Last Sunday’s episode of Top Gear (that I just watched last night) was a pretty good episode. And it wasn’t for the fact that there was a small car face off or a big AMG driving around their track. No. It was all because of James May’s eyes as he rode in Ken Block’s Monster Subaru Impreza going over a jump. I have to admit, that I was sitting with my mouth open the whole time, and I have seen both of Ken’s previous gymkhana episodes.
This week’s episode started off with a car that I was genuinely excited about seeing. The Mercedes SL65 AMG Black. The number is irrelevant as it only has a 6 liter V12, but it has 650 horsepower and over 700 foot pounds of torque to propel it forward. And of course, Jeremy described it as rubbish. Now, I have never, and will never, get to drive one of these, but I am fairly certain that Jeremy is the wrong sort of chap to be driving this thing. I don’t know of many older gents that will be putting on their loafers, driving gloves and wool caps and then sitting snugly into a one-piece carbon fiber seat. Although, if Clarkson describes something as rubbish, it usually is. As a sort of mini test to go along with it, they brought out a McLaren SLR and had a tiny race. Of course the soundtrack of the SLR dominated the puny sounding Black, but it kept up reasonably well even though it wasn’t as expensive. In the end I wish they had done the good old fashioned drag race, but the outcome of that would have been the SLR in first, Black in second.
Then it was on to the small car challenge. The boys had to go out and find cars that were cheap and that were good. The cars they came up with, the Perodua Myvi, Chevy Aveo and Proton Satria, were all completely, completely horrible. They were plasticky and loud and boomy and had bad steering and brakes and I could go on but won’t. All in all, they were downright embarrassing as actual vehicles. So the boys were then sent back to try and find three small, cheap cars that were actually good. But that came later in the show.
The guest was someone British, and therefore, someone I had never heard of. But he was entertaining and did a very enthusiastic lap of the track. At Gambon corner, he almost flipped the car just like Michael almost did. Overall, I would say that the guest (I even forget his name) was one of the more entertaining in a long time.
Then it was on to what was the highlight of the show for me. James came all the way to California to ride in the Subaru that Ken Block made famous. It is basically a third gymkhana vehicle without there actually being a third one on the Internet. At first, James is enjoying the moment and doesn’t seem too phased by the acceleration, but as soon as Ken pulls the handbrake and drifts around the first corner, James finds out that he is in for a very extreme ride. I must say that I think this video is even better than gymkhana number two, but not as visceral as the first video. However, I’m not sure if James got some of his facts wrong, but I think that the Subaru Impreza in the video has more than the 380 horsepower he says it does. But then again, I just looked over the last gymkhana video and the exhaust placement is different so maybe it is a totally different car. Well, whatever the case, it is sure to be a big boost for the American rally scene and will certainly boost Ken’s worldwide status. And the kicker is that when they cut back to the boys in the hanger, Clarkson was heard to say that Ken would be at their track later in the year!! I don’t know if that means he will be a guest of doing demonstration runs or just there for a non-televised showing, but by god it had better be another Top Gear segment.
For the final test, the boys found three cheap cars that are actually good. Clarkson turned up in a Skoda Roomster, May turned up in a very forward thinking Toyota IQ and Richard Hammond showed up in the very stylish Alfa Romeo Mito. Their challenges consisted of a drag race, NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) testing and getting a dog into the vehicle and doing a lap of the track. The Mito came in first, second and third respectively, the IQ; second, first and second and the Roomster third, third and first. So based on those results, the IQ is the best to get. However, when the boys took their cars out into the real world, the challenge was the first person to see another person driving their vehicle was the winner. As they took to the streets in Notting Hill, they found that apparently, if you want a small, cheap, good looking car, the one out of the three to get….is a Fiat 500. In fact, they somehow managed to find an entire street filled with the little 500s. And before the test even started I thought that one of them would turn up in one, but was surprised to see that none did. Oh well. Next week’s show promises to be even better and there is the added bonus of Formula One being back on!!!
For all of Ken Block’s videos, check out his Website.