Interview

EXCLUSIVE: We Speak To Chris Harris About Top Gear Season 25

Chris Harris tells us why the McLaren 570 GT tickles his fancy and why he loves the Citroen 2CV.

BBC’s Top Gear returns for its 25th season with hosts Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid at a special time and date, Saturday, March 3 at 10:30/9:30c on BBC America. The following day, Sunday March 4, Top Gear will air its second episode of the season in its regular weekly time slot, Sundays at 8/7c on BBC America. Before the first episode is shown in the US, we caught up with presenter Chris Harris to discuss the new season and ask him some fun, car-related questions.

Season 25 kicks off with a tribute to the V8 engine. Matt LeBlanc shows up in a Hennessey-tuned Shelby GT350, Rory Reid has a Jaguar F-Type SVR, and Chris Harris has his favorite V8 car at the moment, the McLaren 570GT.

When asked why he chose the McLaren, Harris said “both my colleges chose the wrong cars, obviously. Matt chose a representation of the American muscle car with a European-designed engine in it and Rory chose a Jaguar, which is just wrong. “ Harris said that he was the only one who chose “an intelligent V8 which has next-generation technology.” He also told us that we would “see how fast that car is” and even though it the “baby McLaren,” it's “the best car in the [McLaren] range.” It is clear that Harris has strong feelings about the McLaren 570S. After scaring many a passenger around a track in the car, he loves looking at them and saying, “this is the slow one.”

We assumed since Harris said his co-presenters had chosen the wrongs cars, that he wasn’t a fan of LeBlanc’s GT350 in the episode. On the contrary, Harris loved the GT350 because of its European-style flat-plane crank V8. “It’s a really interesting car, but weirdly I think it provides the American market with the same fascination a good LS7 pushrod provides the UK market. In other words, it brings with it the attractiveness of the foreign.” Harris likened the car to when British people travel to the US and want to try the chewing gum and Hershey’s chocolate “because they’re foreign.”

He wouldn’t buy a GT350 because “we have high-revving V8 cars like that,” but he does own a few older generation Z28 Camaros because they are unlike anything in he can get in Europe. We didn’t know how much Harris was a fan of the Z28 Camaro, so we asked if there were any other US-only cars that he has coveted throughout the years. “In the back catalogue, not so many. I think now you make world-class sports car but before that I’m not sure you did.” Harris makes mention of the Camaro ZL1 1LE, the Corvette Z06, the Hellcat, and the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk as modern American cars that he'd quite like to have in the UK.

He also mentioned a few older models such as the original Corvette ZR-1 and GMC Syclone, which he loved as a kid. He remembered seeing the ZR-1 on a magazine cover and thinking “any car with a second key must be mega.” Harris also noted that he's heard many Americans complaining about the lack of availability of wagons like the Audi RS4 and RS6 Avant. We love a good wagon, and Harris certainly agrees. "I don't really understand SUVs. I have my old Range Rover, but I get my E63 Estate next week. That's all a man needs in life." The E63 is one of our favorite cars at the moment, so we approve of his purchase.

So far we had established that Harris loved the McLaren 570S, Shelby GT350, and Mercedes E63, but we wanted to know if there were any automotive guilty pleasures that he was a bit embarrassed to say he loved. "There's something about the Alfa Romeo cars from the late '90s to early '00s that were terrible, but quite appealing like the 147 GTA. They were s**t boxes, but something about the engine was captivating. There are also some Japanese cars like the Mitsubishi Colt Turbo and Lancer Turbo. I am also a sucker for anything French, like the Citroen Ami 8." Our example of a guilty pleasure was the Chevy SSR, so Harris shouldn't feel to embarrassed about his choices.

Obviously, Harris and his co-hosts get to drive on spectacular roads, so we wanted to know what was his favorite road trip location. Even though he had driven lots of supercars during the series, "weirdly, we took a 2CV to Northern France and Northern French B-roads are some of the best you'll ever find. They're pretty scarcely populated and there's lots of little guest houses where you can stop off." We were a bit surprised that the answer was Northern France, but Harris was reminded of how good the roads were after not driven them for a long time. "What you want is something small and French like a 205 or 2CV because the roads are mega, but they are not big supercar roads."

There isn't much of a better endorsement for a driving road than having a Top Gear presenter say how amazing it is. Northern France came as a surprise for the best driving roads, so we wanted to know which cars surprised Harris this season. "The Alpine A110, before it caught fire, I was loving it. That is a refreshing sports car given the market conditions." We agree that the A110 looks fantastic, but we were a bit sad that Harris picked a car that we can't buy in the US. He added "The McLaren 720S, the performance of that car, I don't know how they've done it. It left my puzzled thinking where do they go from here?"

It's awesome to hear even after driving tons of supercars, a little Renault ended up being Harris' favorite. We had heard about some of his favorite cars, but we wanted to ask Harris what car he would want to erase from existance forever. "It would be easy to say something lazy like the Pontiac Aztec, but the world needs s**t cars to appreciate good cars so we can juxtapose it against the rubbish. I find mediocrity more offensive, so Ford made a car called the Escort Mk4 in the early '90s and it was genuinely terrible. It did the job, but it was lazy." Finally, many of our readers ask us is we have a "forever car," the car we'd keep forever if we could.

Harris has an impressive car collection, and there are several cars he plans to keep forever. "I've got a 1986 E28 M5 and my Range Rover Classic that I dearly love, a 1957 2CV, which will be in this season of Top Gear that I adore, and a 1992 Ferrari 512 TR that I'll do 100,000 miles in and never sell." Chris Harris is a true enthusiast and our conversation only proved it further. Even after rising to Top Gear stardom, Harris is down to earth and loves fun, cheap cars from France. We can't wait to see him in action in the season premier of Top Gear Saturday, March 3 at 10:30/9:30c on BBC America.

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