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The Grand Tour season 3 review: if you like it, watch it. If you don’t, don’t

The Grand Tour season three episode one

I’m going to come straight to the point: I’ve never really seen much value in a review of a television show. Which might seem like a strange admission at the beginning of a piece focused on examining the first episode of season three of The Grand Tour, but hear me out on this.

The return of the #amazonshitcarshow – clever hashtag, guys, very clever – will guarantee at least three things. The Guardian will post a largely negative review. The tabloids will revel in the show’s silliness. And Prime Video’s viewing figures will shoot through the roof.

I was asked to watch the first episode and then provide my thoughts. There are clicks at stake here and everybody is hoping to hitchhike on the back of the bandwagon that will be streamrollering online viewing figures for the coming weeks and months.

There ain’t much room on this wagon, so be prepared to get cosy with your neighbour if you’re taking a ride.

Detroit Spinners

May Hammond Clarkson

Which brings me back to point about being asked to review The Grand Tour. I’m not complaining – spending the first hour of a Friday morning watching Clarkson, Hammond and May mess about in Detroit was fine by me. But, honestly, do you care what I think?

Put it this way. If you enjoyed the first two seasons, you’ll undoubtedly love series three. As teasers go, the near-on two-minute montage at the beginning of episode one is pretty conclusive. And it scores points for the use of Do the Strand by Roxy Music.

If there’s one thing The Grand Tour does very well, it’s delivering a balance between the sensational and the incidentals. The muscle cars in Detroit segment is a feast for the ears and eyes – the sound of Hammond’s Demon echoing off the crumbling walls of ‘Motor City’ is a particular highpoint.

But the smaller reference points remain at the heart of what makes The Grand Tour tick. Even the demise of the celebrity segment is brushed aside courtesy of a sharp but cruel reference to Howard from the Halifax ads and Adrian Chiles. Not that the global audience will have a clue who they are. Google it.

Which is something you’ll be doing a lot following the first episode. Whether it’s watching footage of rock concerts at the Michigan Building on YouTube, trawling through images of the Conner Avenue assembly plant in its heyday, or wandering through the suburbs of Detroit on Google Street View, you’ll almost certainly lose another hour or so on the net.

So that’s your Friday afternoon sorted.

Happy little plants

Jeremy Clarkson in Detroit

I’m sure the detractors will make some wisecracks about three old farts hurtling through a once rich and powerful town as some kind of metaphor for The Grand Tour’s tried and tested formula. And that’s their prerogative.

But if, within the first few minutes of the show, you’re not enjoying it, why not switch it off and watch The Man in the High Castle? Or The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.

The Grand Tour exists to make people happy. “Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news,” as the painter with the big hair once said.

The Grand Tour season 3: what we know so far

The Grand Tour season three

At the time of writing, the official trailer for The Grand Tour season 3 had been viewed more than two million times on YouTube. Not bad for a two-minute video published at the end of November. 

“Oh Jesus, I’m shaking all over,” says Richard Hammond as he crosses a rickety bridge in Colombia, before his Chevy Silverado grinds to a halt when he’s only halfway across.

Cue the laughter from his ever-supportive co-presenters as, with a huge dollop of irony, Joe Cocker’s epic version of With a Little Help from My Friends starts playing in the background to deliver a rousing soundtrack for what may be the final series of The Grand Tour in its present format.

Even as a 1min 49sec trailer, The Grand Tour passes Mark Kermode’s ‘six laughs test’ with flying colours. Or maybe we’ve been overcome with nostalgia having listened to what must be one of the greatest cover versions of all-time. It’s time to dig out The Wonder Years boxset.

The Grand Tour returns 18 January

But back to The Grand Tour, which returns to Amazon Prime on 18 January for a run of 14 shows, culminating in the final episode on the 2 April. Much of the information we have is embargoed, but if you enjoyed the Top Gear specials of old, you’re probably going to love season 3 of The Grand Tour.

There’s more good news if you weren’t a fan of the celebrity segments in series one and two because the guests have been killed off. In an interview with wheels.ca, James May said: “We’ve ditched the guests because they weren’t that popular. And we realised that we could spend more time on the films if we ditched the guests.

“So the guests got the bullet, I’m afraid.”

You have eyes, so you don’t need us to talk you through the trailer, but the sight of Clarkson, Hammond and May driving to Scotland in three Italian classics is certain to raise the spirits. That’s assuming the Alfa Romeo GTV6, Fiat X1/9 and Lancia Gamma Coupe don’t end up at the bottom of a loch or sent flying off the top of a Scottish mountain.

We suspect not, given the fact that the Alfa appears to be a low-mileage example with a very clean MOT history. News of the Lancia is less positive – the MOT expired in September 2018…

In an interview with RTE2fm, Clarkson said that filming for the new series passed without injuries or being chased to the border, having previously said that the specials in Mongolia and Colombia were particularly huge.

You can see snippets from the Colombia special in the trailer, with Clarkson in a Jeep Wrangler, Hammond in a Silverado and May, perhaps predictably, in a Fiat Panda 4×4. “Colombia turned out to be big,” said Clarkson.

What else do we know? Well, the McLaren Senna makes an appearance, while Clarkson goes head-to-head with Abbie Eaton in a battle between the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche 911 Turbo.

Episode one: Motown Funk

The Grand Tour season three episode one

In episode one, Clarkson, Hammond and May head to Detroit, where they are ‘horrified to discover that this once-great motor city is a shadow of its former self and devotes more energy to making organic kale than oversized V8s’.

The aim: to re-establish Detroit as a playground for people who’d rather talk about superchargers than spinach.

Enter the Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3, Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and Hennessey Exorcist Camaro. The action plays out on the streets, in an old theatre, at an abandoned car factory and on a local airfield.

Meanwhile, Clarkson drives the 789hp McLaren Senna around Thruxton, because it’s too fast for the Eboladome.

What about season 4?

Hammond Clarkson May 2019

When season 3 draws to a close in April, the trio will ditch the tent and develop their own shows for Amazon’s Prime Video service. “The Grand Tour is a worldwide hit and fan favourite,” said Jay Marine, vice president of Prime Video.

“We’re proud to say that Prime Video will continue to be the home for Jeremy, Richard and James. They’ve got some ambitious new ideas that Prime members are going to love. We’re excited to be bringing more Clarkson, Hammond and May to Prime Video for years to come.”

Which means more one-off episodes in the style of the old Top Gear specials, plus individual shows created by Clarkson, Hammond and May. No celebrities, no news, no tent – it all sounds rather positive for fans of the show.

The Grand Tour Game

The Grand Tour Game artwork

And if that’s not enough, you can play The Grand Tour Game, with new content added weekly during season three of the show.

The game – available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – puts players behind the wheel of the cars from season three and allows them to race at various locations, including the Eboladrome. “It’s a video game featuring me, the crashy one, and the slow one. That’s all you need to know,” said Clarkson.

“If you’ve always wanted to come on the road with us, this is as close as you’ll ever get. Unless you kidnap James and steal his face.”

The game costs £11.99 and is available – just in time for episode one of series 3.

Alternatively, renew your Amazon Prime membership and prepare for 14 episodes of The Grand Tour. You’ll be in good company. As we conclude this news item, the trailer has clocked up another 5,000 views and counting.

The Grand Tour Season 3

The Grand Tour season 3: what we know so far

The Grand Tour Season 3

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will return with their solid-gold formula of motoring and banter for season three of The Grand Tour. The first episode of the Amazon Prime original series airs in January, and the second teaser is here, following the debut of the first trailer last month.

The second trailer is rather different, less action-packed and really rather devoid of content from the series itself. Indeed, it was only posted on TGT’s Twitter page. It’s definitely more of a teaser, designed to announce when the first episode of the new season is to air and remind us there’s less than a month to go. We find the boys sat in a cafe with the sound of a ticking clock with Clarkson tapping out some tweets. ‘One month to go’, ‘new season 18 January’ follows.

Standard silly teaser fare from the big three, we think. This all follows rumours and speculation about what the future of the series is. It is to go on into season 4, albeit without the studio tents. ‘Prime Video will continue to be the home of Jeremy, Richard and James for years to come’ is stated in ‘a note from Amazon’. ‘Season four will see the guys ditch the tent to take on big adventure road trips that we know Prime members love’.  

It wouldn’t seem right if Hammond wasn’t risking his life in some way, so naturally the preview opens with him tentatively crossing a very rickety bridge in a far-away jungle, driving a flame-splattered Chevy truck.

Among the madness, we spy Clarkson giving the McLaren Senna a good spanking, as well as three of America’s latest and greatest mega-muscle cars in the heat of battle.

The rest is quintessential Top Gear and The Grand Tour – fast cars going sideways, silly challenges, quite a lot of fire, even more bickering and everything else in between. The boys will be travelling all over the world – grand touring, as it were. They’ve taken the mayhem as far as Colombia, Detroit, Nevada, Mongolia, Scotland and Sweden.

The new shows begin on January 18th 2019, joining the first two seasons on Amazon Prime Video.

Read more:

The Grand Tour Game

The Grand Tour video game lets you race against Jeremy Clarkson

The Grand Tour GameEver watch The Grand Tour and wish it was you behind the wheel, smoking the rears of a 1,000hp hypercar at Portimao circuit? Well, wish no more. Provided you have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console, The Grand Tour Game is here to sate your cravings for supercar buffoonery.

Images and video from the game show famous Grand Tour machines such as P1 OOV (the McLaren P1 press car), the Rimac Concept One (as crashed by Hammond), Porsche 918 Spyder and indeed the Lada fire engine.

Xbox vs PlayStation: how to be a (virtual) racer

The game seems to be more of an arcade racer than the last word in driving simulation, with ‘power-ups’ available. ‘High tea’ mode, meanwhile, spreads cups and saucers across the track to shred opponents tyres. Think bananas in Mario Kart…

As for the boys, they’re obviously integral to the TGT experience, and this is also true of the game. They feature as opponents, with original voice acting to boot.

A four-player split screen option is a clever inclusion by developer Amazon Game Studios, given racing titles of recent years have favoured online multiplayer modes instead. Graphics-wise, it won’t worry Forza Motorsport 7 or Gran Turismo Sport, but it looks decent.

The Grand Tour GameNaturally Clarkson, Hammond and May had a few things to say about the game.

“It’s a video game featuring me, the crashy one, and the slow one. That’s all you need to know,” said Jeremy Clarkson. “If you’ve always wanted to come on the road with us, this is as close as you’ll ever get. Unless you kidnap James and steal his face.”

“If you’ve ever wanted to do my job, now you can,” said James May. “Obviously not literally, it’s just a game, so please don’t go through the drawers of my desk.”

“I live in the deep countryside, so frankly I’m impressed by anything that runs on electricity,” said Richard Hammond. “But I have to admit this game is particularly brilliant, especially the four-player split screen.”

To find out more about The Grand Tour Game, click here.

Read more:

The Grand Tour: series 2

The Grand Tour returns this week. Here’s what to expect

The Grand Tour: series 2It’s back! Well, almost, but the long wait for the second series of The Grand Tour is nearly over. Note, that’s second ‘series’, not second ‘season’. Here in Blighty, we call them series. Fancy a tea, old boy?

Anyway, without further ado, here’s what you can expect to see on Amazon’s hit TV show.

When does The Grand Tour return?The Grand Tour: series 2

The entertainment show returns on 8 December 2017, exclusively for Amazon Prime customers. But it’s definitely not a car show. In an interview with GQ, Jeremy Clarkson said: “I genuinely don’t think it’s a car show. Any more than Countryfile is about actual farming. It just isn’t”

So, why is it so late?The Grand Tour: series 2

The second series was originally planned for late October/early November, but was delayed following Richard’s Hammond’s high-profile crash in the Rimac Concept One, along with Jeremy Clarkson’s bout of pneumonia.

Is the American coming back?The Grand Tour: series 2

Remember Mike Skinner, aka ‘The American’, from the first series of The Grand Tour? Anecdotal evidence would suggest that he wasn’t universally popular, so you might be pleased to learn that, in true Alan Partridge style, he won’t be given a second series.

Skinner tweeted: “FYI I won’t be joining the guys on @thegrandtour 2nd season – I wish them all the luck. My character wasn’t developed as I was told and I agree with many of you that it sucked – if you’re gonna wear Evil [sic] Knievel’s firesuit, you need to be Evil Flipping Knievel! Peace out.” He stopped short of asking Amazon to smell his cheese.

And what about ‘Celebrity Brain Crash’?The Grand Tour: series 2

Of the first series, Hammond said: “We had to try stuff. It would be a wasted opportunity not to try some stuff. Some of which we’ll carry on. Some of which we’ll change. Some we might drop.” ‘Celebrity Brain Crash’ is another part of the show that wasn’t well received by all, but the producers have confirmed that it is dead.

A report in The Sun suggested that the segment was a forced response by Amazon to the strict legal conditions laid out by the BBC when Clarkson, Hammond and May left Top Gear. So, no more ‘dead’ celebs. Which is good news for Carol Vorderman, who ‘died’ in the first series.

So, no celebrities in series 2?The Grand Tour: series 2

No celebrities? Don’t be daft – The Grand Tour is filled to the rafters with celebs. Some of the guests include, Luke Evans, Kiefer Sutherland, Hugh Bonneville, Kevin Pietersen, Dominic Cooper, Dynamo, Rory McIlroy, Michael Ball, Alfie Boe, David Hasselhoff and Ricky Wilson.

The star guests will be taking part in a new feature called ‘Celebrity Face Off’.

What exactly is ‘Celebrity Face Off’?The Grand Tour: series 2

Each week, two celebrities who are connected in some unusual way are pitted against each other to see who is fastest around the new track. In the first episode, two former talent show judges go head-to-head in the face off.

It’s ‘The Hoff’ versus the, er, Wilson, of Kaiser Chiefs and Voice UK fame. Speaking about the lap, The Hoff said: “I’m basically an actor, I’m not really a good driver but I just look good doing it.”

Where does The Grand Tour go?The Grand Tour: series 2

Rather than touring the globe, the tent has been given a permanent home in the Cotswolds, which is handy for Clarkson, who happens to live in Chipping Norton.

It’s also halfway between Hammond and May, which is nice.

Jaguars in ColoradoThe Grand Tour: series 2

That’s not to say that The Grand Tour won’t be making its way around the world. You’ll no doubt have seen the main trailer for the new series, which previews the show’s hijinks to the sound of Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die.

Stay tuned for the three presenters driving old Jags in the snowy surroundings of Colorado…

Supercars in SwitzerlandThe Grand Tour: series 2

The trio also head to Switzerland in different breeds of supercars: a Lamborghini Aventador S, a Honda NSX and a Rimac Concept One.

Yep, the Rimac is the car that Hammond famously crashed and burned during a hillclimb event.

Off-roading in MozambiqueThe Grand Tour: series 2

We also know that Clarkson, Hammond and May visit Mozambique for some off-roading. From the clips, it looks like a classic African special from the old Top Gear days, complete with mild peril, most notably for Hammond. He fell off a motorcycle, but was never in danger of not making it out of Africa.

In a blog on Drivetribe, he said: “It’s true, I did fall off a motorbike whilst filming recently for The Grand Tour in Mozambique. I banged my head, yes, along with pretty much everything else apart from my left thumb, which remains un-bruised. As for injuries; well put it this way, I don’t think I can get a book out of it.”

Episode 1: Past, present or futureThe Grand Tour: series 2

The first episode will air on Friday 8 December. Called ‘Past, present or future’, the episode finds the presenters in car-unfriendly Switzerland in a battle of the supercars. All eyes will be on the Hammond’s dramatic conclusion to the hillclimb event.

Meanwhile, it’s Hasselhoff versus Wilson in Celebrity Face Off.

Episode 2: The Falls GuysThe Grand Tour: series 2

A week later, the second episode will see Clarkson driving a Ford GT from New York to Niagara Falls, with May and Hammond racing him to the finish using public transport. Meanwhile, Clarkson takes to the Eboladrome in a Mercedes-AMG GT R.

As for Celebrity Face Off, it’s cricket vs baseball, as Kevin Pietersen goes head-to-head with Brian Wilson

How to watch The Grand TourThe Grand Tour: series 2

Series one broke records when it launched in November 2016, becoming the biggest show premiere ever on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the most downloaded show on Prime Video, with Amazon customers able to watch any episode at any time.

In the UK, Amazon Prime offers a 30-day free trial and members can pay £7.99 per month or £79 a year.

Jeremy Clarkson says…The Grand Tour: series 2

OK, we admit it: we’re filling space here, as info on the other episodes is embargoed until a later date. So, here’s what the presenters have to say about the new series, starting with Clarkson.

“Certain elements of the last series that we didn’t think worked quite as well as they should’ve done have been altered, and then certain things that did work have been pumped up. But don’t worry. It still works. It’s got all the elements we need: great pictures, great scenery, great cars and us three bickering. That’s it.”

James May says…The Grand Tour: series 2

James May says: “That’s not really ‘it,’’ is it? We’ve got two America trips… where else are we going… Germany, Canada, New York, Switzerland, South America… Hammond’s been
to Majorca but that’s just by himself so doesn’t really count…”

He continues: “It’s more like a French café between the wars. Hammond sometimes speaks in tongues. We presume he’s been temporarily possessed by the soul of a guru maybe from the Far East in a language that we don’t understand.”

Richard Hammond says…The Grand Tour: series 2

As for Hammond: “We’ve been to Mozambique, Croatia, various bits of England. I’ve fallen off a motorcycle, James kept nearly drowning and Jeremy did his best to get a hosepipe shoved up his arse.”

Remember, The Grand Tour will be available to stream from Friday 8 December 2017.

>NEXT: The Grand Tour has opened a pub in LA

The Grand Tour Series 2: everything we know so far

The Grand Tour series 2: launch date set for 8 December

The Grand Tour Series 2: everything we know so far

Amazon Prime Video has announced that the second series of The Grand Tour will make its debut on 8th December 2017.

Like the last series, new episodes of The Grand Tour will be released weekly, with viewers needing an Amazon Prime membership to stream them.

A new trailer has been released alongside the announcement of the launch date. It shows the three presenters sliding down the side of a snowy mountain while Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die from the 1973 James Bond film of the same name plays out.

Clarkson, Hammond and May have been working hard during filming of series two – but it’s not been short of issues. First, Hammond fell off a motorbike during filming of The Grand Tour in Mozambique in March. Details of the crash are sketchy, but it doesn’t sound too serious: “Put it this way, I don’t think I can get a book out of it,” joked Hammond at the time.

But then, in June, Hammond was involved in a more serious crash when an electric hypercar he was driving left the road while taking part in the Hemburg time trial. The Rimac Concept One was written off in the incident, which saw Hammond rushed to hospital by air ambulance. Fortunately, his injuries didn’t turn out to be too serious, with just a fractured knee to report.

The incident did delay filming, though, which brings us on to…

When will The Grand Tour return?

Although Hammond once said (in a since-deleted tweet) that the new series will be available to watch on the 19th November, Amazon has confirmed it’ll be 8th December before fans can stream the new series.

What will we see in series 2 of The Grand Tour?

The first trailer for series two appeared in July, showing Clarkson, Hammond and May driving a variety of vehicles in their usual lighthearted way. It also shows Hammond at the wheel of the Rimac Concept One, saying “watch this” before taking off up the hillclimb.

The latest pictures show the Grand Tour trio in a variety of locations, including Colorado, Dubai, Mozambique, Croatia and Switzerland.

How can I watch The Grand Tour?

Like the first series of The Grand Tour, fans will need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to stream the new episodes once they’re released. This costs £79.99 a year or £7.99 a month. Amazon does occasionally offer special offers, particularly around the launch of high-profile new programmes such as The Grand Tour, so it’s worth keeping an eye open as we get closer to series two arriving.

If you missed the first season, or just want to watch it again, it’s still available to watch on Amazon Prime.

We’ll be keeping this story updated as we find out more information – keep checking back for all the latest on The Grand Tour.

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Richard Hammond Citroen Saxo VTS

Richard Hammond has bought a Citroen Saxo VTS – and we’re jealous

Richard Hammond Citroen Saxo VTS

If the current episode of The Grand Tour is anything to go by, Richard Hammond is about to nip out and steal a chainsaw… in a Citroen Saxo VTS.

According to Amazon Prime’s clever X-Ray feature – which provides extra information about what you’re watching on screen – Hammond loves the Saxo VTS so much that, after the show was filmed, he went out and bought one. The lucky so-and-so.

During ‘Conversation Street’, the presenters were charting the rapid fall in numbers of Citroen’s hot hatch, which had dropped from around 4,500 in 2008 to 491 when the episode was filmed. We’ve just checked the latest figures, and they show that the number on the road has now fallen to 464 –with 946 declared as off the road.

Fabulous, proper and fizzy

“By 2019 they’ll all have gone,” said the ‘Hamster’, which was enough to see him off to the classifieds in an attempt to save the “fabulous, proper, fizzy little hatchback” from extinction. Good man.

That he loves the Citroen Saxo VTS so much should come as no surprise. In his days as a presenter on Men & Motors, Hammond pitched the French tearaway against a Caterham Super 7 Sprint, before driving home in the Citroen.

Weirdly, in a different episode, former radio presenter and drag racer, Dave Lee Travis – aka the ‘Hairy Cornflake’ – proclaimed the Saxo VTS to be “the closest you can get to an old-school GTI”. High praise indeed.

Later, in 2008, Hammond named the Saxo VTS as one of the ‘best second-hand boy-racer bargains’, saying it’s “another belter from Les Francais. The Saxo VTS is virtually a cult car among the young and to see why, you only need to drive one.

“It looks cute, with reasonable performance and good handling.”

This isn’t the first time Richard Hammond has bought a Saxo VTS. In series 18 of Top Gear, he paid £550 for a 1999 model and went racing against Clarkson and May. Sadly, the car’s MOT expired in 2012, so we can only assume that it has gone to the great rallycross track in the sky.

The Price is right

The hot Saxo’s fall from grace is hardly surprising. The Saxo VTS, with its 120hp 1.6-litre 16v engine, developed a bit of an image problem: a kind of hot Nova for a new generation. Lads believed that a Saxo VTS and a pumping stereo was the key to getting a girl undressed.

Citroen didn’t help matters when it asked Katie Price, AKA Jordan, to perch on the bonnet of its four-wheeled bra remover.

Citroen Saxo VTS and Jordan

It meant that – for all of its qualities as a typically French hot hatch – polite, gentle folk stayed away from the Saxo VTS, allowing it to spiral into the abyss. On the flip-side, this means values are stupidly low, so you needn’t spend more than £1,000 to secure a good one.

Compare and contrast with the values of other French heroes – most notably the Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault 5 GT Turbo and Peugeot 106 Rallye – and the Saxo VTS looks a bit of a bargain. Prices won’t stay this low forever.

Take a leaf out of Hammond’s book: rescue a Citroen Saxo VTS today. You won’t regret it. Just don’t let a girl called Katie sit on the bonnet.

Mazda MX-5 vx Zenos E10 S vs Alfa Romeo 4C

These are all the cars featured on The Grand Tour so far

The Grand Tour: all the cars so far

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another episode of The Grand Tour. This week, Clarkson, Hammond and May are in Rotterdam, a place with well-dressed policemen and the home of the speed camera. Anyway, these are the cars featured this week…

Mazda MX-5 vx Zenos E10 S vs Alfa Romeo 4C

Mazda MX-5 vx Zenos E10 S vs Alfa Romeo 4C

Richard Hammond claims the Mazda MX-5 is “all the sports car you’d ever need,” and it’s a bargain – with prices starting at £18,495. The new model comes with air-con, heated seats, lane-departure assist, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps… all of which makes it better, says Hammond.

Zenos E10 S

James May disagrees. Quoting Lotus founder Colin Chapman, he says these extras add weight meaning it’s not a true sports car any more. Which is why Captain Slow’s picked the Zenos E10 S, which manages without a radio, roof or even a heater. It does, however, have a 250hp Ford Focus ST engine.

To decide which is better, the pair head to the “obvious proving ground for all sports cars”: North Africa.

Alfa Romeo 4C

And then Clarkson turns up in an Alfa Romeo 4C. He insists it’s his “favourite car currently on sale”, despite the dim-witted gearbox, lifeless steering and eagerness to chuck you in a ditch for no reason. He justifies it by saying: “Put it this way, we all could probably find fault with our children, and yet we still love them.”

It also gives Clarkson cramp, and it costs more than the Mazda and Zenos put together.

The Grand Tour

The group test concludes with a race between the three sports cars through a film set used in The Jewel of the Nile and Game of Thrones. The sandy roads make for a lot of oversteer and ends with Hammond sliding sideways into an ancient sculpture. Despite this, Hammond in the MX-5 is the fastest around the track, but admits it’s a hollow victory.

Car battleships

Car battleships

Kids of today are no longer interested in board games, apparently. But The Grand Tour trio reckoned they would be if they could play life-size versions. So, they borrowed a crane, a fleet of old bangers and a line-up of G-Wiz electric cars. The results were rather spectacular – but we can’t help wondering if the G-Wiz owners’ club might be penning letters as you read this.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS vs BMW M4 GTS

Porsche 911 GT3 RS vs BMW M4 GTS

Missed episode four? Last week’s episode started with Clarkson singing the praises of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. “Oh, it’s very, very good,” he says, as he slides the GT3 RS around The Grand Tour’s Eboladrome test track. But is it as good as the BMW M4 GTS?

Clarkson gives the BMW M4 GTS a bit of a pasting in The Grand Tour. He slates the lack of practicality, and complains that the ride is too bumpy while the “drone from the tyres is horrendous”. You might be expecting a “but”… but it doesn’t come (yet). He complains about having to fill the water tank for the engine’s water injection, while he describes the steering as “horrid”.

It sounds like there’s a clear winner, then, with Clarkson concluding: “This competition between these two cars is like a boxing match between an actual boxer and someone who thinks he’s a boxer because they’re wearing satin shorts.”

But… and, eventually, there is a “but”, the BMW M4 is crowned the winner, solely because Richard Hammond has bought a Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

Sustainable cars

Sustainable cars

“In recent years, the world’s carmakers have made great strides to make more fuel-efficient and more environmentally-friendly car engines,” says Hammond, “but very little has been done to make more environmentally-friendly car bodies and interiors.”

This gave the team an idea. The three of them bought an old Land Rover Discovery and gave it a more eco-friendly appearance…

An old Land Rover Discovery covered in mud isn’t such an unusual sight, but what about one made of mud? This one weighs five tonnes, and chunks fall off it during driving. It soon requires a re-think, with May rebuilding it out of bricks. That doesn’t work particularly well either, so eventually James resorts to straw and cow poo. And, you guessed it, that’s not exactly problem-free.

Sustainable cars

Hammond’s attempt features a frame made out of hazel before being covered in flowers and shrubs. “It’s basically a hedgerow,” he says. The flowers are planted in compost and nutrients, meaning they’re still growing – and, as Hammond puts it, “you don’t wash this car, you water it.”

And finally, Clarkson’s attempt at being green is a little more controversial. It uses animal skin and bones, with ears for door mirrors and a cow’s rectum as the windscreen. It has its pitfalls – dogs tear it apart overnight, meaning Jeremy has to visit the local butcher to repair his car. Watch the episode to find out whose attempt at sustainable transport worked the best.

Jensen Interceptors

Jensen Interceptors

Episode three began with the sight of the three presenters making their way to Whitby at the wheel of a trio of Jensen Interceptors. It’s a fitting choice of car for an episode dominated by three British blokes gallivanting around Tuscany, as the Interceptor was very much an Anglo-Italian GT car.

Clarkson and May decided to visit Italy to embark on a very modern take on the classic Grand Tour recipe. A journey of art, of culture and of fine food is planned. The question is: what cars should the duo drive?

Aston Martin DB11

Aston Martin DB11

For Clarkson, the choice is the new Aston Martin DB11. Arguably one of the greatest GT cars you can buy today, the DB11 packs a 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 engine, producing a mighty 608hp. It’ll reach a top speed of 200mph, a figure that gives Clarkson some much needed bragging rights later in the show. Oh, and if anybody asks, the car is Sunburst Orange. Not brown. Definitely not brown.

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Rolls-Royce Dawn

As for May, he decides to lord it about in Tuscany with the help of the Rolls-Royce Dawn. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same one Matt LeBlanc drove in the latest series of Top Gear (and we tested it earlier this year). Clarkson does his best to convince May that it’s little more than a BMW 7-Series in a fancy suit, but the long-haired one is not for turning. The scene is set: Clarkson and May are ready to head into the beautifully manicured hills of Tuscany. Or are they?

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

No, because – surprise, surprise – Richard Hammond turns up in a very loud and very thirsty Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The 707hp all-American action hero isn’t your typical GT car, but then the Grand Tour isn’t your typical car show. Hammond justifies the Hellcat by likening the original concept of a Grand Tour as a little like an “18th century Cannonball Run”.

What follows is a road trip that feels very much like an episode you might have seen during the old days of Top Gear. Clarkson and May spend most of the time attempting to escape from Hammond, while Hammond himself spends most of his time in petrol stations. Describing Hammond and his Hellcat, May said: “It’s like someone being sick on you while you read a nice book.”

Jezza’s self-driving car

Jezza’s self-driving car

Back in the tent, the trio urge the buying public to stop buying cars like the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Juke, while Clarkson presents his own take on Google’s self-driving car. “How hard can it be?” asks Jezza. You can judge the results for yourself. Meanwhile, look out for a very explosive ending…

Aston Martin Vulcan

Aston Martin Vulcan

Now, let’s look back at episode two. The episode starts with Clarkson hammering around a track in Aston Martin’s rather special, track-only £1.8 million Vulcan. Only 24 will ever be made but Clarkson doesn’t seem that impressed from the start.

“You will be able to edit this out, won’t you? I don’t want people thinking I’m fat,” he jibes as he struggles to get into the hypercar. He then tears it apart for being uncomfortable and not very well equipped – the windows don’t go down, it’s noisy and “you only get half a steering wheel”.

All Aston Martin Vulcan buyers can have it shipped out to a racetrack of their choice where a team of mechanics will set it up for them and show them how to drive it – all part of the service. In typical Clarkson review style, by the time he’s spent some time driving it aggressively, he’s rather more convinced.

“I LOVE THIS THING VERY MUCH,” he concludes, shoutily.

Once The Grand Tour’s American racing driver Mike Skinner prises the keys from Clarkson’s grip, he sets a time of 1:15.5 around the show’s test track – that’s 2.4 seconds quicker than a McLaren 650S, the outgoing leader.

Audi S8 Plus in Jordan

Audi S8 Plus in Jordan

Now onto the mean feature of episode two. Jordan, in the Middle East, has built a mock town where special forces around the world are sent to compete and decide which one’s best. What’s this got to do with The Grand Tour..?

“Mr Wilman, who is the fat man who controls our lives [and executive producer of The Grand Tour], decided that us three should go and take part,” explains James May.

Now, those who were hoping The Grand Tour would be a ‘proper’ car show might be a tad disappointed with this feature. But it involves guns and helicopters, and they’re cool, right?

It also features an Audi S8 Plus used as a getaway car to transport the Queen (yes, it’s definitely her) away from terrorists. Clarkson and May can’t help but review the car, praising its ride quality and performance.

Spinning in an E30 BMW 3 Series

Spinning in an E30 BMW 3 Series

The final feature of Episode Two is what Clarkson describes as “making James May do something that he doesn’t want to do.” The first of what’s likely to be an on-going feature involves ‘spinning’, a South African thing that involves doing donuts in an elderly, rear-wheel-drive car to a backdrop of rap music.

“It’s lively, it’s interesting and it’s youthful. It’s everything he [James May] isn’t,” Clarkson explains.

Apparently, old E30 BMW 3 Series models are a popular choice for the sport, so that’s what James May is taken out in. He’s not very impressed when his driver gets out and leaves him in the car doing donuts by itself. So that’s all the cars featured in Episode Two…

McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918

Not watched the first episode yet? The team managed to get the “hypercar holy trinity” of the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 together. It’s a group test that the team never managed on Top Gear – the car manufacturers wouldn’t co-operate, apparently, and while the crew were desperately trying to convince owners to let them borrow their cars, the fracas happened and ruined it all. Until now.

McLaren P1 - The Grand Tour

The McLaren P1 is Clarkson’s hypercar of choice. The plug-in hybrid uses a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 petrol engine combined with an electric motor to produce 917hp. It’ll hit 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and reach an electronically-limited top speed of 218mph. Without its limiter, the P1 is good for 249mph.

Prices for the McLaren P1 started at £866,000. Only 375 were made, with the last one leaving the firm’s Woking production line in September 2013. There are currently four listed on Auto Trader – but you’ll need to splash out at least £1,675,000. Call it an investment.

LaFerrari - The Grand Tour

The LaFerrari’s power (all 963hp of it) comes from a 6.3-litre V12 combined with an electric motor. The 0-62mph run is dispatched in less than 3.0 seconds, while top speed is more than 217mph. James May reckoned it would “absolutely mince” the other two…

Just 499 LaFerraris were sold worldwide at a cost of around £1 million each. There’s currently just one listed on Auto Trader, for an incredible £3.5 million.

Porsche 918 - The Grand Tour

Now onto Richard Hammond’s choice, the Porsche 918. Power comes from a 4.6-litre V8 engine combined with not one but two electric motors, producing a total power output of 887hp. In standard guise, it’d hit 62mph in 2.5 seconds and was capable of a top speed of 218hp. The one featured in The Grand Tour has the optional Weissach Package – a £60,000 pack which reduces weight and can lap the Nürburgring three seconds quicker than the standard 918.

Meanwhile, the Porsche 918 would have cost you a relatively affordable £625,000 when it was on sale. But today you’ll be looking at paying at least £1.1 million on the second-hand market.

Spoiler alert: the fastest around The Grand Tour’s new test track was the Porsche 918 (1:54.2), followed by the LaFerrari (1:54.4) and McLaren P1 (1:55.5). Clarkson promised Hammond and May they could bulldoze his house if the McLaren didn’t win.

Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang

The hypercar trio aside, what else did Clarkson, Hammond and May drive in the first episode of The Grand Tour? Well, it starts with the threesome driving through the States in red, white and blue Ford Mustangs. Powered by a 5.0-litre V8, the latest Ford Mustang (and the only to officially be sold in Europe) will hit 62mph in 4.8 seconds. It also features a burnout mode. And this wasn’t all…

Ferrari 488

Ferrari 488

New programme… new track. To show off the “eboladrome”, The Grand Tour’s unidentified driver completed a lap in a “performance icon”, the Ferrari 488. Unfortunately Ferrari wouldn’t let them time it.

BMW M2

The Grand Tour - BMW M2

It’s one of our favourite ever BMWs – and Clarkson’s now dubbed it “the best M car BMW has ever made”. The BMW M2 produces 365hp from its turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six and, as Clarkson proves on track, it’s very happy to flatter the driver in some oversteer fun.

He concludes that the BMW M2 is “an absolute masterpiece”.

James May’s Prius

James May’s Prius

Teasing the show, The Grand Tour has planted three ‘crashed’ Toyota Priuses around the world. The first one, sporting the number plate ‘M4Y’ and ‘The Grand Tour’ decals, was seen squashed against a postbox outside London’s King’s Cross station.

Richard Hammond’s Prius

Richard Hammond’s Prius

Meanwhile, a red Prius with the plate ‘H4MMOND’ was seen crashing through the ground in Berlin…

Jeremy Clarkson’s Prius

Jeremy Clarkson’s Prius

And sporting, you guessed it, a ‘CL4RKSON’’ number plate, this blue Toyota Prius was spotted in LA. Previously, the controversial presenter described Prius owners as ‘morons who think they’re saving the planet’.

Driven: James May's Rolls-Royce Dawn

Driven: James May’s Rolls-Royce Dawn

Driven: James May's Rolls-Royce Dawn

If this Rolls-Royce Dawn looks familiar, that’s because it starred in episode three of The Grand Tour. “Captained” by Captain Slow, James May, it was driven around Tuscany where Clarkson tried to convince May that it’s little more than a BMW 7-Series in a fancy suit. It comes after Matt LeBlanc drove the very same car in the latest series of Top Gear.

Our road test of this unreasonably-priced car (£264,000, since you’re asking) is going to be a more conventional affair. No townsfolk will be asked for their opinions and at no point will we elect to “settle this with a race”. That’s simply not the Dawn’s style, as we soon discover…

What are its rivals?02_Dawn

Tell Rolls-Royce its car is a rival for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet or Maserati GranCabrio and be prepared for a withering look worthy of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey. Rolls draws a distinction between ‘premium’ and ‘luxury’, with the Dawn falling very firmly into the latter category.

As such, its closest rival is the Bentley Continental GTC, although Sir might also consider the Ferrari California T if Sir fancies something sportier.

What engines does it use?03_Dawn

With 571 hp, the Dawn is actually more powerful than Rolls-Royce’s flagship convertible: the Phantom Drophead Coupe. Its mighty 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 blasts this 2.6-tonne land yacht to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, plus a limited top speed of 155mph.

“There are a lot of numbers I could quote on this car,” says James May on The Grand Tour, “but I’m not going to because that would be, frankly, uncouth.” Let us be uncouth for a moment: it produces 571hp, will hit 62mph in 4.9 seconds and is limited to 155mph.

Driving the Dawn in rural Tuscany, May describes the Dawn as “serene”. We concur, although our detour through the traffic-clogged lanes of south-east England was somewhat more stressful. It’s difficult to ‘make progress’ (as driving instructors say) when your car takes up more than half the road…

What’s it like to drive?04_Dawn

Inevitably, the Dawn’s sheer size has an impact on how you drive it. Put simply, it’s an incredibly relaxing way to travel… until you have to park. Yes, our car had the optional 360-degree camera system, it’s still no easy task.

The Dawn isn’t as sporting as Rolls-Royce would have you believe. Its strength lies in cosseting comfort, with light controls, effortless performance and a pillowy ride – even on optional 21-inch wheels. The sense of occasion as you follow that – solid silver – Spirit of Ecstasy down the road is unmatched.

Fuel economy and running costs05_Dawn

You do know this is a 571 hp V12, right? Besides, enquiring about running costs seems a touch vulgar here. If you have to ask, darling…

Fittingly, James May made no mention of the Dawn’s appetite for super unleaded in his review. Us? We couldn’t even scrape the official 20mpg, despite a varied test-route that included plenty of motorway cruising. CO2 emissions of 330g/km put the Rolls in the top bracket for car tax, meaning you pay £1,100 in the first year and £505 a year thereafter.

Is it practical?06_Dawn

Rolls-Royce owners typically own seven or eight cars already, so nobody will use a Dawn as their only means of transport (even if there is something delightfully decadent about that idea).

The cabin is faultlessly-finished, although the ‘Arctic White’ leather is hardly the most practical choice. Definitely more Hermosa Beach than Henley-on-Thames. There’s genuinely enough space for six-footers in the back, with easy access through the rear-hinged doors. Unfortunately, the boot isn’t so suited to grand touring. It has a narrow opening and its 295-litre capacity is less than some superminis.

What about safety?07_Dawn

Size matters when it comes to crash-safety, so you’re unlikely to have any worries here. Apart from the repair bill, obviously. The Dawn’s exclusivity means it hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but you have the full suite of BMW safety systems at your disposal, including hydraulic brake assist and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

And don’t worry about the Spirit of Ecstasy – it retracts quickly behind the grille if needed – or if a potential accident is detected.

Which version should I go for?08_Dawn

So, petrol or diesel, automatic or manual, SE or SRi? The Rolls-Royce Dawn buyer faces none of these conundrums, although they can opt for the fixed-roof version in the shape of the Wraith coupe.

Instead, there’s a long options list, including everything from an uplit Spirit of Ecstasy to whitewall tyres. With enough time and money, you can customise every aspect of the Dawn to your own personal taste – or lack of. To make your job easier, Rolls-Royce also offers a range of off-the-shelf option packs.

Should I buy one?09_Dawn

There’s no rational case to be made for buying a Rolls-Royce Dawn. The aforementioned Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet is a better car in many respects – and at least £70,000 cheaper.

However, for the ultimate in open-air luxury, nothing quite matches the Dawn. It turns heads like a lime-green Lamborghini, yet you can also put the hood up and waft along in isolated silence. And it transforms every journey into a special event, with qualities that transcend its high price.

Pub fact10_Dawn

The first Rolls-Royce to carry the Dawn name – albeit unofficially – was this special edition Silver Ghost. Built in 1908, the ‘Silver Dawn’ was originally the property of one Charles H. Angus, and spent the first part of its life in Australia.

In 2013, after a full restoration, the car took part in the gruelling 1,800-mile Centenary Alpine Trail. It was then put on display at Rolls-Royce HQ in Goodwood.

Driven: James May's Rolls-Royce Dawn

Driven: James May's Rolls-Royce Dawn

Driven: James May's Rolls-Royce Dawn

If this Rolls-Royce Dawn looks familiar, that’s because it starred in episode three of The Grand Tour. “Captained” by Captain Slow, James May, it was driven around Tuscany where Clarkson tried to convince May that it’s little more than a BMW 7-Series in a fancy suit. It comes after Matt LeBlanc drove the very same car in the latest series of Top Gear.

Our road test of this unreasonably-priced car (£264,000, since you’re asking) is going to be a more conventional affair. No townsfolk will be asked for their opinions and at no point will we elect to “settle this with a race”. That’s simply not the Dawn’s style, as we soon discover…

What are its rivals?02_Dawn

Tell Rolls-Royce its car is a rival for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet or Maserati GranCabrio and be prepared for a withering look worthy of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey. Rolls draws a distinction between ‘premium’ and ‘luxury’, with the Dawn falling very firmly into the latter category.

As such, its closest rival is the Bentley Continental GTC, although Sir might also consider the Ferrari California T if Sir fancies something sportier.

What engines does it use?03_Dawn

With 571 hp, the Dawn is actually more powerful than Rolls-Royce’s flagship convertible: the Phantom Drophead Coupe. Its mighty 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 blasts this 2.6-tonne land yacht to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, plus a limited top speed of 155mph.

“There are a lot of numbers I could quote on this car,” says James May on The Grand Tour, “but I’m not going to because that would be, frankly, uncouth.” Let us be uncouth for a moment: it produces 571hp, will hit 62mph in 4.9 seconds and is limited to 155mph.

Driving the Dawn in rural Tuscany, May describes the Dawn as “serene”. We concur, although our detour through the traffic-clogged lanes of south-east England was somewhat more stressful. It’s difficult to ‘make progress’ (as driving instructors say) when your car takes up more than half the road…

What’s it like to drive?04_Dawn

Inevitably, the Dawn’s sheer size has an impact on how you drive it. Put simply, it’s an incredibly relaxing way to travel… until you have to park. Yes, our car had the optional 360-degree camera system, it’s still no easy task.

The Dawn isn’t as sporting as Rolls-Royce would have you believe. Its strength lies in cosseting comfort, with light controls, effortless performance and a pillowy ride – even on optional 21-inch wheels. The sense of occasion as you follow that – solid silver – Spirit of Ecstasy down the road is unmatched.

Fuel economy and running costs05_Dawn

You do know this is a 571 hp V12, right? Besides, enquiring about running costs seems a touch vulgar here. If you have to ask, darling…

Fittingly, James May made no mention of the Dawn’s appetite for super unleaded in his review. Us? We couldn’t even scrape the official 20mpg, despite a varied test-route that included plenty of motorway cruising. CO2 emissions of 330g/km put the Rolls in the top bracket for car tax, meaning you pay £1,100 in the first year and £505 a year thereafter.

Is it practical?06_Dawn

Rolls-Royce owners typically own seven or eight cars already, so nobody will use a Dawn as their only means of transport (even if there is something delightfully decadent about that idea).

The cabin is faultlessly-finished, although the ‘Arctic White’ leather is hardly the most practical choice. Definitely more Hermosa Beach than Henley-on-Thames. There’s genuinely enough space for six-footers in the back, with easy access through the rear-hinged doors. Unfortunately, the boot isn’t so suited to grand touring. It has a narrow opening and its 295-litre capacity is less than some superminis.

What about safety?07_Dawn

Size matters when it comes to crash-safety, so you’re unlikely to have any worries here. Apart from the repair bill, obviously. The Dawn’s exclusivity means it hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but you have the full suite of BMW safety systems at your disposal, including hydraulic brake assist and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

And don’t worry about the Spirit of Ecstasy – it retracts quickly behind the grille if needed – or if a potential accident is detected.

Which version should I go for?08_Dawn

So, petrol or diesel, automatic or manual, SE or SRi? The Rolls-Royce Dawn buyer faces none of these conundrums, although they can opt for the fixed-roof version in the shape of the Wraith coupe.

Instead, there’s a long options list, including everything from an uplit Spirit of Ecstasy to whitewall tyres. With enough time and money, you can customise every aspect of the Dawn to your own personal taste – or lack of. To make your job easier, Rolls-Royce also offers a range of off-the-shelf option packs.

Should I buy one?09_Dawn

There’s no rational case to be made for buying a Rolls-Royce Dawn. The aforementioned Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet is a better car in many respects – and at least £70,000 cheaper.

However, for the ultimate in open-air luxury, nothing quite matches the Dawn. It turns heads like a lime-green Lamborghini, yet you can also put the hood up and waft along in isolated silence. And it transforms every journey into a special event, with qualities that transcend its high price.

Pub fact10_Dawn

The first Rolls-Royce to carry the Dawn name – albeit unofficially – was this special edition Silver Ghost. Built in 1908, the ‘Silver Dawn’ was originally the property of one Charles H. Angus, and spent the first part of its life in Australia.

In 2013, after a full restoration, the car took part in the gruelling 1,800-mile Centenary Alpine Trail. It was then put on display at Rolls-Royce HQ in Goodwood.