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'It's like Top Gear on steroids' - we review The Grand Tour

Published: 18 November 2016

 The Grand Tour TV show reviewed
 We cast our eye over Episode 1
 Can they move the Top Gear game on?

The wait is over. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May ('fired from CAR magazine') are back on the telly, talking waffle about cars.

Episode 1, Series 1 of The Grand Tour aired on Friday 18 November, bringing back their distinctive brand of high-octane bonhomie to a new home on Amazon Prime.

Is it any good? We've watched the first episode for an early review. Be sure to let us know if you agree with our verdict in the comments below.

What's new on The Grand Tour?

Lots. And nothing. The Amazon Prime investment has brought indulgent production values: there are drones aplenty, amazing cinematography throughout and more helicopters than you'll find at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Seriously, the Grand Tour is beautifully shot.

The Grand Tour studio

These guys know how to make heroes out of the world's most desirable cars - and they don't come much more desirable than the holy trinity of the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari ('the Ferrari the Ferrari'; old jokes are still present).

And yet it's really just an extension of the trio's Top Gear years. There's a studio audience (above). A tame racing driver (on loan from Nascar). A news section spent kicking about the latest motoring memes (more Prius-bashing). The same blokey banter that's made the three household names across the world.

More of the same...

There's little surprise and delight, despite the now-global stage (TGT tours the world with a different location each week). It feels like Top Gear series 22.5, had they stuck around at the Beeb - albeit with a shot of extra adrenaline and polish.

Perhaps that's what the world wants. Had director Andy Wilman and Clarkson gone and reinvented the show too radically, surely viewers would have switched off?

Jeremy Clarkson and the Porsche 918

The register has moved little from the Top Gear years: it's smart motoring debate about the hottest cars (Mustangs, the hybrid supercar trinity, BMW M2), served with a veneer of boyish humour. They cleverly straddle the line between talking to enthusiasts - and being approachably lifestyle, so anyone can join in.

And it is funny, with wonderfully dead-pan delivery and mostly well judged humour - best appreciated when taking the mickey out of Ferrari and other car manufacturers.

Not all of the jokes work: the scene with Carol Vorderman dying on set is weak and some of the sweariness may deter family viewing.

Is it any good?

The whole reason Amazon has spent a reputed £160 million for three series of The Grand Tour is the chemistry that exists between the threesome. It's money-can't-buy fizz - the magic that the BBC and Chris Evans realised couldn't be recreated at the drop of a hat, once Clarkson quit after punching a producer.

A flyby for the series opener

Clarkson, Hammond and May still have it. If you enjoyed the stellar Top Gear TV years, you'll love The Grand Tour too. They cover some amazing cars. The global stage gives it a fresh impetus. But it's telling that they're no longer first with the big stories, such as the hypercar trio. 

The real acid test for the series is whether enough people will sign up to Amazon Prime for £79 a year. That's a big commitment.

Verdict

That's our biggest beef with the show: regardless of how good it is, the subscription audience will surely be smaller. Just like when Test cricket switched from free-to-air terrestrial TV to Sky, The Grand Tour will feature in fewer water-cooler chats in offices up and down the country.

And that'll mean car enthusiasts may have to work that little bit harder to justify their passion in a changing world.

Click here for a recap on how Top Gear unravelled after Clarkson punched a producer

The Grand Tour

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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