- Richard compares the Vauxhall Astra, Mazda 3 & Volkswagen Golf.
- Jeremy power tests the MG ZT 260.
- Richard gets struck by lightning in a Volkswagen Golf.
- The boys test the BMW 645Ci, Porsche 911 Carrera 2 & Jaguar XK-R at Pendine Sands.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Johnny Vaughan, Denise Van Outen.
Review: Richard Hammond compares the Vauxhall Astra, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Golf. Hammond notes that the (previously disinteresting) Astra comes with a surprising number of standard features usually available only on more expensive vehicles, but still only manages to be “not bad” (as opposed to actually “good”), and a “pleasant all-rounder for pleasant people.” The Mazda 3 offers a lot of kit and practicality for the money, but is the worst to drive and feels cheap all over. Hammond recommends the new Golf for its build quality and image. It’s also “the car people buy with their own money,” meaning that it will be more desirable both when new, and when it’s time to sell on. But both Hammond and Clarkson would rather have an old Ford Focus than any of these new cars, simply because it’s so good to drive – and because the “new” Focus shares a platform with the uninspiring Mazda.
News: Petrol passes the £1 per litre milestone. James talks about the new Jaguar S type Diesel that does 40 mpg. The Koenigsegg CCX is discussed. In Florida it’s now legal for motorcyclists to drive without a crash helmet, if they have $10,000 worth of health insurance. The ideas for Hammond trying to raise money for a Dodge Charger are said, Someone wants him to paint his mother’s fence and another wants him to be her “dungeon bitch”.
Review: Clarkson reviews the MG ZT 260, an uprated version of the MG saloon fitted with a 4.6 litre V8 engine from the Ford Mustang. The car required considerable re-engineering, including conversion to rear-wheel drive on a limited budget. The Stig takes the car around the test track to a time of 1:33.7.
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen, who manage to break the car. They score a lap time of 1:53.4, which Clarkson moves up slightly to 1:53.2 because there were two people in the car.
Challenge: Hammond demonstrated that it was safe to sit in a car struck by lightning, by sitting in Volkswagen Golf parked underneath a conductor in a huge Siemens electrical-systems testing “lightning generator”. He notes that whilst the rubber tyres are absolutely ineffective as insulators for preventing the multi-kilovolt arc reaching earth, any modern car is an efficient Faraday cage and can be used to safely shield occupants from external sources of electrical potential.
Cool Wall: Porsche Carrera GT is uncool because it’s vulgar. Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is cool, but Hammond moves it into uncool. The Ford Sport Ka is uncool. The BMW 6 Series is cool making it the first cool BMW.
Main review: Clarkson, May and Hammond tested the BMW 645Ci, Jaguar XK-R and Porsche 996 Carrera 2 on Pendine Sands in the rain, enjoying some spectacular but wild handling due to the low grip and high, RWD power. Clarkson made an allusion to the nature of each car, and also matched each presenter to their cars whilst waiting for Richard to tire of endlessly racing around the Welsh hills (“You’ve (May) got the Business jet (645i), I’ve got the Tornado (XK) – where’s Hammond with the Messerschmitt (996)?”).
Stig Power Laps
MG ZT 260
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car
Johnny Vaughan with Denise Van Outen