With its multi-million pound franchise around the world, a spinoff website and magazine and even its own unique touring live show, Top Gear is unarguably the biggest and best-known motoring show around the world. It is also known for its visceral mistrust of anything that doesn’t suck, squeeze bang and blow — at least the original British version, as aired by the BBC, is.
In fact, ridiculing electric cars has become a bit of a pastime for Clarkson, May and Hammond, the middle-aged, V8-loving hosts of the primetime show. It’s even landed the trio and their production company in court before, after the show insinuated Tesla’s first electric car, the super sexy two-seat roadster, ran out of charge after a few spirited laps of the BBC Top Gear test track. It didn’t.
So when we heard that Top Gear America, the U.S-friendly version of the popular entertainment show, was planning an electric car special, we held our breath and waited, Zanex at the ready.
But unlike the British version which bears its name, the hour-long special not only showed electric cars in a positive light but proved more than once that EVs can beat gasoline cars when it comes to acceleration and speed.
Aired last week on the History Channel — where the U.S. version of Top Gear lives — the plug-in episode saw hosts Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust, and Rutledge Wood compete against each other for the chance to be the one to review the Tesla Model S. Their cars, a Fiat 500E, Ford Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF respectively, are put through a series of typically light-hearted tests to see which car is the best.
Like the British show, the challenges are less Consumer Reports and more fraternal pledge week. There’s a reverse sprint race to see which car goes fastest backward (won by Wood after removing the LEAF’s reverse speed limiter), a zero-emissions race after hours against a mall cop, a challenge to see which car is quietist, and with the help of three custom-made electric drag cars from the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) a good old-fashioned drag race against a roaring Corvette ZR1.
Overall, Wood’s LEAF won, garnering him the honour of being the one to spend some significant time driving the Tesla Model S.
And like every other automotive journalist we know, he couldn’t have been more positive, especially after the Model S P85+ proved its worth yet again by beating the ZR1 in a drag race and a fast lap around the Top Gear track.
Sadly, there’s no easy way to watch the episode if you’re outside of the U.S., but if you have relatives in the U.S. or live there yourself, you should be able to watch it via the History Website.
With the U.S. hosts clearly fans of electric cars, are we about to see the impossible? Will Clarkson, May and Hammond embrace the plug when Top Gear returns in the UK later this year? Or are they forever stuck in an increasingly grotesque caricature of the original show?
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