you guys want to give a middle finger to the BBC for not allowing celebrity interviews, but the joke is getting tired.

OVERALL: 3.82/5

Scorecard: 

Episode 1 – The Holy Trinity: 3.15/5

Episode 2 – Operation Desert Stumble: 1.78/5

Episode 3 – Opera, Art, and Donuts: 3.82/5

 

 

 

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Car-Spotting in Macau Day 3 & 4

One final day in Macau. It was an amazing trip with a number of interesting cars to boot. If you are interested to see Day 1 and 2, click on the links. I decide to combine these final two days in together into one blog since I had to catch my flight in the morning. Nevertheless, the final days were spent around Taipa and Cotai. The latter of which is newly reclaimed land.

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The first destination I went to was Rua do Cunha which is a short walk from my hotel. Along the way, I spotted this white Daihatsu Move and alongside it is an Audi A4. The parking lot in the featured image is taken near the street.

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Located near the entrance of Rua do Cunha is this Volvo C30. I do not see any Volvos in the past few days when I was in Macau so seeing this interesting Swede hatchback is like seeing a rare animal in the flesh.

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This red first-gen Toyota Echo/Yaris was spotted near an elementary school. Remember how small it looked?

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Turns out Cotai Strip is quite near to Rua do Cunha. Time to see some expensive cars then. But this was the first one I spotted near the entrance that faces The Venetian. A Jeep Wrangler with an orange camouflage paint job. A sign of more interesting cars to come?

That turned out to be true when I saw this red lightning in The Venetian. A Tesla Model S and it really looked futuristic both inside and out. Turns out they were displaying the car here to entice people to buy it. As seen in some of the pictures, there are a lot of millionaires in Macau.

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Today’s mystery car goes to this “Tour Machine”. I think it is some car from the 1920s. This car is also a wedding car apparently because moments after a bride and her groom got out of the car for a photoshoot.

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This is a Chrysler 300C limousine for Pacha Macau, a club located at Studio City Macau. Borgeous was about to play that weekend but I came into Macau just for the sights only.

Here are a yellow Hyundai Veloster and a red Smart car seen at a pedestrian crossing in between Studio City and The Parisian.

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A Mazda 121 sedan. A little bubble 4-door car that looks quirky and so early-90s chic.

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Jaguar bringing that sexy back. An F-Type Roadster. A V8 model at that. The area near Cotai Strip had roadworks along the road because a monorail system or some light rail transit is in the works.

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Back to Rua do Cunha and here is where old design meets new. A Suzuki Solio and a Mitsubishi L300 Van.

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Further down the road, a pair of Audis. A grey A6…

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And a blue RS5. Here is a closer look on that RS5.

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Right here we have a 1980s Suzuki Carry van. It looks so small but then again in these narrow streets, it looks more in place compared to the Audis.

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Night quickly descends in Macau. I took this picture of a Mazda Demio at right before 7pm.

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After dinner at this excellent Portuguese restaurant at Rua do Cunha, I spotted this white Peugeot RCZ on our way back to the hotel. Macau at night is relatively safe.

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Day 4 and is time to fly back home to Kuala Lumpur. We took a taxi to the airport. It was a Toyota Avensis and it was manual. On the way to the airport I spotted this at a junkyard, a silver Toyota Corolla on a junker. What a weird way to end the trip!

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Finally, one more picture before we head back, a Bentley Mulsanne. Macau was nice but there really is nothing much to see and the island is very small. It is an interesting place to spot for cars with a combination of luxury vehicles and JDM cars in one place. It is no Monaco but you can see fascinating cars around the island.

Car-Spotting in Macau Day 2

Second day in Macau and I have spotted more cars on this day than any other day. In Day 1, I mostly venture around the Peninsula/mainland. Day 2 would also focus in there but mostly in the tourist spots like the ruins of St. Paul. These are the cars that I have spotted around those tourist spots.

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We begin with some random cars parked on a parking lot. There’s an Audi A3, Toyota Corolla, Estima, and probably a Civic.

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And here located near a New Yaohan department store, we see a Toyota Yaris, Mazda3, a 5-Series, an Impreza, and a Toyota Sienta in the opposite lane.

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Over here, located near the ruins are your usual Japanese cars. A Honda Stream, a Nissan Qashqai, Nissan Tiida/Latio, and a Mazda2

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The parking lot near the fort has a much more interesting car lined up. A green JDM Suzuki Alto alongside a blue Toyota Porte

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Back St. Paul’s and the road towards Senado Square is narrow. Despite that, I’ve seen the usual big-ass JDM MPVs like this Toyota Noah successfully maneuvering a three point turn in these narrow streets.

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A lot of cars pass through here and seeing that this is a popular tourist site, there is bound to be jams but very little honking. Seen here are a Toyota ist and an Avensis taxi. Speaking of taxis.

The usual suspects are the Toyota Avensis, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Renault Latitude, and Ford Mondeo. I rarely see Volkswagen Caddy taxis around here. They are pretty expensive to go from one place to another. Alternatively, you could walk, take a bus, or request for Uber. It’s available in Macau anyway.

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I spotted this BMW 3-Series Convertible. Moments after I took this picture, he crushed his bumper against the pavement.

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But this is an interesting find. A Fiat 500C Gucci Edition. A pretty limited special edition 500 with Gucci’s logo plastered wherever can be seen.

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A Toyota Yaris. Probably a low-spec manual car. Some driving academies use this as their learner car.

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I think this is either a Honda Stepwgn or a Toyota Voxy. And yes, that is how you spell Stepwgn.

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Another Toyota Noah. Unlike in Malaysia, Noahs and Voxys rule here instead of Alphards and Vellfires. Speaking of Voxys, it appears that the car in the background is actually the same Voxy from the previous picture. (Note the license plates)

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I think this is a Toyota Mark II. Note the number plate, looks so old school and the road leading to Senado Square is pretty steep. A struggle if you cannot control the clutch.

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Just a few meters below I spotted this Honda Crossroad. A qurky JDM crossover, it kinda reminds me of some Japanese-esque American SUV.

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A Honda Civic but the taillights show that it is a North American model which is similar to the Chinese model. I do not think they sell this in Hong Kong. Probably a special Macau-only model since it is an RHD.

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Look! A Smart car! So small even in this land where JDM rules.

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A silver Suzuki Ignis. This is a little crossover made in the mid-2000s

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Most of the following pictures are taken at one place, the New Yaohan department store. While waiting for the open-decker bus that takes us around Macau, I spotted many amazing cars. We begin with the Lexus LS400. The one that started a revolution in Japanese luxury. This model looks pretty clean even if it is less than 25 years old.

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This is the entrance of the department store, so some cars just stop by to drop off passengers. Here’s a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Mazda3, and a Rolls… Wait.

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It IS a Rolls Royce Phantom. An extended wheelbase model too. Left hand drive but with Macau plates. Must be a rich Chinese billionaire. Some hotels offer the Phantom as a limousine transport.

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Here’s one of those hotels, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine by the City of Dreams.

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We have seen a Lexus, so here’s an Infiniti G37.

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A silver Audi A7 Sportback. Or an A5 Sportback. Confusing. At least I can recognize that weird-looking MPV at the back. It’s a Mazda Biante

Big-ass MPVs. Big-ass JDM MPVs everywhere. a white Toyota Voxy, a grey Nissan Serena and a dark grey Honda Stepwgn Spada. I like the Spada. Maybe it’s because I ahave a penchant for Hondas.

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Two uber-cool sedans. A Kia Optima and a Maserati Ghibli. One is attainable and the other is something that can be obtained if you dream hard.

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I’m surprised that they still make this car. A Nissan Juke. People still buy this quirky little crossover but not a Renault Avantime?

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A red DS3. DS is a luxury brand by Citroen but French luxury is different to normal luxury if you check out their line-up.

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A yellow Daihatsu YRV followed by a Mitsubishi i. The YRV is Daihatsu’s little hot hatch made between 2000 and 2005. The Mitsubishi i was a small little rear-engined egg on wheels. It was sold in the USA as an electric model, the i-MiEV.

Two weird Toyota mini-MPVs, a Porte on the left and a Yaris Verso on the right. The Porte has a weird door combo. Sliding door on the passenger side and the normal hinged one on the driver’s side. The Yaris Verso is also called the FunCargo in Japan.

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Took a while but the bus finally arrived and we move on to the next area to spot some cars. Unfortunately the Macau Tower has the usual suspects of Noahs, Voxys, Corollas, Camrys, and the normal JDM cars. So, we headed off to A-Ma Temple. There are fewer cars to spot here but they are interesting nevertheless like this colourful looking Honda Integra Type R.

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A red Honda N-One! I love this small little Honda. 660cc engine but I love its old-school styling. In white it looks like a panda. More panda than that X6. The BMW shown is an X1 not an X6.

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Here’s an Alfa Romeo Giuletta. No wonder Top Gear says you have to drive one before you die, I mean look at how gorgeous it is! Even for a normal hatchback.

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A Suzuki Solio. It is one of the most popular cars in Macau. Macau really love its tall cars.

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Here’s today’s mystery car. I think it may be a Subaru Justy or a Mazda 121. Comment if you think you know what it is below!

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Another Toyota Porte. Overloaded with people and look at those rims!

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A yellow Ferrari F12 berlinetta. I would like to thank the driver for making two rounds past the same area. Without him (or her), I would probably not have taken this picture.

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We then took the bus back to the ferry terminal to catch a shuttle bus back to my hotel. On the way we passed by Galaxy Casino and I came across this. A sky blue BMW i8. The future does look much brighter now.

img20161030170337 Here’s at the roundabout near the casinos. A Rolls Phantom in the distance along with a Range Rover Evoque and a Toyota Sienta. The Alphard in the foreground kinda reminded me of an old Dodge Caravan with mismatched rims and an overload of luggage.

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One last car and we leave the most classic for last. A Mini Cooper. Actually it isn’t that classic anyway. A pink Rover Mini seen outside of a restaurant we had for dinner.

That’s all for Day 2. Check out Day 1 here. I will upload Day 3 and 4 soon. Stay tuned!

 

Car-Spotting in Macau Day 1

In early November, my family and I went for a trip overseas. It’s our first trip that is not in a) Malaysia and b) Singapore. The country we went was Macau, a place that is known as the Las Vegas of the East. There are neon lights in almost every casino and boy there are a lot of casinos here. So, here’s a little history of Macau. Like Hong Kong, it is a semi-autonomous country, meaning it is ruled under China but not quite ruled completely. It also drives on the left. Like Hong Kong. There are also a huge number of Alphards, Vellfires, Noahs, Voxys, Serenas, Elgrands, and Hiaces. Also like Hong Kong.

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I wasn’t kidding. Two Elgrands (black) and an Alphard (white)

Unlike Hong Kong where most of them have difficulty in being a part of China, Macau doesn’t really care much about being a part of China. Some of the cars and buses I saw have Chinese license plates hanging below the Macanese ones.

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Apparently, they are a must if the cars were to enter mainland China. So, in some parts of Guangdong, you could see a few Alphards and Vellfires. Literally these cars are everywhere. But that is not to say Macau is a place where large JDM vans roam free.

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Smaller ones like this Freed can also be seen. There are a lot of JDMs spotted around Macau. The featured image shows a Daihatsu Move and an SLK.

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This one is spotted outside our hotel. Scooters are a pretty popular way to travel around Macau too. Macau is pretty small, so most people opt to use buses but cars are fairly common here.

These two were seen on a bridge that connects the islands from the mainland. Pretty much boring ol’ MPVs but then I saw this.

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That is a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen at the left side of the photo. An 80s/90s model at that. Oh, Volkswagens are pretty common here. Just like China!

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A lot of the rich stay in Macau. Everything is expensive here. A McDonald’s breakfast meal costs nearly US$10. Watching a Lamborghini Aventador speed by costs US$10 less.

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Back to more JDM goodness, here is a white Toyota Mark X spotted outside Wynn Casino. The Mark X is a sort of luxury car from Toyota. Think Crown for more younger buyers.

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But forget about Mark Xs for a sec. Here’s a little Toyota Etios police car. An Etios outside of developing markets? In fact. this is probably the only Etios I have seen with police livery. The Portuguese word for “Police” is written on the hood apart from in Chinese. Even the street signs are written in Portuguese but nearly no one here speaks in a daily conversation.

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When we were here, the Macau Grand Prix was just weeks away and as you can see from the background, they have set up a grandstand for the race.

This car remains a mystery to me. I think it’s either a Nissan or a Toyota. I don’t really remember. The front picture is a little blurry, so sorry for that. Also, dig the pearlescent green on that E90

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I have a huge spot on Japanese kei cars like this Suzuki Hustler. It looks so weird and that plastic cladding makes this faux by faux so uber cool. Also, dig that Toyota bB behind it.

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The OG HR-V. It looks so freaking cool. It was basically a crossover before the term even started. It was weird and production only lasted for eight years. The three-door version looked much cooler.

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Some hotels provide their own transportation. The high-end expensive ones like MGM and Sands have Rolls Royce Phantoms. Hotel Lisboa on the other hand offers Jaguar XJs and while stepping out of a Rolls is everyone’s dream, I think a Jag is more sophisticated.

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This is the final car for Day 1 of Macau car-spotting. A Suzuki Carry. Cars like this are probably used as a cheap way to transport goods or people. Look at it’s boxy proportions! Anyway, stay tuned as I will upload more cars that I have spotted in Day 2, 3 and 4 in Macau.

 

The Grand Tour Episode 2 Review

Ask any Top Gear fan which is the worst episode of TG and they would mention the India Special. For those who do not know what is the episode about, in summary, the boys are sent as British representatives to try and foster trade relations with India. Thus, they brought the best British cars they can find for £7,000 and along the way building relations with India. This being Top Gear, they obviously failed but overall the episode does not seem to be getting anywhere. It’s just an hour of them humiliating themselves and Britain, plus there’s nothing much about the cars they were driving. No wonder fans hated it. It was a pointless and meaningless episode that brought out cheap entertainment.

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Fast forward to the second episode of The Grand Tour and unfortunately this episode is reminiscent of the India Special. I know that this is just the second episode of an entirely new program but already I am confused at the end of the episode. Let’s start off with a small intro about today’s episode. This week, the boys are in Johannesburg, South Africa. More specifically, The Cradle of Humankind, the land where paleontologists believe modern humans began evolving from. It’s just then, things got a little bit weird. Hammond started posing Clarkson, widely regarded as a giant orangutan by Hammond, how long has homo sapiens been on this planet to which things get political. Clarkson’s answer evoked a footage of South African President, Jacob Zuma having difficulty reading aloud 769,82(0?).

Zuma himself is a controversial figure and we know based on old TG, the show loves a little controversy, especially Clarkson. However, this time, I feel a little uncomfortable with the joke which reminds me of a segment in The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The Grand Tour is about cars and maybe a little bit of Brits showing the middle finger to the world while at the same time oblivious to the fact that they are not the superpower that once was. TG was good at mixing British nationalism while at the same time retaining itself as a car show but they do it so subtly just like their humour. TGT though is trying a little too hard and things become awkward here. Of course, they continue to make fun of South Africa by inserting in some stereotypes into the mix. In the first episode, they made fun of Americans for calling some parts of the car differently and comparing the air force. In South Africa, they made fun of the wildlife and the incompetency of the South African civil servants. Needless to say, this looks like a trend for their episodes.

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From making fun of South Africa, the next segment is Clarkson reviewing the Aston Martin Vulcan. Actually, it also makes fun of his tall frame for struggling to enter the car and later stalling it. The Aston looks complex to drive and Clarkson shows it but overall the video looks really good. A step up compared to the BMW M2. Then again, the Vulcan is loud. Really loud but they managed to balance it all out. Great review and respect to Clarkson for eventually getting the hang of this car. Heck, the gears are connected to the removable steering wheel. Unfortunately, this is the only segment in the ENTIRE episode worth watching and everything else falls down here on out. Let us begin with the follow up lap time by TGT’s in-house American Mike Skinner, which I skipped entirely. Nevertheless, the Vulcan goes top on the leaderboard.

On the bright side, this week’s Conversation Street looks better than last week. There is that banter we all loved in the Top Gear news segment when the three of them are discussing about downforce after seeing pictures of Aston Martin’s collaboration with red Bull Racing. The later parts of Conversation Street sees them talking about the alarmingly high car-jacking cases in South Africa and a device to prevent one’s bicycle from being stolen. Overall, this week’s Conversation Street actually sparks a conversation about something more entertaining than May’s pathetic speed ticket.

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Moving on to this week’s main video, which, to be honest I do not really know what is the point. The premise is that the three boys would have to rescue a VIP, in this case the “Queen” from hostages. The catch is if anyone of them gets shot, they would have to restart it all over from the beginning. Kinda like that Tom Cruise movie, Cocktail. Along the way, there is also a review of the Audi S8 hidden somewhere in that messy pile of…something. There’s a Dacia Duster which should be GOOD NEWS but it is badged as a Renault instead. I would like to see May doing a review on the Duster while the other two haplessly try to shoot out the baddies but that did not happen. Also, since Clarkson, especially him, likes to talk about the armed forces, they could be presenting about the vehicles used in warfare rather than to turn it into a B-movie action parody disguised as a review for an Audi sports sedan.

I was disappointed to say the least. While the 23rd series of Top Gear slowly toned down the shouty ginger after the first episode, The Grand Tour still tries to find its footing in the second episode. I hate to see them fall backwards and while there is still hope for the next ten episodes in this first season, I can’t pretty much say the same for my optimism.

THE HIGHS

  • The Vulcan review
  • Conversation Street talking about downforce
  • James May’s short spinning segment. It should have been longer and it would be interesting to see May trying to spin a car or perhaps a short segment about the car culture in SA
  • May vs the “Queen”

THE LOWS

  • Mike FRIGGIN Skinner
  • The intro went a little too political comedy show. It’s The Grand Tour not The Governmental Thrashing
  • The jokes. SIGH
  • 3/4 of the show

OVERALL: 1.78/5

Scorecard:

Episode 1 – The Holy Trinity: 3.15/5

Episode 2 – Operation Desert Stumble: 1.78/5

Images credit: Amazon, Top Gear India Special: BBC