Auto Culture

The Grand Tour Season Finale – Review

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It is “The Grand Tour” season finale [yes, yes, we know they like to call it “series” finale when the show is based in the UK – but it isn’t] and unlike the circumstances in the Groundhog Day movie, it will not replay week after week until the second season [or “series”, if you insist] launches later in 2017.

For now, the inaugural season on Amazon came to a close in, of all places this week – Dubai in the United Arab Emirates – in the aptly titled “Past v. Future” episode that was relevant in so many more ways than merely those which are automotive-related.

The episode begins with a verbal and car battle between Jeremy Clarkson and James May on the virtues and non-virtues of electric vehicles versus gas-powered vehicles. For these purposes, James had a $50,000 BMW i3 while Jeremy had a $45,000 Volkswagen Golf GTi – though Jeremy pointed out that James received a taxpayer-funded $5600 incentive rebate from the UK government, actually making the BMW i3 less expensive.

The comparison was mostly boring and predictably along the same lines that both James and Jeremy had espoused in earlier years – notably that Jeremy was anti-non-gas-powered vehicles and James was pro-non-gas-powered vehicles – so the only new revelations were that, in the inevitable drag race, a BMW i3 would win a short drag race while a VW Golf GTi would win a longer drag race and electric charging stations in the UK can be quite far apart as well as occasionally unreliable.

Conversation Street topics this week were a thin lot of mostly non-automotive-related beefs – specifically, things they could send you to prison for in Dubai, the interior temperatures of airliner traveling and the proposed high speed Hyperloop Monorail-like mass transit system.

There were no car reviews this week – and therefore, no appearance by test driver, “The American”, thankfully – so the episode revolved around a pair of twin mini-features, the first of which was sending James to what is called “Winchers” in the UK but was essentially a Mud Bog Festival where a collection of yobbos intentionally try to get their variety of vehicles stuck in the glop and then time themselves on how fast they can winch themselves out. Needless to say, the entertainment bar was set pretty low on this one.

The other feature’s bar was not set much higher, however, as it could essentially have been titled “Richard Hammond’s Drift Camp” as it centered around Hammond being sent to learn how to drift from a Michelin tire tester specialist and then attempting to use that knowledge against semi-professional drifters – consisting of an armless guy and a teenager – on a drifting course.

In between those two underwhelming segments were a drag race between a Nissan van with a GT-R race engine setup and a Porsche 911 GTS 3 [naturally “won” by the Nissan] and the celebrity killed this week was Red Bull Formula One driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who met his demise in a hovercraft.

Overall, the tone of the episode was disappointing for a season finale, lacking much of the verve of the season opener and production values were down [audience reflections in the “tent” windows were constant distractions] but one bright spot was the absence of “The American” – thus avoiding the automatic 10-point deduction. However, with the lackluster location, features and topics made up for that and so there was no defining high point that you could point to as the shining example of goodness in a season finale. Regrettably, ASN must score this episode accordingly and award it a pedestrian 80 out of 100 – barely passable on the “good” scale.

Here’s to hoping Amazon and “The Grand Tour” use their hiatus to bring in somebody [Nico Rosberg] as test driver to replace the abomination of “The American” and can get more reliably consistent in the quality of their episode topics.

About Alex Bean

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