- Jeremy goes Pheasant hunting in the new Range Rover.
- The Top Gear Awards for 2002 are presented.
- The AS One and MTM Bimoto challenge the Radical for the fastest lap of the track.
- Jeremy continues his quest to find Britain’s Fastest Faith.
- Jason Dawe presents Insider Dealing.
- Jeremy reviews the Lotus Esprit.
- Richard drives the TVR T350C.
Jeremy opens this rather festive edition of Top Gear by flaunting a new Christmas tree, plus a bunch of oranges and nuts. A lone bauble falls of the tree and rolls across the studio, summing up a frankly dismal attempt at Christmas cheer – so he decides to move on to 4×4’s. Cars which are predominantly bought by people who live in town, so when they go to the countryside they’ll blend in – Jeremy therefore decides to go Pheasant shooting with the locals. He introduces his own personal Toyota Landcruiser Amazon. In the brown and gnarled surroundings with old muddy Land Rovers and the like, the Landcruiser simply doesn’t blend in at all. The BMW X5 is hopeless here too, but for a very different reason. While the Landcruiser is perfectly capable off road, the X5 fitted with road tyres struggles to get up a grassy hill in the wet. On the other hand, the styling of the Jeep Grand Cherokee blends into the surroundings and is fairly competent off road, however it has a dodgy interior and Jeremy hates the way that it always feels “second best”. Clearly then, the new Range Rover is the one to go for. It may be £20,000 more than the Jeep, but it’s brilliant off road and has advanced features such as hill decent mode – where the car will maintain walking pace down a hill without the driver’s foot being on the brake. Jeremy continues though, “Now there was a time when Range Rovers were king off the road, and they still have an air of invincibility about them – but believe me, you can still get these things stuck… really stuck”. On a muddy track with a slight slope running across it, the Range Rover became bogged – along with Jeremy’s Landcruiser which he had fetched to try pull it out. Although it became bogged, Jeremy concludes the Range Rover is the best choice for those wanting a capable off road car for weekend outings. Back in the studio, the topic of Land Rover’s reliability and build quality is mentioned. Despite this, Land Rover maintains this new model is built properly, and agreed to lend one to Jeremy for 6 months. It was agreed that if anything were to go wrong with the car, or otherwise not function as it was meant to, he could murder the managing director’s dog.
Jason Dawe introduces the first “Top Gear Awards” for 2002, by announcing Car of the Year – The Range Rover beats the Mazda 6, Mini Cooper S and the Audi RS6 to take out the top award. “The year’s most pointless car” goes to the Ford Fusion, while the “Weirdest Renault” award goes to the Nissan Micra – in “True, mad Renault Style”. The “Surely you don’t need the money” award went to Eddie Irvine for endorsing a high-pressure washer, available from Woolworths for £79.99. The Radical SR3 was due to take out the award of “Fastest car around the Top Gear test track” award, however some Germans contacted Top Gear saying they had 2 cars which they thought would beat the Radical around the track.
The first car is called the AS One – a 600kg car powered by the same Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine that we saw in the Radical and the Westfield previously. The second is the MTM Bimoto – which is an Audi TT that is powered by two 400hp, 1.8L turbocharged engines. The engine in the front drives the front wheels, and the engine in the back drives the rear wheels – effectively giving you an 800hp four-wheel drive car. Both cars failed to beat the Radical’s lap record of 1:19 – the twin engined Audi TT returned a 1:28, while the AS One managed an even slower 1:29.
Jeremy returns to the subject of finding Britain’s Fastest Faith – in the previous segment the Church of England won, however no Muslim took part because the filming took place during Ramadan. With that all over, a Muslim is now present to take part – along with a Druid, a Rastafarian and a Seventh Day Adventist. The 340bhp Subaru Impreza rally car returns for the event, with Tarik the Muslim up first. He manages a clean first half of the lap – before spinning off at the follow through. Arthur the Druid is up next, managing a tidy but fairly restrained lap. Amazingly, Gary the Seventh Day Adventist failed to fit into the driver’s seat of the car properly, which prevented him from driving. Levi the Rasta was up finally and lapped an amazing 1:31 – winning the event and beating the Church of England from the previous episode. Even more amazingly, Levi was only less than 2 seconds slower than what the Stig could manage using the same car.
Jason Dawe returns with Insider Dealing to track down some bargain used cars. Jason looks at great deals that were available at the time on a Citroen AX and the Nissan Primera. Jason also talks to a man called Martin Gurden, who drives a Nissan 300C which cost him £100. Jason also shows us a Vauxhall Astra CDI which can be bought for £450, essentially saying they are “throw away cars” and offer bargain basement motoring.
Jeremy moves on to the Mick Jagger of supercars, the Lotus Esprit. The Esprit has been around since 1976 and despite this, is still in production today. At a very 1970s-ish £50,000 it’s almost half as much as a Ferrari 360 – however it has been able to keep up with the times by constantly reinventing itself. The Esprit started out as a 2.2L 4cyl, but now runs a 3.5L twin turbocharged V8 which can do 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and tops out at 175mph. Jeremy describes the Esprit as “Beautifully balanced” however no amount of redesigning can hide the 1970’s style and proportions inside the cabin – a distinct lack of space is evident. The gearbox is also notchy and hopeless, however it does not ruin the appeal of the car. Back in the studio, Richard and Jeremy discuss the problems of the gearbox – which is sourced from a Renault 25. The Stig takes the Esprit onto the track and laps a 1:32.
In the news, the new Porsche Carrera GT, Dodge Viper and Bugatti Veyron are all announced. The McLaren Mercedes SLR, Koenigsegg CC and Ascari KZ1 are also shown. At the more affordable end of the scale, the Chrysler Crossfire and Mazda RX8 will soon be available to those watching their money, while the not-very-sensible Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Phaeton are also announced. Those looking for something more restrained may be interested in the Vauxhall Signum.
Richard moves on to the new TVR T350C, which looks like almost every other TVR. The proven Speed6 engine is good for 350bhp and 0-60mph in 4.4seconds. The setup of the car is where things get tricky though – a smooth surface such as the Top Gear test track requires a very different setup to regular bumpy roads that you find all over Britain. The Stig helps the TVR mechanics to set up the car perfectly for the track, however it all turned into a nightmare for Richard when he went to drive the car home. The car rode very firmly and the steering jerked side to side as the car hit bumps, steering wherever the road wanted to take it. The car is taken back to the garage to have the settings softened up a bit, which results in a one second slower 1:29 lap time, however it made the car far more drivable on the road.
Jeremy does not have any Star in a Reasonably Priced Car to introduce for this episode, so the final minutes are spent reliving the highs and lows from all the guests of the first series. Afterwards, Jay Kay is brought back into the studio and presented with an award for the fastest celebrity of the series.
…and so ends Season 1.
Stig Power Laps
Audi TT MTM Bimoto