The 14th series of Top Gear returned to BBC Two and BBC HD on 15 November 2009 with the usual presenting team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig. The series will contain 7 episodes. Episode 1 featured the team being sent to find the Transfagarasan road in Romania with Jeremy in a Aston Martin DBS Volante, Richard in a Ferrari California and James in a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder.
It also featured a race between James May in an airship, against Richard Hammond in a Lamborghini, Jeremy, Richard and James building their own Electric Cars and a Renault Twingo RS 133 being driven off the docks at Belfast. In the style of their trips to Vietnam, Botswana, and the United States, there was an hour long special from Bolivia.
|112||Series 14 Episode 1||15 November 2009||Eric Bana|
Review: James Tests the BMW 760Li, Mercedes S63 AMG after reading a letter from "Bankers" who now have money! Although he calls both cars completely pointless (due to them both having ridiculous amounts of power), James reveals that he would buy the BMW rather than the Mercedes. The Stig takes the BMW round a damp track in 1:31.2, which beats the Mercedes' time of 1.32.1 in the same conditions.
News: The presenters discuss the new regulations for the Bathurst 1000 endurance race regarding the spectators, the new Porsche Boxster Spyder, where Clarkson compares its soft-top roof to a tent, the McLaren MP4-12C, and a disposable cardboard lavatory which Clarkson squashes when he sits on it.
Challenge: Jeremy (in an Aston Martin DBS Volante), Richard (in a Ferrari California), and James (in a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder ) are sent to find the world's greatest driving road, which apparently is in Romania - the Transfăgărăşan. Along the way they have races along Romania's Motorways, have a sat-nav race to the People's Palace, race under the People's Palace, smash up a Dacia Sandero, crash James' Lamborghini and sleep beside an enormous dam (the Vidraru Dam). Clarkson insists that the Aston is the best grand tourer, to which James and Richard reluctantly concede.
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Australian actor Eric Bana beats Jamie Oliver's record, becoming the fastest wet lap holder with a time of 1:47.5.
|113||Series 14 Episode 2||22 November 2009||Michael Sheen|
Review: Clarkson reviews the new V10-engined Audi R8 which produces 518bhp and a top speed of 199mph. He praises the car immensely, calling it "phenomenal" and that the handling is "epic", saying that it is "spectacularly good" whilst being fairly practical also. However, he thinks that the cup holder is wrongly placed, being in a position that one would knock the contents over whilst changing gear, that the trip computer on the car he tested was broken (although it was later revealed that he had not reset it properly) and that the list price of around £100,000 was too expensive as were the optional extras e.g. ceramic brakes are an extra £7,000 and colour coordinated seat belts £750 plus Audi charge an additional £500 if one were to pick it up from the dealership instead of having it delivered. Overall, he said he would not buy the R8 due to it being "too perfect" and "joyless" stating that it was built purely for speed instead of fun.
Next, he reviews the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, revealing he would rather buy this than the Audi even though he considers it to be worse than the R8. He praises the car for being great fun and "really fast!" It beats the Audi in a drag race as it has 120bhp more than it and weighs considerably less. He reminisces back to the Factual American Road Trip two series ago and reveals that the car he drove then began to fall apart after only three days and refused to start on the fourth. He calls the ZR1 vulgar, hates the fact that it is only available in left hand drive, has a luggage cover which resembles a "motel shower curtain", is much too wide for Britain and that it handles corners in a less than finesse way. He admits to loving the car in California but acknowledges that it might have been a "holiday romance" as it proves to be not as good on the test track and cannot keep up with the R8. Despite all of this, he states that the Corvette is much more fun, although that the Audi is better built, better to drive, better to look at, more comfortable, easier to park and in the "real world" is faster. He believes that you would have to be mad to buy the ZR1 but that is the reason why you should.
The Stig takes the R8 round a damp track in 1:21.6, however the Corvette proves to be faster in the hands of the tame racing driver with a time of 1:20.4 in the same conditions. Clarkson explains that either he or Hammond would manage to take the Audi round in about the same time as The Stig but would never be able to match him in the Corvette, saying they would be five minutes (AND) dead.
Challenge: Jeremy, Richard and James attempt to save the planet by building their own electric car, which they named "Geoff." They took Geoff on a drive through Oxford, where its lack of speed, poor manoeuvrability and low battery capacity became an obvious problem. Then, while trying to get back to the Top Gear Technology Centre, James took them on a very long detour via a country road, where the batteries eventually ran out. The presenters pushed Geoff off the road, but accidentally sent it down a hill and into some trees, damaging the car and forcing a rebuild.
The redesigned version of Geoff, named the "Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust" featured a more powerful drive and extra batteries, along with a diesel generator that would recharge the batteries while the car was in motion. The presenters then took their new car to the MIRA Proving Ground in order to test whether it would pass the EU-required tests that would make the car road legal. The first test was a crash dummy test which required the car to be driven into a wall at 30mph, and the presenters faked the results by crashing into the wall at a very low speed, then presenting a sped-up version as the actual result. Next was the pendulum test, which simulated how the car would deal with a collision from a bus or an articulated lorry. Knowing that there was no way the car would survive this test, the presenters therefore had the pendulum lifted up for the test and enacted their reactions backwards, so that when they played the video in reverse it appeared that the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust had withstood the collision with no damage at all.
A drag race was then held, featuring the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust, a G-Wiz (its main competitor), a hybrid Toyota Prius, a cyclist ("Chris Hoy's next door neighbour"), and one of the Top Gear production staff on foot. Despite Hammond cheating by driving off before the race had actually started, the Prius easily won the race, although the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust did manage a convincing second place ahead of the G-Wiz, the cyclist and the runner.
Next, the presenters took the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust on a cobbled road to test its ride comfort. Clarkson claimed that they had passed the test on the basis that none of the car's doors had fallen off (parodying his experience with the Rover SD1 in 2007's British Leyland test), and so they proceeded to their next test, which involved driving up a steep hill. The Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust only managed to get a few feet up the hill however, so they attempted to show that it was at least better than the G-Wiz by getting "an independent test driver" (May, with a fake moustache and his hair tied back) to drive the G-Wiz up the hill, and it didn't even manage the few feet that the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust did.
The last test required the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust to be driven around the MIRA track until its power was exhausted, and to do this, they called upon a new team member - the Green Stig. May predicted the car would last 9 hours, but in fact it only lasted 35 minutes before the Green Stig was gassed to death by a faulty exhaust pipe from the generator. Nevertheless, Clarkson felt that they could consider it a pass, so long as the pipe was fixed.
Confident that their car was now road legal, they gave it to Autocar magazine for an independent test. The presenters were somewhat disheartened by the results however, as the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust was rated 1 out of 5 by the magazine's writers (although it did at least beat the G-Wiz and an electric golf cart, which the same magazine awarded both cars 0.5 out of 5).
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Michael Sheen did a lap in 1:46.3 despite having just flown in from Los Angeles.
|113||Series 14 Episode 3||29 November 2009||Chris Evans|
Review: Jeremy and Richard review different cars from the car company which they declared had the greatest number of great cars - Lancia. Despite the ruined reputation Lancia had because of the rusty Beta salloons, James and Richard loved the cars Lancia made. The Stig then did a power lap with a replica Hawk Stratos, which broke down on its first attempt. When it was finally fixed, the car's lack of traction and the very wet conditions combined to give the Hawk Stratos the slowest power lap in the show's history, at 1:48.2.
News: Jeremy jokes about the Zenvo ST1 (without actually naming it).
Challenge: Because caravans are being made faster than Top Gear could destroy them, James proposed an ingenious solution to rid them from Britain's roads once and for all - turn caravans into airships. He makes a caravan airship and attempts to fly it to a caravan park. However, because he doesn't have a tow car, he asked Richard to drive a tow car for him to the caravan park. Richard then chose the new Lamborghini Gallardo 550-2 Valentino Balboni as his car. Richard enjoyed his "caravan trip" in the Lambo, whereas James had a lot of trouble with winds blowing his airship in all directions. He went out of control and flew into the airspace of Norwich Airport, and later his landing turned out to be tragic. After the film, Richard said that the Lambo was not as good as the Ferrari F430, but at the same time, it was better.
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Chris Evans did a lap in 1:48.1 in the wet.