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Here's your ultimate Top Gear series 25 preview

TG TV returns this Sunday! Here's what we learned during filming

  1. Top Gear telly is back! The world’s biggest motoring show returns to your screens Sunday 25 February with an all-new six-part series, starring Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Rory Reid and a veritable cornucopia of motor vehicles new and old. There will be speed. There will be noise. There will probably be several occurrences of driving into things that shouldn’t be driven into.

    Since we were last on your screens, the motoring landscape has entered a state of flux. The UK government has signed the death warrant for the internal combustion engine, self-driving technology is on the rise, our roads are under closer surveillance than ever before. What the world needs is a voice of automotive sanity. Some wisdom amid the chaos. Series 25, therefore, sees Matt, Chris and Rory, um, entirely ignoring all these big issues. Instead they set about speeding up the humble tractor, settle the “what’s the best SUV” debate through the medium of horse trials, discover whether a muscle car can land a NASA space plane, embark on a big US roadtrip in celebration of the V8 sports car, attempt to unwrap the mystery within the riddle within the puzzle that is Japanese car culture and discover whether Korea can build a not entirely boring car.

    It’s all brought to you with a little help from the woman they call “the Queen of the ’Ring”, Sabine Schmitz. And the white-suited automaton they call, um, The Stig. Because you don’t want to find out what happens if you call him anything else.

    Read on to find out what’s coming up in Series 25…

  2. The V8 engine is definitely not dead yet

    Just hearing the words is enough to raise the heart rate. And then there’s the cars themselves

    The V8 engine. In the modern world of gastric-band-spec emissions regulations, the favourite of petrolheads worldwide should be a relic. Deceased. An ex-engine. But it isn’t. Because, gloriously, the V8 keeps evolving. Developing. Moving with the times. So with 2018 marking, as you’ll all know, the 116th anniversary of the most enduring sports car engine of them all, it seemed the perfect time for a little celebration. So Matt, Chris and Rory each chose their ultimate all-round V8 sports car, and headed to Utah’s Wild West for a series of challenges.

    Rory arrived in a Jaguar F-Type SVR, while Chris went practical in the shape of the McLaren 570GT. Which is a practical, spacious GT car in very much the same way a pair of rollerblades is a practical, spacious GT car. Matt, in patriotic fashion, opted for a Ford Mustang GT350 R. But not just any Ford Mustang GT350 R. Oh no. A Ford Mustang GT350 R tuned by a man called John Hennessey, that tune being approximately 800bhp.

    V8 weapons selected, the trio set off on a motorsport-inspired pilgrimage across the States, a pilgrimage including oval track racing, a visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats… and a moonshine run to the border. Being hotly pursued by Officer Kenneth Block.

    Yee, and, indeed, haw.

  3. Harris hearts the 2CV

    Yes, it’s true. Oversteery racecars don’t fill up all of Chris’s atria and ventricles 

    You’ll know Chris Harris. Small, shouty chap, very much enamoured with oversteery supercars and sticky-tyred racecars. But it turns out our man Harris, as well as being rather a fan of cars with four-figure horsepower outputs, also has a soft spot for the oldest and Frenchiest of old French cars: the Citroen 2CV. To explain exactly why the car the French call “le 2CV” is such a masterpiece, Harris headed to rural France to relate its glorious history, a swashbuckling tale of derring-do and Nazis, and the smoking of a vast number of Gitanes. At which point a very sceptical Matt LeBlanc rocked up. With a stovepipe hat. And, for reasons unclear, some eggs. And, for reasons even more unclear, a couple of sheep. Can Harris convince MLB – and indeed the sheep – of the paysanne charms of the Deux Chevaux? Can the smell of raw egg ever be removed from 50-year-old upholstery? Only Top Gear has the answer.

  4. If you want to go faster, you need a Sabine Schmitz

    Rory heads to the spiritual home of muscle cars where a very strict teacher is waiting for him

    The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. A muscle car so extreme that it’s actually been banned in Europe. So Rory Reid, always prepared to put his own life on the line in the name of consumer research (and skidding around in muscle cars), was on the first plane to America to discover whether a European could indeed drive the 650bhp Camaro without instantly bursting into flames or being chopped into a thousand wafer-thin slices.

    Luckily for Rory, it transpired the ZL1 1LE was non-toxic to European drivers. And, as he discovered at Willow Springs racetrack, really rather good fun to drive on a big fast racetrack like “Big” Willow. So, inevitably, the producers – never keen to allow anyone to have too much fun without stepping in to spoil things – ordered Rory to find out exactly how fast the MegaMaro could lap Willow’s very unforgiving 2.5-mile course. Naturally, they’d also laid on a spot of tuition. In the shape of Sabine Schmitz, a teacher very much from the ‘tough love’ school of race schooling.

  5. Britain’s roads need speeding up, and TG is the telly programme to do it

    TG stalks the corridors of power to shape future policy. The solution? Souped-up tractors, obvs

    Top Gear TV, as you know, is always on the lookout for ways to improve the lives of British motorists. And heavy machinery enthusiast Matt LeBlanc reckoned he’d spotted a problem ripe for improvification. The tractor. Now, MLB’s a big fan of tractors when they’re doing their tractoring thing on the farm. In fact, he owns a whole load of them. The problem, as he saw it, comes when tractors leave the farm, and join the public highway. Yes, the tractor is holding up Britain’s motorists, and Top Gear needed to do something about it.

    Now, the sensible policy solution to this issue would be to, say, ban tractors from the public highway during rush hour. But Matt had a far more exciting solution to the problem of slow tractors. Involving the Top Gear Agricultural Technology Centre. And a lot of horsepower. And a can of paint borrowed from Lamborghini. And a speed record. And the reigning Farmer of the Year. And the cast of Countryfile. And a greyhound. And, for some reason, Captain Birdseye.

  6. The McLaren 720S will give its big brother P1 a proper run for its money

    Yes, it’s Mac versus Mac in a McSpecial McRace round McPortimão

    A few years back, when he lived in the internet rather than being shackled in the belfry of Top Gear Towers, Chris Harris was the first journalist to bring together the modern hypercar trinity of McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 on track. That track, specifically, was Portimão, on Portugal’s Algarve coast. The fastest of the trio, in Harris’s annoyingly able mitts, was the McLaren.

    Now, two years later, Harris is back at Portimão to answer a supremely interesting question. Just how close can the new McLaren 720S get to its track-optimised big brother P1 around a race circuit?

    On paper, it should be an easy win for the P1, which has more than 200 horsepower extra, clever hybrid gubbins, and costs four times the amount. But the 720S is lighter, and boasts a bunch of clever aerodynamic stuff… and a snazzy flip-down instrument binnacle, which has to be worth at least half a second a lap for show-off factor alone. Can the upstart McLaren get within touching distance of the big daddy? Harris straps on his fastest driving shoes to find out.

  7. Rory's got some Korea advice for you

    Break out the soju - the Koreans have arrived

    In recent years, South Korea has produced many millions of cars. Very few of them have been in any interesting. In fact, it’s interesting how few of them been interesting. But with recent signs of excitement in Korea, in the explosive shape of the Kia Stinger and Hyundai i30N, Rory Reid headed to Dunsfold to see if the Korean upstarts could really mix it with the European big boys.

    And, importantly, how all this excitement would affect the Top Gear International League Table of Countries That Make the Fastest Cars, or the TGILTOCTMTFC for short.

  8. If you want to test off-road toys, you need to get off-road

    “Come visit me and have some fun in my backyard”, said Matt. “OK…”

    In Britain, a “weekend away in the country” generally means a welly-clad tramp across a muddy field, a poke around an antiques shop, maybe even a teacake or two. In America, however, they take the whole “weekend away in the country” thing rather more seriously. Barbecues the size of bison, tents the size of even-larger bison and, most importantly, a trailer full of off-road toys. We’re talking ATVs, dirt bikes, personal tanks. These off-road toys are big business in the States, and Matt LeBlanc said he wanted to know which was the most fun for a weekend away in the country.

    So he rounded up a literal truckload of the things and headed deep into the Californian wilderness equipped with nothing but a house-sized tent, several hundred kilos of meat, and a Chris Harris to help erect the former and eat the latter. Upon arrival in the wilderness, Matt disclosed he may have had an ulterior motive for bringing a bunch of all-terrain vehicles into the forests of upstate California. Things got a bit… Revenant.

  9. Modern SUVs are really not very good at being horses

    Eat your heart out, Oliver Townend – you may have won Burghley Horse Trials, but you chickened out of this game…

    What’s the best sporting SUV on sale today? It’s a question that serious consumer publications have sought to answer by diligently measuring bootspace, second-row legroom and bootspace again, just to be on the safe side. Top Gear, however, knows the only real way to rank SUVs’ suitability for the hustle-bustle of everyday family life is through the time-honoured sport of… horsey games.

    And so it was that Matt, Chris and Rory arrived at Burghley House with an Alfa Stelvio, a Volvo XC60 and a Range Rover Velar, whereupon they were ordered to saddle up and take part in a series of equestrian-inspired challenges, including an arena show-jumping event, and a cross-country race through Burghley’s grand, really-quite-bumpy grounds. What we’re saying is, quite a lot of jumping.

    Now, some people will tell you that modern SUVs can’t cope with being jumped several feet in the air. This is completely untrue. The jumping, no problem at all. It’s the landing at the end that causes all the problems. Cue a very thorough consumer test of the engine mountings of three expensive SUVs. And, afterwards, some rather awkward phone calls to the nice people who had lent us said SUVs.

  10. If you’re going to test a Dodge Demon, you really need a drag strip. And a space plane

    Matt LeBlanc channels his inner devil for a spin in the Dodge Demon

    In America there is a car company called Dodge. And, in frankly hilarious news, Dodge recently announced it had built a car that would outrun the fastest offerings from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and the rest of Europe’s supercar elite. It’s called the Demon, it boasts the slinky aerodynamic profile of a scout hut, and it’s yours for the laughably modest sum of 85 thousand dollars. To discover exactly what grade of utter nonsense Dodge was spouting with this “faster than the European supercar elite” stuff, Top Gear sent its American correspondent Matt LeBlanc to America in search of answers. Where, it’s fair to say, things rapidly escalated.

    First in the shape of a drag race. And secondly in the shape of “landing a priceless, very-difficult-to-land NASA research plane”. Because there’s no way that could ever end anything but excellently.

  11. Japanese car culture is strange and strangely brilliant - part 1

    Take one American and two Brits to Japan, steep in the local car culture, add Sumo and stand well back…

    If you like cars – and if not, may we humbly direct you to a different part of the internet that deals with needlecraft and patchwork – you’ll be aware Japan is a Really Quite Interesting Country. So Really Quite Interesting, in fact, that Series 25 dedicates a full hour to exploring the quixotic charms of the country we’re legally obliged to refer to as ‘The Land Of The Rising Sun’ at least once in each paragraph. First off, Chris sets out to discover the two most Japanesely (it’s a word) styled cars on sale today, comparing the thuggish Honda Civic Type R with the manga-esque Lexus LC500, through the time-honoured medium of driving really fast around a circuit.

  12. Japanese car culture is strange and strangely brilliant - part 2

    Elsewhere in The Land Of The Rising Sun (tick), Rory attempts to cram as much weird Japanese car culture as possible into a single night, meeting up with the mad BŌsŌzoku car tuners and a bunch of very lurid Lamborghini owners, before sneaking a drive in a car that really, really shouldn’t be road-legal. Or driven by anyone taller than about five foot one.

    Then Chris and Matt come up with a frankly genius plan to balance the severely imbalanced Top Gear books. Nineties Japanese sports cars: they’re amazing, but if you live in the United Kingdom and you want one that’s neither been substantially modified or substantially crashed, you’ll pay silly money. Chris and Matt reckoned they’d figured the solution: buy a couple of mint Japanese sports cars at an auction in The Land Of The Rising Sun (tick), ship ’em back to the UK and sell them on for a tidy profit.

    Which, in fairness, actually sounded like quite a sound idea. Unfortunately neither of them had reckoned with a) coming to terms with the madness of Tokyo’s traffic, b) negotiating the utter madness of Tokyo’s conveyor-belt car auctions, and c) the inevitability of the producers stepping in with a series of challenges to prove the roadworthiness of their new purchases.

  13. Top Gear TV returns to your screens on Sunday February 25, on BBC Two and BBC Two HD at 8pm in the UK. Don’t forget, the full episode will also be available on BBC iPlayer from 9pm, while Rory will be hosting our companion show Extra Gear on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from 9pm each week.

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