Top Gear Series 17

Top Gear: Series 17, Episode 1

  • Jeremy celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type.
  • Richard tests the Marauder in South Africa, an alternative to the Humvee.
  • James races an Olympic gold medalist in a Mini rally car.
  • Jeremy looks at the new BMW 1 Series M Coupe.
  • Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Alice Cooper.

Episode Guide

Watch this episode on Amazon Instant Video

The first episode of Top Gear Series 17 begins with Richard Hammond in South Africa, looking at a car which makes the Hummer look like a small hatchback – the Marauder armored car. The Marauder is built in South Africa and is 21 feet long, 9 feet high and weighs in at 10 tonnes – meaning it stands out just a little bit in traffic. Richard drives around the city and describes the feeling as “..weird – because I’m both worried about bumping into things because it’s big, and not worried about bumping into things because frankly who cares”. The Marauder is a military spec vehicle which normal civilians can buy, provided you pass a background check to make sure you aren’t associated with any terrorist organisations – and can come up with a cheque for £300,000.The Marauder is quite capable off road, climbing steep hills and controlling its weight with ease. The Marauder may only have 290bhp and a top speed of 70mph, but he sheer weight of the car means that very little can stop it – metal fences, brick walls and even a police tow truck aren’t enough. The rolling diameter of the tyres is also very big, meaning it can easily drive directly over normal family sedans, crushing them flat. Richard reeks havoc around Johannesburg a while longer before taking the Marauder to an open field for a test – how would it stack up against a Hummer, if both cars had a 7 pound plastic explosive charge detonated under them? The Hummer went first – and was blown into thousands of unrecognisable parts. The Marauder went next and sustained very little damage – the car was so solid in fact, that the explosion was directed downwards and blew the ground away. Richard demonstrates the strength of the car by jumping in and driving the car away.

Back in the studio, Jeremy points out that the Marauder’s rear tyre had deflated after being blown off the rim – suggesting that “a car with the tyre blown off is about as useful as a car which has been blown to smithereens”. In the news James introduces the hideous Mini Coupe and Jeremy shows us a pregnancy scan that a viewer sent in, showing what appears to be a baby Stig within her. Jeremy announces the MG 6, before talking about a website where you can look up just how many cars of a given make and model are actually left in existence.

Moving on, Jeremy talks about a recent poll – to find out which was the most important car of the 20th Century. Jeremy voted for the original Golf GTI, because it was fast, practical, and classless. In his opinion, no other cars since then have been able to capture the magic of the original – until now. The BMW 1-Series M. Jeremy takes it out on the track and explains what it’s got, “There’s a straight six engine at the front, a manual gearbox in the middle, and drive goes to the back. That’s page one, chapter one, from the Petrosexual handbook”. He calls the car “beautifully balanced” and says that it feels better than pretty much any other car – which is surprising for the following reasons. He continues, “It’s made from left overs. The door mirrors are from the current M3, the rear axel is from the old one. The engine is from a Z4 – it’s a recipe that shouldn’t work, but it does”. Jeremy demonstrates this by putting the 1M up against the new Porsche Cayman R and the supercharged Lotus Evora S in a drag race. The 1M produces 340bhp and easily wins the race – and it wins on practicality as well – it has four seats and a big boot. The same can’t be said for both of the other cars. Jeremy sums up, “This then does to today’s sports cars, what the original Golf GTI did to the MG and the Triumph Spitfire – it renders them pointless. Drawbacks? Maybe the satnav screen is a bit far away, and perhaps the ride is a tad firm. But that said, it isn’t as uncomfortable as my AMG Mercedes… actually falling down a flight of stairs isn’t as uncomfortable as my Mercedes. Sustained machine gun fire would be better than popping to the shops in that.” Back in the studio, we watch the Stig do a lap in the 1M – it does a 1:25 – faster than the BMW M3.

Next, Jeremy introduces Alice Cooper as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Alice does a 1:56.30 on a soaking wet track.

In the next segment, James has gone to Norway to drive a rally version of the original Mini Cooper S. The Mini is the most iconic rally car of all time, winning the Monte Carlo rally in 1964, 1965 & 1967. What the Mini lacked in outright power, it made up for with fantastic go-kart style handling. Modern Rallying needs a Mini – and now it has one. The new WRC Mini is based on the Mini Countryman – and as such there isn’t anything “mini” about it – James jumps in goes for a spin. The original Mini had just 70bhp, while the new one has 300bhp – managing 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds, thanks to a rapid shifting sequential gearbox. To test out the new Mini Rally car, James has devised a race – in fact the very similar race as in Series 7, Episode 7 – a race against skeleton bobsled gold medallist Amy Williams. The car and the bobsled would both race down the mountain, each on their own 2-kilometer track which finish together at the bottom. Last time, a bobsled team featuring Richard Hammond won the race against a Mitsubishi Evo rally car. This time however, the Mini Rally car wins with a time of 59.73 – 1.31 seconds faster than Amy.

In the final segment, Jeremy is in Chilham, Kent – a quaint British village thanks to all the planning laws and regulation restricting people from building modern style houses. But Jeremy argues, that parking a hideous car in front of a house completely ruins it. If Jeremy had his way, only one car would be allowed in a village as lovely as this – the Jaguar E-Type – which celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Enzo Ferrari once described the E-Type as the prettiest car ever made – an amazing fact when you consider the shape was formed in a wind tunnel at night – because it used so much electricity and could only be operated when the rest of the country was asleep. Jeremy goes out for a drive in a convertible E-Type and falls in love with the looks, the power and the speed. Back in the day, the E-Type was also incredibly good value for money. An equivalent Ferrari or Maserati was around £6000. The Jaguar cost just £2098 – and to top it off, it was faster. Jeremy continues, “No car before ever caused such a stir, and no car has since really”. Until now..

Jeremy admires the new Eagle Speedster – a car made by a small engineering company in Sussex. It looks like an E-Type and is even based on one, but there have been some changes. The body is aluminium, the windscreen is more upright, and just about everything else is new. Jeremy looks at it – “If someone had come to me, asking for planning permission to alter an E-Type Jaguar, I would have said no don’t be stupid you’ll mess it up. But.. they haven’t. I think this, by a long way, is the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen. It might actually be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”.

The Eagle Speedster has a 4.7L straight six, which sends its power to the rear wheels via a 5-speed gearbox and an aluminium differential. It has a better power to weight ratio than a Porsche 911 Turbo and can do 0-60mph in 5 seconds – before topping out at 160mph. Jeremy falls in love with the car – calling it absolute perfection. But it comes at a price – the price in fact. £500,000. Jeremy continues, “That’s a lot for a toy – a car which doesn’t even have a roof. But this is more than a toy. It’s a modern take on the E-Type Jag. And the E-Type, with a possible exception of Concord, is almost certainly the last truly great thing Britain made.”

Jeremy feels more should be done to celebrate it, and organises a celebration featuring a marching band, a fleet of E-Types arranged in a giant ‘E’, flying jets and a massive British flag draped over the edge of the White cliffs of Dover.

Some say…

“Some say he doesn’t know what dogs are for, and that he recently took out a super-injunction to prevent us from revealing that he …….. …………… … …….. ….. …….. ……. with an enormous goat. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”

Stig Power Laps

BMW 1 Series M Coupe
1:25.00 (damp)

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car

Alice Cooper
1:56.30 (wet)


Rating: 8.7/10. From 71 votes.
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