Top Gear’s 17th season flew by just like that, didn’t it?
The sixth and final episode aired over the weekend, and unlike the past episodes, this one more than lived up to the expectations. Richard Hammond got the show off to a promising start with a great segment about the Lamborghini Aventador . From there, the show picked up some steam with a pretty hilarious segment featuring Jeremy Clarkson and James May as they embarked on an electric-car crusade around town. Some unforeseen circumstances resulted in a few mishaps, but all in all, the duo managed to make the most out of their respective cars - Clarkson had the Nissan Leaf while May had the Peugeot Ion - to finish their adventure in one piece. But even that wasn’t enough to convince the two about the potential of electric cars in the future.
Fittingly, the final segment of season 17 took a more serious turn with an inspiring story about a Cross Country racing team in Wales for disabled British soldiers. It’s a humbling way to end a very interesting season and puts into perspective what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing despite the challenges that seemingly lies in front of it.
Details after the jump.
Richard Hammond Plays With The Lamborghini Aventador
As a company that took pride in putting emphasis on top speed, acceleration, and handling, Lamborghini went against its protocol by putting handling above everything else. But even if the car’s acceleration and top speed were "low priorities", the car’s 217-mph top speed sure didn’t sound like it.
Hammond had nothing but effusive praise for the Aventador as it carefully combined all three elements of Lamborghini’s opus to build a car that’s unlike anything the Italian automaker has ever produced. But since this is Top Gear, these guys still find time to make some otherwise unflattering comments with the Aventador being no exception. According to Hammond, the Aventador falls under the same trap that Clarkson commented with the MP4-12C: it’s a little too scientific and doesn’t come with the same Lamborghini flair that all its predecessors had. The performance is there and it handles remarkably well for a Lamborghini, but it misses that "fear factor" that the company has come to be known for.
Still, it’s a car that has turned a lot of heads. And even if it lacks in chaotic madness, it more than makes up for in unbridled speed and top end performance.
gallery: Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4
The Stig Runs The Aventador Around The Top Gear Track
Undaunted by Hammond’s comments on the Aventador, The Stig wanted to prove the Hamster wrong by taking the Aventador around the show’s very own race car.
And similar to the MP4-12C, Stig managed to drive the wheels off of the Lamborghini supercar, clocking in a blistering lap time of 1:16.5. The time’s three-tenths of a second short of what the MP4-12C clocked in, but it was still faster around the Top Gear track than the widely proclaimed ’fastest car on the planet’, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport .
James And Jeremy Go For An Electric Ride
The main segment of this episode saw James May and Jeremy Clarkson participate in an extensive review drive of two in-market electric cars, the Peugeot Ion and the Nissan Leaf.
In true Top Gear fashion, the duo decided to participate in a simple challenge of driving to a seaside town in order to get a good feel for their respective electric rides - May had the Ion and Clarkson had the Leaf. But before they could reach their destination, Clarkson’s Leaf EV ran out of the batteries and what ensued was a hilarious scavenger hunt to find the nearest possible charging station in the town of Lincoln . After an exhaustive search, the duo managed to find a couple of sockets to plug their cars, but had a boatload of free time before the cars could be recharged to full capacity.
To burn some time, the two ended up going on a tour around the town where they tried brass rubbing in the cathedral, fishing in Brayford Pool and even playing Scrabble in a cafe.
As soon as their cars were fully charged, they set about on their voyage towards their destination, reaching it with ample charges left on their electric motors.
While both Clarkson and May had some pleasant things to say about their respective rides, the two were far from impressed with the batteries of the EVs, concluding, at least in their minds, that "electric cars are not the future" for the simple fact that they do not have enough range.
gallery: Nissan Leaf
gallery: Peugeot iOn
Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car
The guest for this week’s episode was X-Factor judge, Louis Walsh. After a particularly boring interview with Clarkson, Walsh took to the track to run his lap with the show’s reasonably-priced car, the Kia Cee’d . After some early difficulties in changing gears, Walsh managed to salvage his lap with some clean lines towards the end, posting a pretty respectable time of 1:47.5.
Top Gear Has Heart, Apparently
For all of the endless banter among the three hosts and the controversy they attract, the final segment of season 17 proved that their hearts are still in the right place. For this piece, Richard Hammond paid a visit to a special Cross Country racing team in Wales comprised of disabled British soldiers. For a group of people used to the dangers of combat warfare, their project of making it to the Dakar Rally seems mundane by comparison. But these group of soldiers are handicapped by the fact that all of them have been injured and handicapped to varying degrees when they served in the British military.
Yet despite the incredulous hands they’ve been dealt, they’ve managed to find themselves working together to achieve the goal of being one of the first racing teams to compete in Dakar with disabilities. It’s a sobering segment that casts a light on our mortality and the fleeting experiences that we almost always take for granted on a daily basis.
But on a positive note, it also paints a clear testament to the power of the human spirit, one that sees other ways to rise above their current situations despite some debilitating circumstances that resulted from their service to their country.
It’s not a common Top Gear segment, but we can’t help but feel inspired by this group of soldiers. Heck, even Richard Hammond was lost in the moment while talking to these guys. He wasn’t the quick-witted Hamster we know; rather, he was a wide-eyed man who couldn’t begin to grasp the courage and fortitude it took for these men to continue living their lives despite all their disabilities.
And just so we don’t leave this out, ex-Stig Ben Collins returned to the show in this segment to help out the team get acclimated to the rigors of rally driving. Say what you want about his relationship with the show and vice versa, but his return couldn’t have come at a better time, even if Hammond jokingly called him ’Jilly Cooper’.