The Ups and Downs of The Grand Tour’s Second Season

Car Culture 24 February 20, 2018 by

It seems like it was only a short time ago season two of The Grand Tour hit Amazon Prime. Now 11 weeks later the show is finished until presumably some time in the autumn.

Typically, a show works out its kinks during the first season, allowing it to really hit its stride in the following one. To see if this is the case for The Grand Tour, we went back and examined the season in its entirety.

What Season Two Got Right

Season two started off with a bang — quite literally with Richard Hammond crashing the Rimac Concept_One. While some felt this should’ve been saved for later on, we think it’s good the trio got it out of the way first thing.

One of the main reasons is, as Jeremy Clarkson suggested in the first episode, to keep some sort of continuity. Dealing with the accident during the season premiere also kept it from looming over the rest of the season.

Even with the crash, the opening road also set the tone for the entire series. With more of a focus on entertainment with cars sprinkled in, it felt more like the Top Gear of old.

Despite the shift in focus, The Grand Tour still came through with some truly amazing cars this season.

Some of the modern standouts included the Bugatti Chiron, Mercedes-AMG GT R, and Lamborghini Huracan Performante. However, where the series really shined was with the classics. Seeing the Bugatti EB110 and Jaguar XJ220 rip around the track was a spectacle for sure. Also, the Jaguar XKSS and Aston Martin DB4 drive around France was equally as amazing.

Easily the standout of the season was the segment on Lancia versus Audi in Group B. Part of the seventh episode, this was that most magical of combos: history plus entertainment. It showed how the Italians, operating on a shoe-string budget with a rear-drive car, cleverly found any and all loopholes to level the playing field against the dominant all-paw Audis.

It’s this sort of segment that we think really defines The Grand Tour, and gives it the cross-generational appeal that’s made it such a success.

When it came time to flog the cars around the track, the series also hit the mark. By ditching The American – aka Mike Skinner – for Abbie Eaton, the power lap instantly became better to watch. Not only did Eaton not play a stereotypical redneck, but she’s also an incredible driver. Hopefully, in future seasons we get to see more of her on the show.

What Made Season Two So-So

Unfortunately, with 11 episodes not every one of them was going to be a knockout success. Also, given the holdups in the filming while Clarkson and Hammond recovered it was expected for there to be some filler content.

This mostly stands out with the challenges. Some were fantastic – most notably the Jags in Colorado and the Ford GT versus public transportation segment in New York. These both felt like the classic episodes we remember fondly. Even the season finale, which involved taking an assortment of vehicles across Mozambique, seemed to harken back to the glory days for the trio.

However, a fair share of cringe-worthy stuff made its way into the season as well.

When Clarkson attempts “Farmkhana” in a Subaru rally car while channeling his inner Ken Block, it’s almost hard to watch at times. It is predictable, not all that comical, and runs entirely too long.

The biggest miss though was the episode where the trio claimed it’s unscripted. Whether there was a script or not, we aren’t sure, but it came across as trying too hard. Almost like writers were attempting to write a script without having it sound scripted — like any popular reality show, really.

Finally, not having the tent move about the world kind of puts a damper on the tour part of the show. Granted, it was likely a budgetary and logistical nightmare. That being said, at least moving the tent around the UK would’ve been nice.

Where Season Two Fell Flat

There are only two glaring things we feel that The Grand Tour got wrong this season.

The first is Celebrity Faceoff.

While a country mile better than the running gag of “so he’s not coming on then”, it still isn’t terribly exciting. When Top Gear interviews a celebrity, it’s typically to promote something current and that person at the forefront of pop culture. With The Grand Tour’s take, many of the celebrities just didn’t feel relevant.

For example, when did you hear about Paris Hilton last? Or better yet, seen Brian Wilson on the mound at AT&T Park or Dodger Stadium?

Another issue with Celebrity Faceoff is where the guests are from. We understand The Grand Tour is more of a British show. However, the likelihood of an American knowing who Dynamo is probably is fairly small.

The racing also comes across as a bit strange too. While the track layout is interesting enough, combining both dirt and tarmac, using a Jaguar F-Type to do it doesn’t fit. It seems like a Focus RS or even VW GTI would make it a tad more appealing than a sports car trying to do non-sports car things.

The other miss is Conversation Street. While it’s entertaining and provides some of the bigger laughs during the show, it isn’t very relevant.

Due to the time between filming and the show’s release, most of the automotive news is out of date. During the Top Gear days, a news segment made more sense considering filming happened on Wednesday for a Sunday air date. But with weeks or months in between, it misses the mark.

Getting rid of the segment isn’t the answer though. All The Grand Tour needs to do is make it less about the automotive news. Instead, they can focus on car culture in general.

Conclusion

So if you haven’t watched the latest season of The Grand Tour is it worth it? Absolutely. With so few automotive shows with a high production value available, it’s best to watch whatever you can.

Also, since the show is on Amazon Prime, you do get a fast forward option. Anytime something comes up that’s boring, you can quickly skip ahead. This alone makes the show way more watchable.

Have a thought on season two of The Grand Tour? Let us know on the forums.

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