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The Stig, Porsche GT2 RS... Top Gear returns! Here's what to expect in season 25

2018-03-01 08:19

Cape Town - The world’s biggest motoring show is back! Top Gear Season 25 sees Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Rory Reid and The Stig return to our screens, with guest appearances from German driving legend Sabine Schmitz.

The new season premiered on BBC Brit (channel 120 on DSTV) on February 28th. 

In six hour-long episodes the team tackle the big issues; building the world’s fastest tractor, tackling America's Wild West in shiny new V8 sports cars, attempting to land a NASA research plane in America’s ultimate muscle car, and much more.

Filmed in locations including Japan, Utah, Italy and just-outside-of-Guildford, expect Top Gear’s trademark array of stunning photography, state-of-the-art supercars, celebrity guests and a healthy disrespect for presenter safety. 

Make America V8 again

As every schoolkid knows, 2018 marks the 104th anniversary of the Harris, the most enduring sports car engine of them all. So to mark this important moment, Matt, Harris and Reid each chose their ultimate all-round V8 sports car, and headed to Utah’s Wild West for a series of challenges.

Reid and Harris both went British, with a Jaguar F-Type SVR and McLaren 570GT respectively. Matt, went American, affordable and everyman in the shape of a blue-collar Ford Mustang. Albeit one with 596kW. Weapons selected, the trio set off on a motorsport-inspired pilgrimage across the States, a pilgrimage including oval track racing, a visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats… and a moonshine run to the border. Being hotly pursued by Officer Kenneth Block. Yee, and, indeed, haw.

Dodge Demon

In the US there is a car company called Dodge and in huge news, the automaker recently announced it had built a car that would outrun the fastest offerings from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and the rest of Europe’s supercar elite.

It’s called the Demon, it boasts the slinky aerodynamic profile of a scout hut, and it costs $85 000. 

To discover exactly what Dodge meant by 'faster than the European supercar elite', Top Gear sent its American correspondent Matt to America in search of answers.

Things rapidly escalated. First in the shape of a drag race against a Lamborghini Aventador. And secondly in the shape of 'landing a priceless, very-difficult-to-land NASA research plane'. Because there’s no way that could ever end anything but excellently.

Korea advice with Rory Reid

In recent years, South Korea has produced very many millions of cars. Very few of them have been in any way interesting. In fact, it’s almost interesting how few of them have been interesting.

But with recent signs of excitement on the Korean peninsula, in the shape of the Kia Stinger and Hyundai i30N, Rory Reid headed to Dunsfold to see if the Korean upstarts could really mix it with the European big boys. And, importantly, how all this excitement would affect the Top Gear International League Table Of Countries That Make The Fastest Cars, (or the TGILTOCTMTFC).

Harris loves the 2CV

Harris... Small, shouty, big fan of oversteery supercars and sticky-tyred race cars. But turns out Harris, as well as being rather a fan of thousand-horsepower hypercars, also has a soft spot for the oldest and Frenchiest of old French cars; the Citroen 2CV.

To explain exactly why the car the French call ‘le 2CV’ is such a masterpiece, Harris headed to rural France to relate its glorious history, a swashbuckling tale of derring-do and Nazis, and the smoking of a vast number of gitanes. 

At which point a very sceptical LeBlanc rocked up with a stovepipe hat and, for reasons unclear, some eggs, for reasons even more unclear, a couple of sheep. Can Harris convince MLB – and indeed the sheep – of the paysanne charms of the Deux Chevaux? Can the smell of raw egg ever be removed from 50-year-old upholstery? Only Top Gear has the answer.

Going big in Japan

Series 25 dedicates a full hour to exploring the strange brilliance of the automotive landscape of one nation: Japan. First off, Harris sets out to discover the two most Japanesely (it’s a word) styled car on sale today, comparing the thuggish Honda Civic Type R with the manga-esque Lexus LC500. Through the time-honoured medium of driving really fast around a circuit.

Reid , meanwhile, attempts to cram as much weird Japanese car culture as possible into a single night, meeting up with some mad underground car tuners and a bunch of very lurid Lamborghini owners, before sneaking a drive in a car that really, really shouldn’t be road legal. Or driven by anyone taller than about five foot one.

Then there’s Harris  and Matt’s genius plan to balance the severely imbalanced Top Gear books. Nineties Japanese sports cars: they’re amazing but if you live in the UK and you want one that’s neither been substantially modified nor substantially crashed, you’ll pay silly money. CH and MLB reckoned they’d figured the solution: buy a couple of mint Japanese sports cars at auction in Japan, ship ‘em back to the UK and sell ‘em on for a tidy profit.

Which, in fairness, actually sounded like quite a sound idea. Unfortunately they hadn’t reckoned with (a) negotiating the madness of Tokyo’s traffic, (b) negotiating the madness of Tokyo’s conveyor-belt car auctions, and (c) the inevitability of the producers stepping in with a series of challenges to prove the roadworthiness of their new purchases.

If you go down to the woods today

In Britain, a ‘weekend away in the country’ generally means a welly-clad tramp across a muddy field, a poke around an antiques shop, maybe even a teacake or two. In America, however, they take the whole ‘weekend away in the country’ thing rather more seriously. Barbeques the size of bison, tents the size of even-larger-bison, and, most importantly, a trailer full of off-road toys. Dune buggies, dirt bikes, even personal tanks. These off-road toys are big business in the States, and LeBlanc said he wanted to know which was the most fun for a weekend away in the country.  

So MLB rounded up a literal truckload of the things, and headed deep into the Calfornian wilderness equipped with nothing but a house-sized tent, several hundred kilos of meat, and Harris to help erect the former and eat the latter. Upon arrival in the wilderness, Matt disclosed he may have had an ulterior motive for bringing a bunch of all-terrain vehicles into the forests of upstate California. And then things all got a bit… Revenant.

McLaren vs McLaren

A few years back, Harris was the first journalist to bring together, on a single racetrack, the three fastest hypercars of the modern era: of McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918. That track, specifically, was Portimao, on Portugal’s Algarve coast. The fastest of the trio, in Harris’s annoyingly able mitts, was the McLaren. 

Now, two years later, Harris is back at Portimao to answer a very interesting question. Just how close can the new McLaren 720S get to its big brother P1 around a race track? On paper, it should be an easy win for the P1, which has more horsepower, clever hybrid gubbins, and costs four times the amount. But the 720S has a really cool flip-down thingy on its dashboard, which must be good for a half-a-second a lap, right? Right? Harris straps on his fastest driving slippers to find out whether the upstart McLaren can get within touching distance of the all-conquering P1.

Tractor becomes Track-tor

Top Gear TV is always on the lookout for ways to improve the lives of British motorists. And heavy machinery enthusiast LeBlanc reckoned he’d spotted a problem right for improvification. The tractor. Now, MLB’s a big fan of tractors – in fact, he owns a veritable fleet of the things – when they’re doing their tractoring stuff on the farm. But the problem, as he saw it, comes when tractors leave the farm, and join the public highway. Yes, the tractor is holding up Britain’s motorists, and Top Gear needed to do something about it.

Now, the sensible policy solution to this issue would be to, say, ban tractors from the public highway during rush hour. But Matt had a far more exciting solution to the problem of slow tractors. Involving the Top Gear Gear Agricultural Technology Centre. And a lot of horsepower. And a can of paint borrowed from Lamborghini. And a speed record. And the reigning Farmer Of The Year. And the cast of Countryfile. And a greyhound. And, for some reason, Captain Birdseye.

Reid, Sabine and the muscle car

The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. A muscle car so extreme that it’s actually been banned in Europe. So Reid, always prepared to put his own life on the line in the name of consumer research (and skidding around in muscle cars), was on the first plane to America to discover whether a European could indeed drive the 650bhp Camaro without instantly bursting into flames or being chopped into a thousand wafer-thin slices.

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Luckily for Reid, it transpired the ZL1 1LE was non-toxic to European drivers. And, as he discovered at Willow Springs race track, really rather good fun to drive. So, inevitably, the producers - never keen to allow anyone to have too much fun without stepping in to spoil things – ordered Reid to find out exactly how fast a lap the Camaro could turn in. Naturally they’d also laid on a spot of tuition. In the shape of Sabine Schmitz, a teacher very much from the ‘tough love’ school of race schooling. 

Tour de horse

What’s the best sporting SUV on sale today? It’s a question that serious consumer publications have sought to answer by diligently measuring bootspace, second-row legroom and bootspace again, just to be on the safe side. Top Gear, however, knows the only real way to rank SUVs’ suitability for the hustle-bustle of everyday family life is through the time-honoured sport of… horsey games.

And so it was that Matt, Harris and Reid arrived at the Burghley House with an Alfa Stelvio, a Volvo XC60 and a Range Rover Velar, whereupon they were ordered to saddle up, and take part in a series of equestrian-inspired challenges, including an arena show-jumping event, and a cross-country race through Burleigh’s grand, really-quite-bumpy grounds. What we’re saying is, quite a lot of jumping.

Now, some people will tell you that modern SUVs can’t cope with being jumped several feet in the air. This is completely untrue. The jumping, no problem at all. It’s the landing at the end that causes all the problems. Cue a very thorough consumer test of how sturdily the engines of modern SUVs are bolted to the other bits of modern SUVs. And, afterwards, some rather awkward phone calls to the nice people who had lent us said SUVs.

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