Monday, March 27, 2006

Top Gear...bittersweet feelings.

I often watch Jeremy Clarkson and the lads on Top Gear reviewing cars and getting up to all sorts of odd experiments and trials. A part of me enjoys it and a part of me finds it irritating.

The obvious positive for me about Top Gear is that I like cars. I have an engineering background so I also enjoy the technology aspects. I tinkered a lot mechanically with older cars when I was in my early twenties. After a motorcycle stint my first car was a rust bucket but nevertheless exciting Triumph Vitesse with a 2 litre six cylinder engine, twin carbs etc. Theoretically very fast but it would shake to death long before worrying Garda speed checks on open roads!

Anyway, the negatives for me on Top Gear would be....

1. Obsession with all-out performance on extreme sports cars like Ferraris, Porches etc......

It amused me on many programs where say a Ferrari is shown that they would go into raptures about it's handling and performance. But then you hear them offer minor irritations like.....the front skirt smashes off the ground on speed ramps or coming down from multi-story car parks. Or best of all...."Ferrari's can be quite tiring on long journeys". 200K plus Euros for a sports car that's tiring to sit in for too long and can't handle ramps! Not to mention the fact that it's completely illegal to use the performance on public roads. Do you think they would test a very good compromise sports car like the Hyundai Coupe? No chance! To the Top Gear team this would be either a girly or a hairdresser's car! However the latter coupe has reasonable power, corners and handles exceptionally well, looks amazing, and you can live with it comfortably on long journeys and all conditions. I'm biased maybe since my wife acquired such a red beast a few months ago and we loooove it! However sports cars have to have the right badge and go 0-100Km/hr in less than 5 seconds to even be considered on Top Gear.

2. Silly tests every week, which seem to only have a similar curiosity value to a bearded lady in a Circus. Examples...

* Jeremy tests an SLK Mercedes and a Porche at very high speed around a deserted village. A team of Army snipers are hidden in different parts of the village and all try to shoot him with laser rifles. He was shot less times in the Porche but came to the conclusion that since it was the Porche that was tested first - that the Army got used to the conditions for the Mercedes. Hence it was concluded that the test was fun but meaningless!

* Jeremy tries to out-maneuver an army tank in a Range Rover and avoid being hit by the tank's gun. What can I say!!??

* A Toyota 4x4 vehicle is placed on the roof of a high tower building which is demolished by a controlled explosion. When the smashed vehicle is recovered they found that with a little coaxing they could start the engine! Mildly interesting I suppose!

* A Boeing 747 Jumbo jet engine is fired up to full throttle on a runway. They drive a remote controlled Citroen 2CV car right across the path of the rear of the jet engine (well, the British hate French cars!). The Citroen is blown 10 feet into the air like a kite and lands utterly demolished about 200 feet down the runway! It did make me whistle in awe at the power of those jet engines....but it sure was a bizarre test!

* Jeremy drives a Land Rover Discovery to the top of a Scottish mountain. This was interesting in fairness and could possibly influence the 1% of 4x4 SUV drivers who would consider taking their expensive vehicles off-road!

3. The main negative for me though is the encouragement this program gives to immature boy racers. It's really a program which can excite such idiots. As if such killer fools needed any more encouragement - we've got grown parent type men on the show salivating as they blister cars along roads and do handbrake turns - everything is about pushing supercars to the limits. As much as I like cars - any time most of us are tempted to overdo the driving scene we think of unexpected events occurring to cause a collision, carnage, ruined lives etc. A split second's carelessness can ruin the happiness of a lifetime.

I'm not being a kill-joy here. I do in many ways enjoy Top Gear. But given that it's aimed at the general public - it's possible to have an exciting car program without comparing impractical supercars around a race track, wrongly influencing immature boy-racers and running childish and meaningless bizarre tests.

Footnote, 2nd April...

I have a small spoonfull of humble pie to eat...but not a platefull.

I watched Top Gear on Saturday to be treated to a road test of...guess what...the aforementioned Hyundai Coupe! And they liked it's solid handling on the road, it's great Ferrari type looks and general price vs. performance ratio. In contrast they thought a Lexus Coupe costing three times the price was crap.

A second spoonfull of pie was needed as they then tested a very cheap small hatchback which they also liked.

Wonders will never cease! But they should do this more often.


-Ann said...

I can handle about 10 minutes of Top Gear, maximum. I do enjoy the stunts sometimes though, but I agree with you that offering practicable advice about affordable cars every once in a while would be nice.

John of Dublin said...

Yea, I suppose it's light hearted fun, it give me a laugh. I still watch it but it could be better. It's also amazing how the British rivalry with the French comes through a lot as they slander French cars.

ed said...

Well, i agreed that the TG test somethings are rigged and silly at times. I watch it for the entertainment value and marvel at the creativity they can think of.

In the 4x4 test, if the put the Toyota at the bottom of the building nothing would be left of it to start.

The show to a degree to encourage people to drive faster(or maybe that is just me.) After watching an installment about the Mit Evo, I found myself checking the price and forums for the cost of owning such a car :-) when before, I would never have even considered such a car.


Anonymous said...

Who cares, if you want to be serious about cars, either but a nissan micra or go to a motor show. You need to get out more or get yourself a girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

I love top gear, it must be my favorite program on tv. I must agree it doesnt touch on more affordable cars often enough but they have tested the Hyundai coupe (2002)and they were very positive, granted Hammond did test it, Clarkson is way too obsessed with "POWER!" and I assume they plan to test the new hyundai coupe in due course.