- Jeremy power tests the McLaren MP4-12C and Ferrari 458.
- James goes to Nevada to test the Range Rover Evoque.
- Jeremy and Richard find second hand car bargains for the price of a new Nissan Pixo.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Sebastian Vettel.
The episode begins with Jeremy looking at the all new, all British McLaren MP4-12C, out on the Top Gear Test Track. Inevitably, the MP4-12C will be compared to the Ferrari 458 Italia – which most people will agree is the supercar of the moment. “McLaren themselves admit that the 458 is a great car. But they say that scientifically and mathematically, they can prove that in every single measurable way, their new car is better”. says Jeremy as he goes for a drive.
At £168,000, the McLaren is less expensive than the Ferrari – it is also a little bit kinder to the environment, a little bit lighter, a tiny bit more economical – but it’s also a lot more powerful. The McLaren built twin-turbo 3.8L V8 engine churns out 592bhp, compared to the Ferrari’s 562bhp. It will also get from 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds and go on to a top speed of 205mph – the Ferrari is close in both regards, but none the less slower. In the bends, the McLaren feels more stable and will stick to the road when going around a corner at such a speed that would cause the Ferrari’s rear end to step out – Jeremy says “This car grips on to the road, like a terrified toddler grips onto it’s mother’s hand”. One of the reasons the MP4 is so fast, is due to the traction control system – which lets you throw the car around, even in the wet, without letting you kill yourself. The MP4 also has an air brake which pops up under hard braking, and the anti-roll bars in the suspension have been replaced with computer controlled struts, the enable all four wheels to be truly independent from each other – making for better cornering and a better ride. Along with the comfortable ride, Jeremy praises the simple elegance of the interior. In every way scientific way then, the MP4 is better than a 458 – but Jeremy feels that there is something missing – it has no “zing”. In part, this is due to the focused nature of the McLaren factory – it is like a science lab – serious, quiet and ordered. Jeremy continues, “You sense this lack of joy, when you’re behind the wheel”, likening it to operating a high tech surgical tool. He then sums the car up – “The McLaren then, is like a pair of tights – very practical and very sensible. The Ferrari though, that is a pair of stockings”. Back in the studio, we watch the Stig take the MP4 for a lap – it returns a staggering 1:16.20. James puts this down to the fact that it was developed at the Top Gear Test Track, and not the Nurburgring.
In the news, Richard introduces “The Brutus” – a car made in the 20’s and features a 46L V12 engine. Jeremy mentions an E-Type birthday celebration at Silverstone the following weekend, before introducing the new BMW M5. Jeremy then shows us an epically long 1 metre long bird poo running down the back of his Range Rover.
In the next segment, James goes to the USA to drive the new Range Rover Evoque – a car which doesn’t look tough or off-roadish at all. A bit of a worry really, when one of the consultants in the design process was Victoria Beckham. To see whether or not the Evoque has lost any of the famous Range Rover off road ability, James will drive it to Las Vegas – starting in the middle of Death Valley. James sets off and drives 150miles to reach the edge of Death Valley – telling us how the Evoque doesn’t have the usual Range Rover V8 – instead it has a 4-cylinder turbo-diesel with 187bhp. The chassis is also related to the old Land Rover Freelander. James praises the ride quality, as it soaks up the washboard style corrugated surface of the dirt track. James begins to climb through the mountain range, which initially is not very challenging – but that soon changes. As the going got tougher, James tests out the ‘terrain response’ setting, which will find the wheel with the most traction, and send the power there. The Evoque also has 5 cameras mounted on the exterior of the car, to help you see obstacles, such as large rocks, and avoid them. Eventually, James bites off more than he can chew – reaching a steep rocky point in the track, where he can not continue. He back tracks and finds a route around the mountains – doing 70mph across the desert, before reaching some giant sand dunes. James switches the car to sand mode, and continues on. The Evoque will hold lower gears to keep the engine revs up and enable the car to keep powering on along the soft surfaces. After getting lost briefly, some friendly dune buggy drivers guide him in the right direction and he is soon on his way. James eventually reaches a sealed road, and heads towards Vegas – where he is due to pick up Cher and chauffeur her for the night. On the way, James gives us his verdict on the Evoque – “Things I like – I think it looks excellent. It’s particularly good off road as it turns out, it has a nice tasteful interior and the ride is excellent. Things I don’t like – it’s not that spacious in the back, there are a few too many buttons on the steering wheel and the door mirrors are too big”. James manages to pick up Cher on time – but it wasn’t the real Cher – rather performer cross dressing as her.
Back in the studio, Jeremy introduces F1 star Sebastian Vettel as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Sebastian goes for a lap in the Suzuki Liana and posts a new best time for the F1 driver’s board – 1:44.00.
Next, Jeremy looks at the new Nissan Pixo – the cheapest new car on sale in the UK – at just £6,995. Sounds fantastic – but can you do better, by buying a second hand car for the same money? The Pixo is built in India, and has a 1 litre 3-cylinder engine – which is very slow. Jeremy thinks it doesn’t look very nice, isn’t very spacious and lacking in equipment. So what else could you buy for the same money? Richard shows us a beautiful 23 year old Bentley Turbo R which he found advertised for £6,995. He is amazed with the sheer value for money in the car – it has a massive list of features – and back in 1988 it cost someone £79,000. The downside however, is the Bentley may prove to be unreliable, and you will be stung later in high servicing and repair costs. But there are many alternative cars available for the same money. Jeremy and Richard look at a selection of cars for under £6,995 – including a Honda S2000, Mazda RX8, Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Evo and even an old Porsche Boxter. Richard and Jeremy take the Porsche for a spin, but feel that the car is more suited to footballers. They then have an idea for a challenge – which one of them could buy the most amazing car for the price of a Nissan Pixo?
Jeremy chooses a 1999 Mercedes CL600 – the top of the range V12 model with all the options. Richard buys a 1994 BMW 850ci – which is also a V12 engined car… with pop up headlamps. To see who bought the best car, naturally there is a selection of challenges. In the first challenge, Jeremy’s Mercedes wins a drag race hands down. After the race, Jeremy and Richard both pull over and discuss the race on their in-car phones. To see why Richard’s car lost so badly – they each strap their car to a dyno testing machine to measure the actual bhp of each car. Richard’s BMW had 296bhp when it was brand new – it now has 269bhp. Jeremy’s Mercedes once had 362bhp – now 352bhp. In the next test, each car is subjected to a full forensic test, thanks once again to Manlove Forensics. Richard’s BMW had traces of saliva on the car phone, rolled nasal mucus in the carpets and a general odour of urine. The Mercedes had traces of white powder (cocaine suggested) and herbal material that had been cut of chopped. The front passenger seat also had a rhinestone diamond and traces of vaginal fluid. Next, they take the cars on to the road to see how they drive. Richard thinks his BMW drives fantastically, while Jeremy tests all the features of his car and finds out that they all still work – except for the linguatronic system. Soon, they pull over in the town of Market Harborough and ask members of the public how much they think each car is worth – the general opinion being around £20,000.
Jeremy sums up, “It’s as we thought – people think these cars are worth far more than we actually paid. So what we have here are two V12 super coupe’s blasting through the heart of England, silently, quickly, comfortably and cheaply.” Richard continues, “If the Nissan’s done one thing for us, its let us know that these cars are out there, for that kind of money. It’s a complete no brainer.”
Back in the studio, James calls both of them idiots – suggesting that it will cost a lot of money run and maintain both of the cars, compared to the Pixo. To prove their point, Richard and James bought both of the cars and will run them for a while, before reporting back later to say if anything went wrong. James bets all of his hair, that within 2 weeks one of them “will go bang”.
“Some say that he refuses to acknowledge the existance of Nottingham shire, and that he recently received a very strong email from his finance’s mother, saying its bad manners to sit at the dinner table in a helmet. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”
Stig Power Laps
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car