Car television shows have come a long way in the last five years. From the previous drought of anything car-related but entertaining on American television, there are now at least 10 incredible automotive-themed television shows.
Some focus on road and track testing, some on adventures and some on the popular resto-mod template. Finding which of these shows is the best for real car enthusiasts can be tricky. They take a long time to film, are expensive to make and edit, and generally are nowhere near as popular as TMZ and other garbage.
To help car guys to find the best way to see all the latest cars being driven to the max, these 10 television programs are our favorites right now. The best part? The new seasons of Top Gear USA and Fifth Gear UK are airing, so there is some new car content to devour.
So sit back, relax, and never have to suffer through MotorWeek again.
Please click past the jump to see the full details of the Top Ten Best Car TV Shows.
1. BBC Top Gear UK
Mmmm, Top Gear. Now playing the new episodes on BBC America just a week after they air in the UK, the incredible television pgrogram’s popularity is increasing with every year.
No other car show on television brings so many stunning adventures, all the latest exotica, playful jokes among the three hosts, and of course the wild inventions and outrageous challenges.
Top Gear UK is a general entertainment program that is watchable by even non-car-crazed people. It is fun to watch, the production values are outstanding, and there is no telling what crazy scheme the producers will have for the boys next.
2. Top Gear USA
Top Gear USA is the long, long result of many years trying to retool the program for American audiences. The biggest challenge was finding hosts with the enthusiasm and authenticity of the UK guys, which is a big challenge.
Luckily, Adam Ferrara stepped in for Adam Corolla. A last name similar to Ferrari is much cooler than one similar to Corolla, and Mr. Ferrara is one of the highlights of the show. His catchphrase is becoming a very New York-accented "Ehh?" as he pulls up to the challenges in some ridiculous old boat. Unlike Tanner and Rutledge, Adam Ferrara has some real interest in classic Americana.
He then subsequently destroys most of his cars in the challenges, with hilarious results.
3. Fifth Gear
Fifth Gear has long been the kid sister to Top Gear in the UK. Without the huge audiences and travel budgets of the BBC global distribution system, Fifth Gear has worked hard to up its game in recent years. Far better camera-work and a home base at a huge auto testing center means that Fifth Gear is an hour-long program that is neck and neck with the top two for originality and entertainment value.
A re-formatting said sayonara to the buddy chat intro of the show, and replaced it with even more amazing cars driven by the four hosts.
Some highlights include Vicki Butler-Henderson’s squealing laugh when she loves a car, Johnny’s forthrightness, Tiff’s competitive spirit, and Jason’s too-cool-for-school attitude at times.
It is always funny and enjoyable to watch. Two other highlights include the Team Test feature, where they all pile in a new car and bicker for a few laps. Very fun to see their opinions of all the hottest new metal.
4. Fast n’ Loud
This is by far the most humorous and interesting of the automotive makeover genre of shows. Fast N Loud is about a custom resto-mod shop in Dallas run by a pair of crude dudes. One is the money man, always maximizing profits with a huge markup at sale time or a hard bargain when buying classics out in the country.
Overall, versus the many, many other resto-mod shows, this one is the best for real car guys. The detailed planning and execution often goes wrong, but there is still a lot of great car action.
5. Wheeler Dealers and Wheeler Dealers Trading Up
Wheeler Dealers is another resto-mod show, but takes a much more detailed approach to choosing which classic cars to buy and restore. Mike Brewer and Ed China might be just as greasy as the Fast N Loud guys under their fingernails, but their smooth and silky English accents make it easier to watch than something like West Coast Customs.
There have been over 10 seasons, with the guys breaking down and rebuilding dozens of amazing machines like Porsche’s, Lambo’s, Range Rovers and many, many more.
Trading Up is a spin-off just featuring car salesman Mike Brewer as he tries to make a go at selling cars in India, Japan, the UAE, America, Britain and Sweden. Will he ever have enough profits to buy a supercar for himself to keep?
6. One Car Too Far and Car vs. Wild
These two programs are more off-road and adventure focused, but they are really incredible television shows. Only a few of each have been made so far, but the premise is: drop two guys and a 1998 Jeep Wrangler (four-banger!) somewhere totally desolate and remote.
Chilean jungles, desert mountains and even glaciers have all kept the guys busy and the show fun to watch.
Paired together are a no-nonsense former British Special Forces officer and Bill Wu, a California car guy born and raised. They get stuck, they fight, wheels and axles snap in half, but it is amazing to watch.
7. Chris Harris on Cars (DRIVE)
Chris Harris is also another all-star whose videos we feature on TopSpeed frequently. Not only is he a great driver and speaker, but he is not afraid to tell the truth in a sometimes brutal fashion. But if the car sucks, Chris Harris will know it in about 30 seconds and tell us all the reasons why.
DRIVE is a channel on YouTube, where Mr. Harris must be pulling in some serious Chocolate Rain monies to afford his fleet of personal Audi’s and Ferrari’s.
Also an Englishman, there is just something about that accent talking about cars. They also generally get their hands on the newest and hottest models at least three months before any U.S. testers, making their opinions very influential.
Megafactories is much more of a serious documentary, but it has featured almost all of the greatest car factories in the world; from Ferrari in Modena, to Rolls-Royce in England, to Porsche in Germany and Bugatti in France.
Most auto factories do not offer guided tours to the public any more for liablity reasons, so the special behind-the-scenes look at exotic manufacturing is quite interesting.
The Bugatti episode (above) is the best.
9. BBC World’s Most Dangerous Roads
Another BBC program, we just cannot seem to get enough of charming accents and huge production budgets.
Three seasons of this great show have played so far, with full 1080p views as two regional English celebs are paired up and given instructions on where they will need to drive.
Africa, Asia, Alaska - this show goes everywhere. And the variety of presenters keeps things fresh, because most of them are totally clueless about off-roading or survival in foreign lands. It is fun, shows fantastic views in completely inaccessible places, and shows cars getting muddy and losing trim as they rip through jungles.
10. Counting Cars
Counting Cars get stuck here by default only because it is vaguely interesting and has some pretty cool cars. Being a spinoff of the "Reality" pawn shop show Pawn Stars — we use the word "reality" very, very loosely — lends little credibility to the reality part of Counting Cars. We’re certain that the resto projects are all real, but the conflict and the rigged "negotiation" process is just way over the top and unnecessary for us real car guys.
Bonus - The Worst Car TV Show of All Time: Motorweek
MotorWeek is just the worst thing to happen to automotive passion since the 5-mph bumper.
Dry, boring and useless driving footage is paired with hopelessly out of touch hosts, almost nothing funny, and a tone that is drier than Consumer Reports.
While it seems MotorWeek is still being made, it is just the perfect example of what no car guy under 85 years old would find interesting.
Hopefully there are a few shows in this list that might not have been on your DVR or radar before. They are all worth a chance, and you will generally know within five minutes if the show is for you.
Whatever you do, do not watch public access television at 6am - or you might have to suffer through MotorWeek.
How wretched is MotorWeek and its rigid, creativity-free template of stationary camera and boring topics? We have not seen an episode in ten years - at least - but still recall their listed address at the end. Owings Mills, Maryland must be one boring town if the people are all like Jon Davis.
On the plus side, watching MotorWeek is a quick way to fall back to sleep.
- Fifth Gear and TG USA definitely most improved
- One Car Too Far is most original and authentic, despite the Jeep sponsorship
- FinalGear.com is a good site to track the top three shows from this list
- Short seasons, so enjoy each show!