The Grand Tour gets back on track in episode 3 with a riveting road trip adventure.
When Top Gear became a global success, the series became a constant balancing act trying to please people who watched it for the cars and those who watched it for the comedy, making for some very uneven episodes. The same is true for The Grand Tour. Last week's episode centered on a shootout involving guns rather than cars, which didn't go down too well with some fans. Fortunately, the series got back on track this week, with an episode that delivered a near perfect mix of gearhead-pleasing car content and entertaining humor.
Living up to the show's name, this week's main feature saw the trio embark on an epic grand tour soaking in the sights of Italy in three very different cars that perfectly reflected the presenter's personalities: Clarkson represented Britain driving an Aston Martin DB11, May was in his element in a swathe Rolls-Royce Dawn, and Hammond drove a suitably noisy Dodge Challenger Hellcat, much to the dismay of his co-hosts. Hammond justified his choice by insisting that the original grand tour was the 18th century version of the Cannonball Run. The whine of its supercharged, 6.2-liter V8 engine made one hell of a noise, so you can hardly blame him for flooring it at every opportunity – even if it meant averaging 6.6 mpg fuel economy.
The humor was a bit too forced at times, particularly with Hammond overplaying his role as a disruptive delinquent in the Hellcat, but this had all the hallmarks of a classic Top Gear-style road trip adventure, with interesting cars, blokey banter and some stunning scenery. It was easily the best feature in The Grand Tour so far. In stark contrast to the lavish opening episode in sunny California, this week the globe-trotting studio tent was pitched in the trio's hometown of Yorkshire in England on a typical drizzly day. "This is The Grand Tour - and this week we've come home," Clarkson announced to an excitable audience.
Indeed, you could tell the presenters were more at home this week. This was the first time everyone bounced off each other naturally in Conversation Street, i.e. The Grand Tour's replacement for Top Gear's news. It had some genuinely funny moments, including Hammond's relentless rant about Nissan Juke drivers, and didn't rely on audience interaction which made the segment flow much more naturally. Mike Skinner, aka 'The American' racing driver was notably absent for the first time in the series, but we can't say we missed him. Sadly, this meant we didn't get to see the Aston Martin DB11 or the tyre-smoking Dodge Challenger Hellcat set a lap time on the Eboladrome track.
Celebrity Brain Crash made an unwelcome return, however, with Hot Fuzz actor Simon Pegg plummeting to his "death" into the water after being attacked by seagulls. Again, the offbeat humor in Celebrity Brain Crash was funny at first, but we really don't need to see it in every episode. The final segment where Hammond and May set about demolishing Clarkson's house was unapologetically silly (we already knew Clarkson had demolished his own house a few months ago), but unlike last week's overlong and OTT special forces segment, it didn't outstay its welcome.
The episode went out with a bang (literally), with a spectacular explosion just to remind you how much money Amazon is pouring into the show. Overall, The Grand Tour episode 3 'Opera, Art and Donuts' was exactly what we wanted to see from the show, with a great mix of drool-worthy cars, exotic locations and banter between presenters. What did you think of this week's episode?