Top Gear Season 17 episode 2 review!


In this episode of Top Gear, it all began at the Top Gear test track. We can now see three different types of Aston Martins drifting around in smokey circles and burning rubber. The three cars would be the Aston Martin DBS, followed by the V12 Vantage and the new Vantage S. Creating loud noises.


“That is the noise made by idiots. Full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.” These are the words James used to describe the three Astons for being such stiff cars with no focus on the driver’s comfort. James explained that the main reason these type of cars are so unnecessarily hardcore is because of this very place. The Nürburgring.


“As soon as a car company comes here to develop a new model, they forget about everything else, except lap times. And that is the ruination of a car.” James said so because in order to make a car corner better, the springs and suspension have to be stiffer and harder as well. This would usually result in a very stiff-riding car when driven in the real world with non-perfect roads.

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But no worries! As there is actually a softer Aston Martin model. The DB9. Yes, the DB9 is indeed a much more comfort-oriented GT car and not so in handling. At the same time however, this aging DB9 had been around for 7 years now and it’s age is beginning to show. James finds the DB9 a bit boring and is really nothing special to drive.


“So what I need is the comfort of the DB9, infused with some of the power of the red hot DBS.” Well James, it looks like your prayers may have been answered, introducing the new Aston Martin Virage! It may look just like any other Aston Martin models at first glace, but it is actually a completely new model. All body panels, grille and lights are new. But does it fill the gap between the DB9 and the DBS?


Now time to compare the numbers. The DBS has 510hp, the DB9 has 470hp. But the Virage has 490hp, so it is in the middle of the power range. But how to prove that it is the middle fastest as well? A drag race of course! Immediately after the flag was flown, the DBS quickly took a grat lead ahead of both the DB9 and the Virage. No surprise there. The Virage and the DB9 was equally quick at first but in the end the slightly faster Virage took second place with just a few feet lead ahead of the DB9.


So the Virage is indeed in the middle of the range in terms of power. But what about the drive? The Virage uses the very same 6.0 liter V12 from the DB9 and the DBS but just with a different tune. It can reach a top speed of 186 mph. To no surprise again, the handling is a bit sharper than the DB9 but not as aggressive as the DBS. So far so good.


What about the price? As you’d expect, the price is also placed right in between the  £170,000 DBS and the  £129,000 DB9 at  £150,000. Even better news is that James thought that the Virage is the best looking of them all and the interior is the nicest to be in. For example the interior stitching is all done by the same seamstress so that it is consistent.


So now onto the biggest question. Is it still as hard-riding as any other sports car out there? To find out, James left the smoothness of the track and out to the main roads. He tried to drive over some potholes and some uneven roads that we encounter everyday and he soon got fed up just after a few hundred yards. Despite having all the driver settings to the most comfortable and softest setting, the Virage still jiggles and thumps over uneven bumps and surfaces. Causing great uncomfort to James and his spine.


“Rattle, rattle, bang, bang. That is not necessary!” “The Virage then, is a mis opportunity. It could and should become a comfortable gentleman’s express. Instead, is just another pointless, bone-shaking racing car.” James pretty much just sums it all. That was the end of the film and Jeremy says is finally time to see how fast the Virage goes around the test track. “WHY?!!!” James hilariously interrupted. But we all know that it still needs to happen.


“Some say he can’t eat mashed potato for religious reasons. And that he recently received 47 thousand tickets. Olympic tickets. All of them, for the finals of the women wrestling.” Yup that’s The Stig Jeremy was talking about. The time the Aston Martin Virage got around the track was a respectable 1.24.4 minutes. That is only half a second slower than the much more powerful DBS.


So now it’s time for the news! And it started off with Hammond’s introduction of a new Aston Martin model. The V12 Vantage Zagato. Then Hammond later made James a bit upset by reading the car’s press release where they say the V12 Vantage Zagato’s development was fully done at the Nürburgring.


The news then followed by some discussion on how latest mainstream cars nowadays looks very good. Just like the new KIA Optima and the new Peugeot 508. After some more jokes and laughs, the news ended and is tme for the next film.


Everyone on Top Gear loves hot hatchbacks as Hammond explains: “The idea of a sporty car and a practical car, all rolled into one easy-to-park box is hugely appealing.” However, as much as the three boys love hatchbacks, they could not decide which one is the best. This obviously demands an epic European road trip. They shall then begin their journey at the Italian city of Lucca.


We are now immediately brought to the beautiful city of Lucca, where we can see Jeremy who is the first to arrive in the middle of a city square. Jeremy’s choice of hot hatch was the Citroën DS3 Racing. “It does everything a hot hatchback should. It  is bonkers to look at. And with 204hp under the bonnet, is bonkers to drive as well. But, it still has back seat that folds down, it’s still small, it;s still relatively inexpensive, it’s ah…”


Jeremy’s talk was interrupted by James’ arrival. His choice of car? A lime green Renaultsport Clio Cup. It may only cost around £16,000 compared to the £23,ooo DS3 Racing, but it hardly comes with any standard kit like air-con to save weight. Fortunately James equipped it with air-con. Despite so, you do get a lot of performance for your money. The Clio Cup has 197hp from it’s 2.0 liter naturally aspirated petrol engine which is not far away from Jeremy’s 204hp Citroen.


Before Jeremy and James could finish their argument on which is best, Hammond arrived. Hammond’s choice was an odd one, a Fiat 500 Abart convertible with optional Esseesse (pronouced as S S) kit that gives more power, 158hp to be exact. However, there is a problem.


The Fiat 500 is not exactly a hatchback and more of a super mini. Hammond’s car is placed a class below Jeremy’s and James’ car which are genuine hatchbacks. Hammond should have chosen the Fiat Punto Abarth instead. Maybe Hammond had not thought of it. Unfortunately, it is too late to change, he is already in Italy!


Before the three of them could end another lengthy pointless argument on which car is best, a challenge arrived and it said: “To see which of your car works best in the urban environment, you will now leave the city of Lucca.” Jeremy instantly responded with “That’s it?!” and “How hard can it be!” Ah, same old Jeremy. They are about to find out how tough is it to just leave this town in cars.


In this medieval-era looking town, all the buildings are arranged in a very messy and confusing way. The only way to get around is to rely solely on the road signs and instincts. Another huge problem would be the cars itself. The hatchbacks will be considered small cars everywhere else, but on these extremely narrow roads, they feel huge!


Jeremy manages to squeeze through a gap with just around few centimeters to spare (that includes closing the wing mirrors!) and James kept having contact with the bicycles which were parked on the sides. Hammond’s super mini was much more suitable in this situation, but just. Hammond now have to face another problem.


Hammond is extremely lost in this “maze” and decided to leave his car and find the correct route out of Lucca by foot. He eventually found one but had trouble finding back his car. Finally, his car was found but he wasted quite some time. There is actually a city wall surrounding Lucca and the boys just have to get out from the wall. James soon encountered a hill not knowing that that leads to the top of the wall.


While James is now driving aimlessly on top of the wall, Hammond had found a way out of the wall, only to find out that Jeremy had reached there first. Despite not having James with them yet, another challenge arrived. “You will now drive to the town of Canelli, which is 170 miles away near Alba. On route, you must collect the following items: A branch of a Cida tree, ice cubes, a photo of as many people as you can getting into your car, a CD from a service station but you may not get out of your car to get it, a bicycle, a vine, and a dog.” 


While Jeremy and Hammond were busy discussing how on earth would they find a dog or a vine in this place, James’ voice was heard shouting from a distance. James was still on top of the wall and he could not find a way down. Hammond then yelled back to James about the challenge’s details. Even James was surprised about finding a dog on this challenge. James then allowed the other two boys to go ahead with the challenge while he finds a way back down.


So Hammond and Jeremy did exactly that. They two are now cruising along beautiful Italian highways better known as Autostrada. Jeremy loved his DS3 Racing even more as he explains: “If you have a big BMW or Mercedes it is like an expensive suit, it has to be a sober color. Silver, black, grey. But if you have a hot hatch, is like a T-shirt. It can be anything you want, have writing on it, can be orange, anything! That’s why the DS3 Racing is so brilliant. Cause they just take the idea of fun and go mad with it!” Well said Jezza!


Hammond do not have much words to say about his Fiat, but we can clearly see that he adores his car. That fold-back roof also helps in it’s charm. Even though the Fiat is a class below the DS3 Rscing, Hammond was still impressed by the amount of standard kit available on his little car. As for James’ bare bone Renault Clio, James had something to say…


“I don’t doubt that the others (Jeremy & Hammond) would be beating all about how they have sat-nav or leather upholstery or whatever, But that’s not the point. Renault had concentrated on the things that make this a hot hatch rather than just a hatchback. See, your money goes on the engine, the lovely steering wheel, this fabulous gear change that’s all great. You get a dull interior, it is very boring, very basic. But I want this car to DRIVE.” I can’t argue with that. Totally agreed!


Ok enough of car talk. Let’s start with the challenges. James May decided to get the CDs first from a petrol service station. To make matters worse, the Top Gear producers had not given any of the three boys any money to buy things. The only option was to trade, and the producers did gave each of them some interesthing things to trade with. James already had trouble communicating with the Italian staff who can’t speak much of English.


Jeremy on the other hand, decided to do the challenge where he has to take a picture of his car with as many people inside the car as he can. We can see that many people, ranging from young kids to elderly are trying to fit into Jeremy’s DS3 Racing. After some moaning and squeezing, Jeremy manages to fit in 13 people inside his Citroën. Jeremy bet the other boys would not be able to beat him.


Hammond was doing the same challenge as well and surprisingly, Hammond manages 14 in his even smaller Fiat. Unsurprisingly however, Hammond could only achieve this result by cheating a little. He opened the roof of his convertible Fiat 500 Abarth and the people inside the car could literally just stand up straight in it. And by choosing only skinny and anorexic fellow Italians, Hammond manages to fit in so much people. Picture taken.


As I mentioned before this, the three boys were given odd things to trade for the CD. The trading items includes: other music CDs, canned food, and lots of the Royal Couple, Will and Kate souvenirs. Eventually all three of them got their CDs and went on with the other challenges. Getting the wood bark and vines were not difficult.


James simply cut one off, Hammond just pick up one from a ledge, and Jeremy had to do some light off-roading in order to get them. Foolishly, Jeremy’s definition of a bark was a whole damn branch. The only way to keep it in the car is with the boot lid kept open and the branch dragging on the floor.


Now for the harder one, the bicycle. Now how would someone possibly find a free bicycle in this beautiful little town where most people rides or owns a bicycle? Well, because of the popularity of bicycles here, Hammond got lucky and found a local policeman patrolling… a bicycle! Hammond then decided to talk his way in to getting the policeman’s bike on to his Fiat. Miraculously, Hammond succeeded. But that’s maybe because the policeman got another spare bike.


Now the even tougher one, a dog. Well, kidnapping a stray dog is just cruel and dirty. Jeremy and James used an awesome plan which worked very well. Offer someone who is walking a dog a free car ride! This meant that you will still have a dog and not having it running around in the car or wetting the seats with pee. James’ passenger was a pretty lady and that was just a bonus.


The final item to get was the easiest to find but hardest to keep. Ice cubes. Naturally, all three boys decided to get the ice cubes last so that there would still be ice when they reach their destination. Having ice cubes quickly melting in their cars meant that they have to drive real fast in order to reach there in time before it becomes water.


James’ on the other odd hand have to drive real slow. That’s because he foolishly decided to keep his stockpile of ice in a pail strapped on top of his car. Driving too fast would just litter the road with water and ice cubes.


Jeremy hurried to his destination only to find out that Hammond had reached there first. Hammond was surprised that Jeremy actually brought along a real dog with it’s owner along because Hammond could only get a stuffed toy dog. James eventually arrived as well, but his pail of ice is now a pail of failure (water). The film will end for now and will be continued later as it is now time for A Star In A Reasonably Priced Car!


The guest for the day is English comedian and motorcycle fanatic, Ross Noble. Not going to go into too much details here about the interview as I believe you badly want to know about the rest of the boys’ Italian road trip. Ross obviously was a funny man during the interview and he talked about why cars are just not as exciting as bikes.


He also mentioned about how he bought 150 street cones from the internet and formed a motorbike track around his back yard. Ross also bought a tank and once used it to go to the shops. Ok, I shall stop here. Ross’ lap time around the Top Gear test track was 1.43.5 which is the second fastest! Great driving Ross! Now back to the boy’s Italian road trip!


They three are now required to drive from where they are now, which is the Italian alps of Alba to Monaco. I guess you could see what’s coming in store for them. On their way there, they finally could truly enjoy their hot hatchbacks. It is also only then James realized that his naturally aspirated 2.0 engine just could not keep up with his fellows’ turbocharged engines. James’ Renault is also the heaviest here.


Upon reaching Monaco, they could hear the familiar sounds of F1 cars. All from the Monaco race track of course. Yup, a F1 race is indeed going on that time on the track, and before they could get too excited, they were given a challenge. It said:” Tomorrow, you will do three laps of the Monaco Grand Prix track. Whoever post the fastest time wins.”


Jeremy almost faint from excitement. “That is just the boyhood dream!”Jeremy exclaimed. However, none of them had driven around this famous F1 track before and they would really need all the briefing they could get today before the tomorrow’s challenge. So they immediately went to search for some tips from experienced people.


The F1 race had just ended later that day and Jeremy immediately encountered F1 driver David Coulthard. David sat down for tea with Jeremy and had a serious conversation to familiarize the track and get to know the corners. James and Hammond on the other hand, decided to get some tips from some pretty ladies on a luxury yacht. Jeremy is now seen chatting about serious track stuff with Red Bull Racing team F1 driver,Mark Webber.


James and Hammond continued chatting with the ladies and enjoying the party. While they two were drinking and partying and chatting about all kinds of stuff not related to driving, Jeremy is now discussing about the Monaco track’s racing lines with Williams team F1 driver, Rubens Barrichello. Time quickly reached late night and the three boys gathered to see what they have gained over half a day in Monaco. James and Hammond proudly told Jeremy that they have met an F1 driver, Timo Glock, not knowing that Jeremy had met way more than that.


Finally, is the day they all have been waiting for. A three golden lap around the Monaco Grand Prix race track closed privately just for the three of them to drive hatchbacks around. Unlike most other F1 tracks, this Monaco track has no run-off areas where there is a lot of free space made out of sand and gravel when you skid out of control to slow down your crash.


The Monaco race track was built around a city just like Singapore’s F1 track which means that when you do crash, you crash. Having an accident or breakdown in such narrow tracks is also not ideal as you will block most of the track, risking other drivers which are heading towards you at high speeds. So in order to keep dangers at bay, the producers insisted that someone experienced will be guiding each of the three boys to familiarize the track before they could set a lap time on their own.


No, they will not be F1 drivers, but people who plays an even important role in the motoring world. Hammond’s partner would be the team manager of Red Bull Racing F1 team, Christian Horner. James who is driving the Renault will fittingly get former boss of Renault, Flavio Briatore.

If the two people guiding Hammond and James not big shot enough for you, wait till you see who is going to be joining Jeremy. He is the president, CEO, and pretty much the founder of Formula One. Jeremy was truly honoured to have F1 founder, Bernie Ecclestone to be his partner for the day.

Maybe Jeremy is just hoping that Bernie could just disqualify both Hammond and James before they could even start. Yup, that guy is really that powerful. In fact, Bernie was the one who closed down the Monaco race track just for the three boys to drive some cheap hatchback on it. Heck, if you were his best friend, he might even close down any F1 race track just to let you walk your dog in it! Keep on dreaming…..


Ok, no more joking around now. It is time for the three boys to race around the track and get to know about this complicated track. I’m not sure about whether those three special guest had even gone around this track before, but they sure seemed to know their way around this track. Hammond’s passenger did gave him many tips and skills around the track but Hammond was afraid to floor it when told. Actually all three boys was a bit worried to drive fast as there are many blind corners and sharp bends in this track.


After they are getting a hang of this track, it is time for the special guest to leave them to drive alone. All three were given only three laps to set their fastest lap times, nothing more. Three laps is not a lot, in fact it is very little. So every lap really counts. Three laps ended a bit too soon. It is sad to leave the place, and all the three boys really thought that it was one of the best experience of their lives.


“I never had a day I enjoyed more, working than that.” Jeremy said. “It certainly be better than the Nürburgring wouldn’t it.” James hilariously interrupted. I have not told you about their lap time because we have to wait for them to sum up the total points.


Let’s start with as James would say, the “Getting Out Of Lucca Challenge” where they have to find a way out of Lucca. Jeremy arrived first so he had 10 points, Hammond got 5 points for being the second, and James got 2 for being last place. However, James told us that the producers had said that any man who loses their car in the city would be disqualified, so Hammond got zero points instead. Hammond could already predict what’s coming.


The next would be the scavenger hunt challenge. Hammond was glad as he had 10 points for being the first, Jeremy got 5 and James got 2 for being in last place again. However, James loses 1 point as his ice cubes had all melted. Hammond loses 2 points as his dog was just a soft toy. Loses another 2 points for bringing the wrong tree bark, and Jeremy randomly deducted another 6 points for not bringing any CDs which funnily leaves Hammond with no points. Poor Hammond.


The next challenge is the “People In The Car’ challenge. James got a total of 12 people in his car and therefore got 12 points, Jeremy got 13 people in his car so is 13 points for him. Hammond proudly told Jeremy he had 14 people in his car but Jeremy wrote zero on the score board instead. The reason being that the producers had said that the people must be in the car. By opening the roof, the people were sort of standing on the car and not really inside of it. Hammond could not argue further.


So it’s time to reveal their lap times at the Monaco race track. Hammond did it in 2.22.o minutes, James in 2.21.0 and Jeremy proudly told his two mates that he did it in 2.15.0. So that’s 10 points for Jeremy, Hammond got 5 and James got 2. The final score? 38 points for Jeremy, 17 points for James, and a pitiful 5 for Hammond. Before Hammond could get over his disappointment, Jeremy had another “However” for him.


The producers said that there will be a point deduction for not bringing a proper hatchback and Hammond’s Fiat 500 is clearly not one. It must be a true coincidence that the point deducted is 5, which leaves Hammond with a total score of….Zero! “And on that bombshell, is time to end. Thank you very much for watching. Good night!” Jeremy ended the show in his typical manner.