- James power tests the Ariel Atom V8.
- Jeremy tests the new Skoda Yeti.
- Richard looks at the history of the Porsche 911.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: John Bishop.
Tonight’s episode begins with Jeremy poking fun at the “Brilliant” BBC iPlayer – with a comical series of stutters and skips while he is talking. He then introduces James May who is out on the track looking at the new Ariel Atom V8. This new Atom is easy to spot – with it’s gold wheels, gold chassis, it’s F1 style engine cover and it’s 3.5L V8. James asks us a question “If you’ve got a big heavy car and you want it to go fast, you have to put a big powerful engine in it. If you’ve got a small light car and you want it to go fast, you don’t need to put such a big engine in it. So what happens if you take a very light car and put a very big engine in it?”
James takes the Atom V8 out onto the Top Gear Test Track and runs it down the main straight at speed, causing him to look “like a spaniel” as his face and hair get ripped apart by the wind. The old Ariel Atom was powered by a Honda Civic engine and had 275bhp. The new Atom V8 however, develops 500hp – and in a 550kg car it means it has over 900hp per ton. James continues, “In Top Gear maths, it’s twice as powerful as a Bugatti Veyron or a Ferrari Enzo!” The flappy paddle gearbox can shift gears within 0.004 seconds so that no drop in power is noticed, and also helps the Atom V8 get from 0-60mph in around 2.5 seconds. To gauge these figures, James organises a practical demonstration – a race against the £340,000 Lexus LFA and the £180,000 Lamborghini Gallardo – from 0 to 100mph and then back to 0. James pilots the Atom, which accelerates off the line leaving the others for dead. The Gallardo remains 2 or 3 car lengths behind by the time they reach 100mph, however the sheer stopping power of the Atom V8’s brakes means it comes to a complete stop well before the other two cars. The Lexus LFA was some 10 car lengths further down the track, and the Gallardo at least 10 more car lengths beyond that. While the Atom V8 offers astonishing performance, it comes at a price. The standard 275bhp Atom costs £30,000 – the new Atom V8 costs £150,000. This a lot of money, considering it lacks even basic equipment such as a glovebox, radio, spare wheel, cruise control or other typical items you’d expect to find in a car. James explains, “What you’re paying for is super geek levels of engineering. The bespoke engine and gearbox alone cost £50,000 – and then you’ve got the magnesium wheels and the on-board computers that set the car up for individual owners.” “In fact driving the V8 Atom is one of the great motoring experiences of my life, which is an excellent thought on which to end this film.”
But it isn’t the end. In the original Atom review, Jeremy raced it against a sports bike to see which is faster, and the producers have lined up the same challenge for James. Since the Atom is packing more power this time around, it has been put against a much faster bike – the BMW S1000RR. The world’s most powerful road bike. James sneakily swaps with Tiff Needell so he didn’t need to drive the Atom V8, and the race begins. The bike goes through the first corner in the lead, and remains there until the Atom overtakes it going down the back straight towards Hammerhead. The bike overtakes again going into the follow through, before the Atom takes it back going into the second to last corner. The Atom crosses the line first closely followed by the bike. Back in the studio, we watch the new Stig take the Atom V8 for a lap. The new Stig breaks the lap record with an astonishing 1:15.10.
Before the news, Richard looks at the Jaguar CX 75 concept car. In the news, Jeremy shows us the new Lancia Stratos. The Jensen Interceptor is also shown (available refurbished to as new condition new). James mentions a new Lamborghini which will soon replace the Gallardo, however no other details exist at the moment. Jeremy also shows us “The Dagger”, a car being developed with an ambitious list of goals – such as a 300mph top speed and 0-60mph time of 1.5 seconds. The boys discuss fuel prices and the fact that science has not come up with a viable replacement to “the car”.
In the next segment, Jeremy road tests the Skoda Yeti. A car which Jeremy says “does every single thing better than every other car on the market”. The Yeti is available in either 2 or 4 wheel drive guise, with a petrol or diesel engine and a long list of options. Jeremy is testing the 4-wheel drive 1.8L Eleganze which costs £22,000 – less expensive and a 1.7L Vauxhall Astra Estate, and not much more than a Ford Focus. The Yeti has a ton of head room and can seat 5 people – 1 more than a Mercedes Maybach can fit. Jeremy goes on, “The Yeti then is more practical than a Maybach, but is it faster than an Italian Super car?” To find out, Jeremy takes it to Donington Park and lines it up against a Ferrari 308 GTS for a one lap race of the circuit. The Ferrari takes an early lead and slowly pulls away from the Yeti. However, the circuit is currently under construction and several areas have tarmac missing. The Stig must slow down and go around these areas in the 308 GTS, while Jeremy in the Yeti can drive straight through at full speed. The Yeti is therefore faster than an Italian Super car.
In the next test, Jeremy attempts to prove the toughness of the Yeti’s interior by throwing a bouncy ball into the car and inviting a large excitable dog to run in and chase it. This test fails to work – leaving Jeremy to rethink the test. He invites the local fire department to put out a fire, but the Skoda is in the way. In order to get to the fire, the 3 firefighters must climb through the Yeti wearing all of their equipment and carrying their hoses. The Yeti passes the test, with not a single piece of trim broken or dislodged. The Yeti is also pretty smooth off-road, a point which Jeremy tests by having a man receive a flower tattoo in the back seat while he is driving around. They then re-run the test with a second tattoo done in a Range Rover. The tattoo done in the Yeti turns out miles better and with a lot less blood. Next up, Jeremy ponders a question which everyone is asking, “Can you get Sienna Miller in the glove box?” Jeremy finds out by opening the glovebox, where we see Sienna Miller’s head pop out – she claims to be very comfortable. In the final test, Jeremy tests the air-conditioning by driving through a burning barn while holding an ice cream. Despite the internal temperature of the barn being 900°C, the Yeti maintains an internal temperature of 18.7°C, with the dial set to 18°C. The ice-cream does not melt – fantastic result. After this test, Jeremy has a final thought – can you land a helicopter on it? Jeremy attaches a 100kg roof platform and drives along slowly while a helicopter pilot attempts to land a 600kg helicopter on it. The helicopter aborts the first run and comes around for a second attempt. After lining it up very carefully, he successfully lands and Jeremy gently slows the car down and comes to a stop. Jeremy hops out and sums up the review, “Ladies and Gentleman, I give you, the Skoda Yeti. With a helicopter on the roof.”
In the next segment, Jeremy introduces John Bishop as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. John breaks the lap record with an astonishing 1:42.80.
In the final segment, Richard looks at the history of the Porsche 911. Despite what most car enthusiasts think, Richard believes the Porsche 911 is the car which has changed the most over its long history. Richard explains, “If you spool back through the 911’s 70 year family tree, you do end up at the Beetle.” He continues, “I also admit that when it comes to looks, there hasn’t been much of a revolution. Very little has happened to the shape.. and of course the engine has remained stubbornly at the back. But to say the current 911 is therefore just a glorified Beetle, is nonsense.” Richard is driving the 911 Turbo S Cabriolet – which costs £131,000. But for that price it comes with almost every option you can get, such as 4-wheel drive, a 7-speed DSG gearbox, active engine mounts, ceramic brakes and a 3.8L flat six with twin variable-vane turbochargers – which equals a top speed of 196mph. To compare it to the Beetle, Richard gets them both together for a drag race. Predictably, the Porsche crosses the finish line before the Beetle has even reached 50mph.
However, the TopGear producers believe that with one simple tweak, the Beetle could be made to go just as fast as the 911. Richard is shipped out to a vast salt flat in South Africa, where another 911 and Beetle are waiting for him. It turns out, the producers were indeed talking about using the power of gravity to accelerate the Beetle. The 911 will race across the salt flat to the finish line, which is 1 mile away. Meanwhile, the Beetle will be dropped from a helicopter, exactly 1 mile above the finish line. Richard gets into the 911 and the flag drops. Richard struggles to build speed as the car slides around on the salt, meanwhile the the Beetle goes from 0-100mph in 7 seconds. The Beetle reaches 125mph and hits terminal velocity – giving Richard some hope that he can now go faster than it. Richard presses on and passes 140mph, but it is not enough. The Beetle hits the ground roughly 3 seconds before he crosses the finish line. On the plus side, the Beetle sustains massive damage and is almost unrecognisable.
Stig Power Laps
Ariel Atom V8
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car