- Jeremy takes the BMW M3 and the new Lexus ISF out onto the track.
- Richard finds out which bus would be best for London’s busy streets.
- The Cool Wall makes its first appearance for the season.
- Richard and James race a Ferrari Daytona against an XSR 48 speed boat.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Kevin McCloud.
The show opens with Jeremy talking about a strange trend, he says in 2007 you couldn’t buy a BMW unless you were a cock. He continues, “But all of a sudden, people with huge watches and stupid Oakley sunglasses, people who tailgate you on motorways, suddenly started to buy Audi’s instead.” What it means is that normal people can now go out and buy the best sports saloon of them all – the BMW M3. Out on the track, he mentions that the public haven’t really taken a liking the new M3’s styling. Jeremy however quite likes it, and reminds us that the 2 door coupe version of the M3 was faster on the track than its rivals from Audi and Mercedes. Jeremy is however driving the new 4 door saloon version and questions whether it’s as good as the 2 door. The new saloon will set you back £49,000, and that’s actually £1,400 cheaper than the coupe, despite having the extra 2 doors and more room in the back.
“But now, there’s a new kid on the block”, the Lexus ISF. Jeremy describes, “Driving a Lexus has always been like sitting in a bucket of warm wallpaper paste, reading a Jane Austen novel”. With the ISF, Lexus have claimed that they have built an M3 killer. With a 5.0L V8 that produces similar power figures to the M3, the ISF does have more torque, and is possibly only let down by the extra 100kg it carries around. Jeremy puts the M3 up against the ISF in a quarter mile drag race to determine which is the fastest. The M3 crosses the line first, but any longer and the ISF would clearly have won due to the M3’s top speed being limited to 155mph. The ISF will continue on to a top speed of 168mph.
Jeremy then takes to the corners with the ISF and tails the M3, which is being driven by Touring Car driver Tom Chilton. Jeremy calls the ISF “completely out of character for a Lexus, it’s like Mr Darcy coming out of the lake and then machine gunning a fluffy kitten for fun”. Jeremy notices that the Lexus is fairly good on the brakes, but it understeers a little too much in the corners, then the weight causes it to oversteer coming out of the corner. All of this allows the M3 to gain 100 yards or so on the ISF coming out of the corners, though the ISF has no troubles catching it on the straight. You do have to work a lot harder in the ISF to keep up though, with Jeremy saying that the M3 was more composed on the track. As for the price, the Lexus is £1,000 more expensive than the BMW, but it does have more goodies as standard. Jeremy comes to the conclusion that it simply isn’t an alternative to the BMW though. For a start, the ISF has 8 gears, which is far too many as it can never seem to make up its mind which gear it wants to be in, the styling is a bit of a mess and the exhaust tips are fakes. Jeremy lists the worst thing about the Lexus to be the ride comfort, saying that it’s far too hard for a saloon. Jeremy sides with the BMW, concluding “In the past you had to be a cock to buy one, now though, you’re a cock if you don’t”. The ISF is handed to The Stig for a power lap time of 1:26.90. The M3 was also put around the track and got a time of 1:25.30.
Onto the news and Richard starts with Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury car division – which is much the same as what Lexus is to Toyota. Infiniti has produced a new convertible that Richard thinks is styled much like the hideous looking Lexus SC430, this throws the boys off topic a bit in an amusing way. Jeremy moves on saying that Porsche have not re-styled the 911 because they want to keep “the sense of purity and tradition”. Jeremy thinks it’s a load of rubbish, believing that they can’t re-style the 911 because they don’t know how to re-style anything, showing an example of the new Porsche Panamera. Richard draws our attention to the similarity between the Panamera and the Austin Maxi. Jeremy moves on again with another one of his “I went on the Internet this week…” and then gives us some pearls of wisdom and shares his idea of how to simplify, ‘how not to crash’, demonstrating with some toy cars with magnets attached to the front and rear. Richard and James are quick to jump in to burst his bubble.
Jeremy and Richard move on to explain that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had been reviewing what sort of buses were to be used around the city. Seeing as he had been taking a lot of time to actually do this, the Top Gear team decided that they would lend a hand, whether the Mayor wanted it or not. Richard tells us how normally a committee would be formed and produce a very lengthy report on this sort of thing. But because that would take too long, they’ve decided that they could find the best bus for the job using the same method they always do… motorsport. The venue would be Lidden Hills Circuit in Kent, used mostly for Rallycross events, the course offers a variety of corners and a mix of both tarmac and gravel surfaces. The buses are introduced one by one, first up, representing the double deckers is a 1987 Leyland Olympian being driven by Tom Chilton. The single-decker will be represented by a 1993 Dennis Dart driven by Anthony Reid. To represent the bendy buses and cause chaos, two Mercedes 0305 G’s, driven by Richard Hammond and Gordon Sheddon were added to the mix, and last, but not least, representing the small compact hopper buses, a 1997 Metro Rhino, driven by Matt Neal.
The race starts and Richard quickly points out that the bendy buses are in fact slightly different, in that the bus Gordon Sheddon is driving is mid engined and that Hammond’s engine is mounted in the rear. After only half a lap, it got ugly, and the race quickly degenerated into a demolition derby of sorts. The race remained close and towards the end, the compact bus was sandwiched, forcing it to drop back further in the field. Hammond was also targeted and suffered a blown tire which decreased his speed dramatically. The final lap was neck and neck for the lead between the single-decker and the double-decker. Tom Chilton in the double-decker made a fatal mistake and cut the last corner which resulted in his bus being over turned, allowing Anthony Reid to cruise over the finish line in his 1993 Dennis Dart.
Jeremy introduces Kevin McCloud as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Kevin gets an impressive time of 1:45.90, falling only four hundredths of a second short of Jay Kay’s leading time.
Richard and Jeremy take us back to the Cool Wall for the first time in Season 12. Richard starts with the Nissan GTR and thinks its cool because it is faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo around the Nürburgring and only half the price. Clarkson disagrees and provides us with an interesting analogy, “When you’re a kid, you want to impress girls, you learn the guitar, the big axe thing, not a Casio keyboard”. Hammond tries to defend it once more but Jeremy simply points out that it’s still a Nissan. The GTR gets placed in the Uncool section. Jeremy moves on the Volkswagen Sirocco and claims that paying £100 more than a Golf GTi for less practicality is a good thing and then asks the audience “Who here married their Wife because she was easy to wipe down?”. Richard becomes confused, but Jeremy thinks it may even be worth putting in the Sub-Zero section and asks the audience once again for a show of hands. The obvious majority thinks that it belongs in the Cool section, but of course, Jeremy says they are all wrong and puts it in the Sub-Zero section. Richard then moves on to the Alfa Romeo Mito, Jeremy asks if anyone in attendance has an Alfa and finds himself talking to a lady with an interesting accent. Jeremy is quick to fire off one of his ‘not so flattering’ compliments after the lady states that she is indeed American, “You can’t be, you’re nowhere near fat enough”. After losing track for a bit, they return to the Mito and place it in the Cool section. Jeremy then shows the Morgan Aeromax, a car which Richard owns and is very fond of. The rules however do state that any car that is owned by a Top Gear presenter belongs in the Seriously Un-Cool section, and as such, the Morgan Aeromax is placed there. Jeremy has one more car which he thinks would be cooler than the Jaguar XKR, the Volvo V70 Estate. He backs his claim by saying “you go to a dinner party and you sit down next to someone and you go – are you interested in cars? – you can see them moving away”. “You can drive this, great car, but you can pretend you’re not interested in cars”. Richard disagrees, saying “It’s driven by men with beige trousers who have a problem stopping when they’re finished weeing”. Jeremy and Richard argue back and forth a bit more until Jeremy places it in the Sub-Zero section.
Further to the Morgan Aeromax, in Richard Hammond’s book, ‘On The Edge: My Story’, Richard’s Wife, Mindy, writes that Richard awoke from his coma and began asking her where ‘the Morgan’ was, checking to make sure it was all okay before slipping back in to the coma. The book is a great read and I urge any fan of Top Gear to buy the book or at least loan it from your local public library.
To celebrate the 40th Birthday of the Ferrari Daytona, Richard heads to Portofino in Italy to take one for a drive in its native environment, the Italian Riviera. Richard’s drive will take him from Portofino, along the coast to Saint-Tropez and despite its age, Hammond still thinks that the Ferrari Daytona is the perfect machine for the job, and rightly so, who wouldn’t want to drive a car with a 4.4l V12? James, on the other hand, thinks that a boat would be a better way of getting from Portofino to Saint-Tropez and introduces the XSR 48, the world’s fastest diesel production boat. The two decide to have themselves a little race, but before setting off, James can’t help himself and boasts that Richard’s Daytona, worth £200,000, is nothing compared to his £1,250,000 XSR.
The race starts at a very slow pace, with James limited to a speed of 3 knots (3mph), and Richard unable to use second gear, having to go straight from first to third gear to avoid damaging the gearbox before it reaches operating temperature. James takes the opportunity to explain that his route was 40 miles less than the 215 mile route Hammond had chosen, though Hammond was confident that he would maintain a higher average speed. He also explained that because the XSR is a fair bit of kit, it was required that he have an experienced co-pilot to control the throttle and trim. Steering and navigation would all be up to James, neither of which are his strong points.
Richard gives us a little more information on the Daytona, saying that back in 1968 when it was first released, it was selling for £10,000, making it the most expensive Ferrari at the time. However, only a year prior to its release, Lamborghini had just started selling the Miura, which was mid-engined and equally as stylish as any Ferrari on the market. As a result, the Daytona was labelled a “dinosaur” for having the engine in the front. The Daytona did have a major advantage over the Miura though, in that with the engine sitting at the front, the weight gave it more stability at top speed, 174mph in fact, where as the Miura couldn’t get close because the front of the car would become very light and unstable at high speed.
The speed of both Richard and James eventually increased, though James was quick to run into rougher seas and the ride was beginning to be very uncomfortable despite the suspension equipped seats. After a few too many hard knocks, the cabin camera inside the XSR gives way and loses some of its colour. James too was hurt and was in a bit of pain as the co-pilot reduced the speed back to 25 knots, allowing Richard to get a decent lead. Further along in the race, Richard and the camera crew got pulled over by the police. The police weren’t convinced that Top Gear actually had rightful possession of the Ferrari and Hammond was unable to produce the correct papers, nor was he able to ‘sort out’ the situation like he thought he could, instead being told to follow them to the nearest police station. Unfortunately for James, he too was soon halted by the local authorities and asked to produce documents.
Both Richard and James were eventually given the all clear and the race resumed. James was released sooner than Hammond and managed to close the gap caused by the rough seas earlier. Richard was the first to arrive in Saint-Tropez, though the traffic held him up for too long and James grabbed the win. Richard arrived at the chosen finish line moments later, but was still convinced that the Daytona was the perfect machine for the job. James had no argument against that and pleaded for Hammond to let him drive the Ferrari back.
“Some say that one of his eyes is a testie, and that he was turned down for ‘I’m a Celebrity’ because people have heard of him. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”
Stig Power Laps
BMW M3 Saloon
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car