The Grand Tour is back for Series 2 – and from the onset, it is clear that it has returned as a sharper, faster, more focused version of its former self. I’ll try to go easy on the spoilers here, but please proceed at your own risk if you haven’t watched this episode yet.
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are all back (barely), after each having spent time in hospital over the course of the year. Hammond broke his leg, Clarkson was struck down with pneumonia, and May… well, he is keeping his affliction secret for now – confirming only that it had absolutely nothing to do with his anus.
For The Grand Tour Series 2’s opening episode ‘Past, Present, or Future’, we join the boys on a road trip in Switzerland driving three unique supercars. Clarkson’s “old-school” Lamborghini Aventador S represents the petrol-burning past, May’s Honda NSX showcases what the performance hybrid technology of the present is capable of, and Hammond’s Rimac Concept One as the all-electric future.
The Grand Tour has always been at its best during films like these, and the same thing can be said here. When compared to the show’s first series, Clarkson, Hammond and May appear to have toned down their on-screen personas and the episode was all the better for it. Hammond isn’t looking for an argument all the time, and May is no longer playing the bumbling idiot that he so desperately isn’t. What you are left with is three mates on a road trip in three amazing cars – and I loved that.
After some light-hearted detours which revolved around Hammond’s need to find fast-charging stations for his Rimac, the boys lined all three vehicles up for a classic drag race. Hammond was already the winner on paper, with his 1,073 hp comprehensively beating Clarkson’s 690hp, and May’s 600hp – and the real-world result was pretty much the same.
“That Rimac just f*cks off,” Clarkson says, as Hammond shoots off down the runway ahead. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
I’ve never seen anything like this, either. Somehow, The Grand Tour’s film crew have managed to improve on perfection and have really kicked things up a notch here – creating what can only be described as an hour of motoring pornography. While I’m sure the stunning Swiss countryside helped, there’s simply nothing else on TV or online that comes close to how good this show looks. In 4K it is simply a sight to behold.
Back in the studio, we’re treated to our first look at the tent’s new permanent location in the Cotswolds – otherwise known as Jeremy Clarkson’s backyard. ‘Conversation Street’ has returned for Series 2, and everyone’s least favourite segment ‘Celebrity Brain Crash’ has been given the flick. In its place is a new segment called ‘Celebrity Face Off’, which involves two stars going head-to-head to see who can set the quickest time from behind the wheel of a Jaguar F-Type – but interestingly enough the action does not take place on the Eboladrome.
Instead, there’s a new half-tarmac, half-gravel track that is smaller, tighter, and slower as a result. I won’t spoil the outcome here, but chances are if you were never all that interested in Top Gear’s ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment, your opinion of ‘Celebrity Face Off’ will most likely be the same. How much you enjoy the segment really depends on the celebrities themselves.
But enough of all that. Following the studio segment, we rejoined the boys as they head towards the end of their Swiss road trip – and as Clarkson joked earlier in the episode “We all know how that ends.”
For your sake I’ll go easy on the spoilers here, but I will say one thing – I simply cannot remember a time where I felt so anxious to be watching an episode of The Grand Tour, or even Top Gear. My heart was truly in my mouth as I watched Hammond thundering up the hill in his Rimac, carrying the weight of Croatia’s pride on his shoulders. The end was every bit as shocking as you might have expected it to be, and thankfully Hammond is still with us to tell the tale.
Not that he got a chance to, really, as back in the studio May completely glossed over the crash and started to announce the times. I guess that’s fair enough, as Hammond did manage to set one just before he crashed!
Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening episode of The Grand Tour Series 2 and I think you will too. It came across as being a faster, lighter and more tightly focused version of its former self – perhaps a Grand Tour Superleggera of sorts. I’m looking forward to seeing what the boys have in store for us over the coming weeks – because if this first episode is any indication, it’s going to be a good one.
The Grand Tour Series 2 will be available on Amazon Prime Video at midnight GMT on December 8th. If you don’t have Amazon Prime subscription, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial at PrimeVideo.com.