Top Gear Season 17 episode 3 review!

We start with this episode with the long awaited battle between the new McLaren MP4-12C and the great Ferrari 458 Italia. So let the battle commence! “McLaren themselves admit that the 458 is a great car. But they say scientifically and mathematically, they can prove in every single, measurable way their new car is better.”  Jeremy shall see.

The McLaren cost around £168,000 which is slightly cheaper than the Ferrari, it is also a bit more cleaner, a bit more lighter, and also a bit more economical. However, it is much more powerful than the Ferrari. The Ferrari 458 Italia, with it’s naturally aspirated 4.5-liter V8 petrol engine, produces 562hp. While McLaren’s twin-turbocharged 3.8 liter petrol engine churns out a significantly more 592hp. 0-60mph only takes 3.1 seconds, with a top speed of 205mph.

So far the McLaren does dominate the Ferrari on paper and stats. How about on the track? Let Jeremy explain: “Ferrari has been in the Formula One game longer than anybody. But McLaren amazingly, has a higher hit rate. They won one in every four Gran Prix they’d ever entered. Which shows they clearly know how to make a car go around a corner.” He was right, the Ferrari is right now leading the track, but soon enough Jeremy in the McLaren overtook the Ferrari in a corner as he could brake later.

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The Ferrari can get a bit tail-happy when you push it to the limit, but the McLaren is very precise in every corner you can give it and keeps on doing it exceptionally well. “This grips on to the road like a terrified toddler grips on to it’s mother’s hand” One of the main reason the McLaren MP4-12C has so much grip and is so fast on a track would be it’s traction control system.

This system is especially useful in the wet because “It let’s you drive hard, but it won’t let you kill yourself.” And that is just scratching the surface of the technologies on the McLaren. The is a spoiler at the rear which raises when you brake hard (which at the same time, block your rear visibility). As for the suspension, a computer had replaced the anti-roll bars which makes all four wheels completely independent from one another. This not only gives you better cornering, but most importantly, a better ride. Let Jeremy explain.

“Over the years, you’d seen The Stig cutting this corner, putting two wheels on the grass to get the best possible lap times.” Jeremy was talking about the corner which you can see above. “But, if you ride a bump like that in the sort of hunkered-down and firmed up cars that he drives, the jolt is horrific. Is like being dipped in liquid nitrogen and hit with a hammer. You would just, shatter.” Jeremy shall now pass through that corner at track speed and all he got was just a slight thump in the cabin. “You will get more of a jolt if you drove a Rolls-Royce over a Jaffa cake.”

Jeremy said he had never driven a supercar half as comfortable as the McLaren nor as well trimmed. The McLaren’s interior is made from high quality materials, flawless stitching, and superb graphics on the multimedia screen. It is simple, elegant, and a very nice place to be in. “So, yes. In every scientific and mathematical way, this is better than a Ferrari 458 and it will even do 30 miles to the gallon. But there is something missing, something that can’t be measured, something you can’t really put your finger on. There’s no, zing.”

We are now traveled to the factory where the McLaren was made….. “It is like a laboratory. Is quite, ordered, a magnesium and titanium traipse world where perfection isn’t quite good enough. It’s very nice, but you can’t imagine anyone here has ever put a whoopee cushion on the managing director’s chair.” I think you can see what Jeremy is trying to say.

“You sense this lack of joy when you are behind the wheel.” Jeremy is saying that the McLaren is a bit too technical for it’s own good. “We see the same problem of the way the McLaren looks. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there is no art. You’d get a sense that it was styled by software and shaped by science. Which it probably was.” 

Jeremy shall give another good example. “You can turn the traction control off, but it would be easier to launch a missile from a nuclear submarine.” In order to turn it off, Jeremy had to press a button for around 10 seconds, then push two other buttons at the same time. “And I’ve said to one of the engineers the other day why does it have to be so complicated. And they’d like, why would you want to turn the traction control off? So it would be fun! You can see him thinking, hmmm fun, I must look that up in a dictionary.”

“The McLaren then is like a pair of tights. Very practical and very sensible. The Ferrari though, that is a pair of stockings.” The end! Back in the studio, Hammond questioned Jeremy again about the ride. Jeremy explained that it is just like being in a Rolls-Royce. James then happily stated that it is because it was not developed at the Nürburgring.

James was actually right, the McLaren was never developed at the Nürburgring unlike all other sports car but in fact, developed partly at the Top Gear Test Track. So this should meant that the McLaren would post a very quick laptime around the track. The Stig drove around the track while listening to Abba in Spanish.

The McLaren MP4-12C’s lap was a very undramatic one, it drove through all corners neatly without any over or under steer. So it should not be a surprise that it posted a very impressive lap time of 1.16.2 seconds which is the second fastest car around the Top Gear Test Track. Faster than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport at 1.16.8 which is in third place, and way faster than it’s main rival, the Ferrari 458 Italia at 1.19.1. Great job McLaren!

So now it’s time for the news! And it all starts with a car event called The Chumley Pageant of Power and there is a very specific car Hammond pointed out. It is a 1920 old racing car called The Brutest. The interesting thing about this car is it’s mighty engine. A whooping 46 liter 12-cylinder engine. As with all huge engines, the downside would be the fuel economy. 0.18 miles per gallon to be exact.

The next news would be about a Jaguar E-Type gathering where more than a thousand E-Types will be there and James questioned about the point of a car gatherings. He said: “I’d never understood that. So you drive hundreds of miles in your car to look at some cars that are exactly the same as the car you just drove there in.” Hahaha. The news is followed by the introduction of the all new BMW M5 which you can read all about it by clicking here.

Jeremy then started talking about bird poo and how they can ruin a car’s paint during a hot weather. Hammond was confused on why Jeremy brought up this weird topic and Jeremy took out his iPad. There is a picture of Jeremy’s Range Rover displayed on his iPad which clearly shows a meter long of bird dropping running down at the rear of his car. “What bird can do a meter of feces?!!! I’m two meters tall and I can’t do a meter of feces!.” Jeremy even said that he found a total of seven cherry seeds when he examined those droppings. Poor Jeremy!

That’s the end of the news. Now on to the next film! James is going to test the all new baby Range Rover, the Evoque in the United States of America. James first introduced the Evoque and said that the car does not look as tough nor as off-roady as other Land Rovers. No surprise there, as the design consultant for the Evoque was Victoria Beckham. Fact.

So in order to test and see whether the Evoque is a true Range Rover with great off-road capabilities, James is going to drive from Death Valley, California right up to Las Vegas where James is supposedly going to pick up a famous American actress, Cher. No pressure being late then.

Death Valley, one of the world’s most driest and hottest place on earth is also one of the most inhabitable. With some of the most challenging and tough terrain an extreme off-roader would dream of. Just leaving Death Valley alone would require 150 miles of driving  and during these 150 miles, James is not allowed to use any tarmac roads whatsoever.

This journey is really going to test this baby Range Rover to the very limit. Unlike the mighty Range Rover which has all the off-road goodies like a low-range gearbox, locking differential, higher ground clearance, and a much more powerful engine, the Evoque does not have any of those gadgets. And in this particular model James is currently driving, the Evoque must make do with a economical 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine with a modest 187hp.

The first few miles was easy task for the Evoque as the terrain is just made up of rough sand and rocks.Driving over such surfaces also made James realized how good the suspension is in damping all this bumpiness and vibrations. The reason for that would be it’s optional dampers which are filled with fluids which contains magnetized iron fillings.

These iron fillings could react in milliseconds to adjust the firmness of the Evoque’s suspension. This advance technology was also used in the Audi R8 sports car but the only difference is that the Evoque’s version can react twice as fast as the R8’s. The R8 does not need to be that fast because you don’t go offroad in one.

Miles and miles gone by, and the terrain remains manageable and well, getting a bit boring for James. His attention was then focused on the music he was listening, and James realized that the stereo was quite good and the interior is very beautiful and well laid out. Well it should be because the Evoque does not come cheap. £28,000 is what you roughly have to pay just to have the base model.

Remember about the aforementioned optional dampers and the good stereo? Well, you will only get these luxuries if you pay £43,000 for the Prestige model James is currently driving. Keep on ticking the options list and you could almost double the price of the base model.

Soon enough, Death Valley decided to give the Evoque a bit of a challenge with some small hills covered in larger rocks. Without the off-road goodies found in the Range Rover, the Evoque can only make use of an electronic system better known as Terrain Response which all Land Rovers all famous for. All you need to do is to turn the dial to the surface type you are in, and the Evoque’s electronic brain will figure it all out for you. Piece of cake then.

Another great feature which the Evoque has and James also adores are the Evoque’s five small cameras which are located around the Evoque (Located front left, front right, left, right, and one more at the rear). This allow James to monitor the surroundings of his car and avoid hitting any huge rocks surrounding the area, which he nearly did.

Soon, James is driving through a narrow and rocky canyon which slowly rises uphill, and the Evoque began to show it’s limit. The five cameras may had helped James to avoid some huge rocks, but there are just some which are unavoidable and James had to drive over. The first real obstacle was a small boulder blocking James’ path.

After some struggling, the Evoque manages to  drive pass it. James was very impressive. “I have to say this is pretty good for a car that, let’s be honest, most people are gonna drive to the shops and occasionally cross a field, to a pony club meeting or gymkhana or whatever they call it.” 


But of course, there is a limit to everything and James soon struggle to drive up a small cliff. No matter how hard he tried, the Evoque still could not drive James over it. There is no other option but to find a new route. There is another downside using the alternate route though, James had to drive across a vast sand dune which stood between James’ way.

And for the sake of our entertainment, Top Gear surprised James with two racing dune buggies which lead James towards the right direction while doing some insane stunts such as a wheelie. On sand! After passing that sand dune, James can now put down his feet and accelerate across a flat dried lake. Finally he passed Death Valley and soon got the chance to drive on tarmac.

Very soon James arrived at Las Vegas. Just like what you see in the movies, Las Vegas is filled with colorful lights and casinos. James arrived at the venue, which is the Imperial Palace and James stopped right in front of the main gate awaiting the arrival of Cher. When Cher finally came out from the hotel, there was a few buff-looking body guards escorting her into the Evoque. There seems to be quite some people taking photographs of her, but not as many people as I expected.

James greeted Cher good evening before setting off but never said anything after that. Cher too never spoke a single word along the journey which made it a bit awkward for both of them. James kept looking at his rear view mirror to get a glimpse of her. James’ curiosity soon got the better of him and he turned back and asked her whether she was a man. She was! Instead of the real star Cher, this is just a man dressing up as her. With this out of the way, the male Cher then told James that he really would like a burger. James then continued driving to see what he can do. The end!

Back in the studio, James revealed that the man’s name was Steve. Jeremy also thinks that the Evoque looks great. James supported him by showing him the even better looking three-door Evoque. Enough of the Range Rover. Now it’s time for a Grand Prix Star In A Reasonably Priced Car. It is none other than last year’s F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel!

After some laughs and jokes, Jeremy read out some of Sebastian Vettel’s achievements. Sebastian is the youngest World Champion, youngest person to ever win a Grand Prix, youngest person to get a pole position, youngest person to score a point, and youngest to ever score the fastest lap. Jeremy then joked how Sebastian was like when he was a baby.

Sebastian also told us that he gives names to all of his F1 cars he had driven. For the current Red Bull race car he is racing right now, he calls it “Kinky Kylie” and reason was because the car has “a nice back end”. Last year’s car he called it “Luscious Liz” and the year before it was called “Kate’s Dirty Sister”. After some talks about Sebastian interest in British comedies and accent, it’s time to see his lap!

“Today is the most important day of your career so far.” Jeremy described to Sebastian. All F1 drivers who comes to Top Gear drives the old Suzuki Liana because F1 drivers don’t come by easily and also because they would like to see which F1 driver is faster in the same car. In F1, all F1 race cars are different. Sebastian’s time was 1.44.0! This makes him the fastest F1 driver around the track. Not much surprise there but congratulations to him anyway!

Time for the next and final film! Hammond now introduce us the Nissan Pixo which is the cheapest car on sale in Britain, costing only £6995. That do sound fantastic but Jeremy shall go find out.

Built in India and powered by a tiny 1.0 liter petrol engine so it’s very slow. Jeremy then added that “it does not look very nice, it isn’t very spacious, and it comes with less equipment than a cave”  Yes you do get a power steering, air-con, and a radio but that’s pretty much it. There is not even carpets.

Yes it is indeed very cheap and we should expect a new car this cheap to be very poorly equipped. “But do you have to? Because what does £6995 buy you if you if you’re prepared to ferry around in the second-hand market.” Jeremy do have a point there, what used cars can we get at that small price?

Well, for the exact £6995, Hammond managed to find a Bentley Turbo R! Yes, it may be 23 years old, and done over 122,000 miles, but it is a Bentley you’re getting! It has all round electric windows, electrically adjustable front seats, and you could even choose between a twin-horn or a single horn. But I must admit that not all the electrical gadgets mentioned were working properly.

But think of it this way, when this was on sale new back in 1988, it cost over £79,000. Further more, this Bentley is way more powerful(and thirstier) than the Pixo. The interior is also full of leather, and real wood. Even Jeremy was surprised that the Bentley cost exactly the same as the Pixo he was standing right next to. However, they both were aware that such car over 23 years old are very unreliable and when things do break down, it will cost a hell lot more to fix.

So what other used car can you get at the price of a new Pixo? Well, Jeremy and Hammond both found a total of 12 used cars which cost that much. A Mazda RX-8, Subaru Impreza WRX, Honda S2000, Jaguar XK, BMW X5, Mitsubishi Evo VII, Alfa Romeo GTV, Mercedes E-Class, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, and a MG I believe.

The aforementioned Honda S200 for example, has done only 47,000 miles and cost only £6500. That’s cheaper than the Pixo! The used RX-8 has done only 28,000 miles at the same price as the Pixo. The Subaru Impreza WRX also only done over 37,000 miles. Besides the 12 cars, they also found a 88,000 miles Porsche Boxter and took it for a test drive. Again, they are surprised at what they could get at the price of a Nissan Pixo.

Both Hammond and Jeremy decided to do a challenge(finally!). They want to see who can find the best car at the price of a Nissan Pixo. A short time later, they found their cars! And I must say that I was very please with their choices. Jeremy found a Mercedes-Benz CL coupe at exactly 6995 pounds.

What makes this price even surprising is that this is the top-of-the-line model, the V12 powered CL600! Not only do you get a very powerful engine, but also all the gadgets you could possibly imagine from Mercedes-Benz high-end models. A brand new top-of-the-line CL will cost someone £161,000 today and therefore Jeremy described his CL600 as the “Bargain of the year“.

Obviously Hammond comes in to prove him wrong. And Hammond’s car of choice for under £6995 is the BMW 850ci. Yup it is a 8-Series, and if you thought that BMW only has the 7-Series, then that’s because the 8 Series has long been discontinued in 1999. Also powered by a V12, Hammond said that the main reason his BMW is better than Jeremy’s Mercedes is because of one special feature of his car, pop-up headlamps. Oh and it’s cheaper too, Hammond paid only £6700 for his 8-Series.

Yes Hammond’s BMW is cheaper but it is 17 years old while Jeremy’s Mercedes is only 9 years old. But then in that 9 years time span, the car had gone 127,000 miles and only 54,000 miles for the BMW in the 17 years. So which car is better, only one way to find out. First up, a 1.8 mile drag race!

The Mercedes got the lead and kept it throughout the race while Hammond was left behind. At a post-race through the built-in telephones in their cars, Haamond told Jeremy that he could have won if the race was 50 miles long as his top speed was 156 mph while Jeremy’s car was limited to 155. Jokes aside, it’s time to see why Hammond’s car is slower.

Both cars will be put on a machine which calculates a car’s horsepower so they both could see how much hp had lost over the years, starting with Hammond’s BMW. When new, the 850ci produces 296hp, after testing, it revealed that it now produce 269hp which meant that it had lost 27hp in 17 years. As for the CL600, it produces 362hp when new. After the test we found out that after nine years it had lost only 10hp, which is 352hp. So far the Mercedes-Benz is the better car.

Next, the two cars shall go through a “lab test” where people who work for forensics just like in the CSI episodes where they sweep through every inch of the car to find “evidence”. This also sees how clean the car is and the rough history of their cars. After some time later, the results are in!

Let’s start with Hammond’s BMW. Not sure what to call him but his name is Manlove (no joke), so be it. Manlove told Hammond that he had found many traces of saliva, especially on the car’s phone unsurprisingly. Manlove also found “rolls” of nasal mucus inside the car. He then also detected odor of urine and described it as a “general pervading aroma”. Okay, let’s move on shall we?

Now onto Jeremy’s Mercedes. Manlove started by telling him that he found some “white powder” which seemed to be herbal material which had been cut or chopped. He did not do further testing so he is not sure the exact properties of that “white powder”. At the front passenger seat, he found a rhinestone, which sounds fine. Not until he continued by saying that he had a done a chemical reaction with the rhinestone and found vaginal material. Yup, vaginal material on the passenger seat. We should move on.

Jeremy and Hammond now take their cars to the streets to see how they drive on the public roads. The sheer pace, power, and comfort of both their cars just kept reminding them that they are driving something very expensive, not something which cost only £6995 and below. It now seemed foolish for someone to buy a brand new Nissan Pixo.

Jeremy and Hammond have now brought their cars to a small market town of Market Harborough to do a small test for the public. They want to see what the public think the two car would cost to buy secondhand. After asking dozens of passer-by’s the least value someone guessed was between £13,000 to £14,000, majority of them guessed between £20,000 to £25,000, a few guessed £40,000 to £50,000. Not a single person got remotely close to £6995. 

This had proved that people thinks that you are driving a much more expensive car than you are actually paying. That’s the end of the film and now back to the studio. James then gave them two a good scolding for not choosing the Nissan Pixo. In these times, James said that the Pixo makes much more financial sense, it is much more economical and way more reliable. Hammond and Jeremy then told James that their cars will remain reliable. James doubt it and decided to bet all his hair that one of their cars will break down in two weeks. Bet on! See you next episode…..