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The Grand Tour season 2: the one where Hammond nearly dies… again

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The Grand Tour season 2: the one where Hammond nearly dies… again

Warning: this post contains some spoilers about the first episode of the new season of The Grand Tour.

Some say it’s the greatest car show… in the world. Others say it started well but had a very patchy first season. All I know is that The Grand Tour came back to Amazon Prime on Friday for a second season.

If you loved the first season of The Grand Tour, you’ll have a fine old time with season 2. The idea behind the show is to keep all the bits that you loved about Top Gear but without pissing off the BBC’s lawyers. And based on the season preview clips we saw during the intro to the first episode of season 2, there should be plenty of that in store—particularly the episode that features a Bugatti EB110 and a Jaguar XJ220. But if you find Jeremy Clarkson’s antics boorish, be warned; on that front, season 2 is very much more of the same.

As possibly the most-pirated TV show ever, you probably don’t need me to explain the concept behind The Grand Tour to you. But just in case, it involves Top Gear alumni Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond driving cars in different places around the world, funded via Amazon’s deep pockets after Clarkson’s behavior finally proved unacceptable to the BBC.

Happily, Clarkson et al. have been listening to feedback in their down time. Some of the clunkier elements of season one have been cut. Mike Skinner—the American “he’s not a Stig, honest” race car driver—has been canned, along with that odd test track that wrapped around an electricity substation.

And the celebrity deaths segment is gone, too, but special guests still make an appearance, competing against each other in a Jaguar F-Type on a new part-paved, part-dirt course. This week we got Baywatch‘s David Hasselhoff and someone called Ricky Wilson (no, I don’t know who that is either). I could have done without this bit entirely, for it drags on and on.

The season-opening trip involves our three heroes driving in the past, present, and future of the supercar. The setting is Switzerland; perfect for stunning aerial shots of sinuous mountain passes and exhausts spitting fire in long tunnels.

Clarkson, as you’d expect, picks the past—in this case, a Lamborghini Aventador, 12 cylinders of naturally aspirated noise and power covered in bright yellow paint. May, representing the present, has the Acura NSX. It’s a hybrid, with an electric motor for each of the front wheels, plus another that works with the twin-turbo V6 at the rear. May even points out how clever its A-pillars are, something he might have picked up on here at Ars.

And then there’s Hammond. As a harbinger of the future, he is equipped with the Rimac Concept One. It’s a hand-built electric hypercar from the same company that supplies EV engineering know-how to companies like Koenigsegg, as well as “Monster” Tajima’s Pikes Peak race car. Hammond’s need to be within range of a DC fast charger places certain geographical restrictions on our intrepid adventurers, including the requirement that our meat-and-booze hounds have to spend several days staying at a (dry) health spa.

For the most part, their adventures are all quite funny, and the scenes with the cars in action look and sounds like everything you’d want them to be. It’s not really a spoiler to say that everything ends in disaster since footage of the incident has been on YouTube since June, but it all ends in tears for the EV. Which makes me wonder why people keep letting Hammond drive fast cars, because he keeps destroying them and ending up in hospital.

I’ll be honest, I spent most of the episode swearing at Hammond through the TV, knowing what was ahead. And I do find Clarkson’s current character iteration to be a tired parody of his older, funnier self. But the majority of the show was entertaining enough to remind me why Amazon cut them such a fat cheque in the first place.

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Author Jonathan M. Gitlin

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