Was there ever a better automobile-based TV show than Top Gear? It's something I think about a lot during the slow moments of my day (like sitting on the toilet, driving in traffic, or brushing my teeth), and I'm convinced there hasn't been a better one. I mean, if my sister (who has never had a passing interest in cars) looked forward to new episodes, that says all I need to know. But if establishing this as the best car show of all time is so easy, how easy is it to choose the besttop gearepisodes of all time? It's actually not that difficult:
The best Top Gear episodes of all time are:
- The Vietnam Special (Season 12, Episode 8)
- The Bolivia Special (Season 14, Episode 6)
- Killing a Toyota Helix (Season 3 Episode 6)
- The US Special (yes, the one where they almost got killed - Season 9 Episode 3)
- Dodge the Apaches with the Exige (Season 4, Episode 1)
- The Africa Special (Season 19, Episode 7)
- Bugatti Veyron Racing a Cessna 182 (Season 7, Episode 5)
- Bonus: Season 2 of The Grand Tour, Episode 1
If you're curious, yes - these are listed in a specific order, with the all-time best at the top. The ranking process was hardly scientific in my opinion, but I did take into account things like viewership numbers, the number of people I see talking about these episodes online, and of course my personal preferences. Let's take a look at what made these special episodes of Top Gear the "best."
I declare the Vietnam Special as thatotherTop Gear Follow – you
As a car geek, I'm proud to say that I've seen every episode of Top Gear ever made - and I've looked forward to each one with childish excitement. A big reason for this is that Jeremy, Richard and James always bring an overwhelming amount of humor and wit to each episode. And when you combine that onscreen chemistry with an exotic location like Vietnam, magic happens.
But it wasn't just the beautiful landscape and the humorous moments that made the differencedas vietnam specialone of the best Top Gear episodes of all time. It was the struggle they endured on their journey and the bond that grew between them as they worked their way through ridiculous mental and physical challenges. That's what made it THE best.
The episode began in a familiar manner. The three arrived at the starting point of their journey and received instructions informing them of the destination. You were left alone to find out everything.
Traveling from one end of Vietnam to the other on impossibly cheap (and poorly maintained) motorcycles made Jeremy incredibly resentful – right from the start. In fact, he threatened not to do the episode at all.
However, thanks to the persuasiveness of Richard and James, they were able to convince Jeremy to hop on that bike and - as a team - ride all the way across Vietnam. It was just the first of many difficult moments the three had to work together to reach the finish line.
As the episode progressed, it was easy to get the feeling that it morphed less into a silly Top Gear challenge and more into an epic road trip between three best friends. As a result, the Top Gear franchise was forever changed after that. Back in the studio, it was clear in subsequent episodes that the chemistry between the three was stronger than ever.
Of course, it's packed with the funniest onesJeremy Clarkson quotesas. It's worth checking out for that alone!
All the reasons I think the Bolivia special is one of the best Top Gear episodes
My pick for the second best Top Gear episode of all time isthe Bolivia specialfrom 2009. Much like the Vietnam special, Jeremy, Richard and James work together as a team to solve difficult problems in the wilderness all on their own. And that's how they got closer.
However, the Bolivia special is one of the best Top Gear episodes for the humor alone. In my opinion it's the funniest Top Gear episode ever created. Yes, that's saying a lot considering how incredibly fun the show was week-to-week.
This episode begins with the boys stranded on a riverbank when a barge pulls up with three battered SUVs strapped to it. Your first mission is to figure out how to get these SUVs from the barge to the river bank.
Considering there were no ramps and they had no help from the camera crew (or the locals) it was one stupid try after another until they finally figured it out. Unlike other Top Gear specials, the humor flows at an unrelenting pace and I was in tears by the end laughing so hard.
The best Top Gear episodes are the ones that I'm happy to recommend to first-time viewers who have never heard of the series before (yes, there are still people out there who have never heard of Top Gear). The Bolivia special was so funny and so raw, you didn't even have to know who these guys were to appreciate the genius of it all. In fact, it was a perfect episode for newbies to learn and understand each individual's personality.
In contrast, the Vietnam special was good because they bonded more deeply than they had in any other episode. You kind of had to know a lot about the show to appreciate it that much. But the Bolivia special? Pure hilarious fun all the way through.
Kill a Toyota Helix. Hahaha!
One of the best Top Gear episodes was when theytested the destructive power of an 11 year old Toyota Hilux. This poor vehicle is put through the toughest crash tests these guys could imagine and... it was pure comedic genius.
Jeremy (who is handling the whole thing) does everything he can think of - including driving into a tree, against a wall and through a shed. Without mechanical conversions, the Hilux is even taken down a stairwell.
It was an absolute riot to watch as the car was hit by a 40ft tidal wave for 5 hours. The only thing that gave way were the ropes meant to tie down the truck—but the badass Helix survived like a champ.
Not even dropping an RV on the Hilux could kill him; It only took a wrecking ball to deal major damage (and a fire to top off the cosmetic disfigurement). Despite all this, this diesel-powered Toyota Hilux still worked. A damn sounding endorsement for Toyota, isn't it?
There were many reasons why the US special was one of the best Top Gear episodes ever
There are some really good reasons why I think the US special was so damn brilliant. Primarily because of the car Jeremy chose to drive with. Yes, this 3rd gen Camaro drew me in all along as it's pretty much one of my favorite cars ever made. I was an '80s kid and these 3rd generation Camaros excite me. Yes, I'm so weird.
Anyhow, I'm not really sure there will be many people out there who will agree with me about the Camaro and that's the reason for proclaiming this as one of the best Top Gear episodes of all time, so stay tuned let's look at a few more:
The cow. Yes, they actually strapped a dead cow to the Camaro's roof once during the show, and it was nothing short of tear-jerkingly funny. It was extremely childish and borderline cruel (even though the cow was already dead when they found her), but it was incredibly funny and something I've never seen on any other car TV show that even tried. Any episode that pushes the boundaries of good taste automatically qualifies it for one of the best Top Gear episodes of all time, in my opinion.
The offensive cars. Writing lewd things on their cars (like "country and western is rubbish" and "man love rules ok") as they drove through Alabama was both incredibly brilliant and massively insane. It was also incredibly funny as they had no idea what was written on their cars as they drove around. They wrote something on each other's cars and then drove around without looking for a while - which infuriated a lot of people.
It was that kind of willingness to push the envelope that made Top Gear such a brilliant show. Yes, the producers later admitted they might have gone too far with that little stunt, but it was particularly good television. It also catapulted the show into the stratosphere in terms of popularity and viewership. For that reason alone, I confidently call the US special one of the best Top Gear episodes of all time.
Dodging the Apache with the Exige was as fun as it sounds
This was definitely one ofthe craziest showdowns in automotive history. The beasts of Top Gear gave it their all in this episode, and it was worth the duel.
On the one hand you had a menacing military machine with performance that was out of this world; The Apache helicopter. On the other side was a rocket from a car called the Lotus Exige.
The overall challenge was to bypass the Apache's missile blocking system. But here's the thing about the vicious-deadly Apache arsenal; It can uniquely locate up to 256 targets at a distance of 8 kilometers, select 16 of the most dangerous threats and quickly eliminate all of them. in less than 20 seconds.
This is what the Lotus Exige faced, and that definitely makes the episode one of the best in the Top Gear series. Apparently it was impossible to keep the car steady on the track (we know this because Clarkson is still alive), but it was definitely entertaining to see an extreme example of just how fast and agile the Exige is.
The Africa special was really good too (for a really simple - and fun - reason)
When you think about all the top gear specials over the years, there are a few moments that immediately bubble to the top. The way Jeremy sarcastically pushed and poked at all the plastic panels on the Corvette ZR1 (Season 14, Episode 2) was one of them. Another was the VW Beetle that chased her across Africathe Africa special.
For those of you who can't remember what this episode was about, the boys had to drive around Africa in extremely cheap cars. The joke throughout the episode was that there was no way all three cars would make it, and they would have to abandon at least one of them along the way. It was inevitable. Because of this, the producers decided to have a backup car, just in case, which hilariously made it into the plot.
Whenever one of their main cars showed signs of trouble, this little VW bug would pop up in the distance and get closer, ready to spring into action. It was hilarious, and for that reason alone, the Africa special is one of the best Top Gear episodes of all.
Bugatti Veyron drives a Cessna 182 - super entertaining!
When I think of the best Top Gear episodes to choose from, I have to admit that I'm interested in racing challenges. I think,a Bugatti racing a planeis something. How can it not be? But this is Top Gear after all, so there was a little more to it than that.
So how about getting a truffle (yes, a truffle) delivered all the way from Northern Italy to the Nat West Tower in London? The weapon of choice was the 1001 hp Bugatti Veyron, which ended up being the perfect car for the job. It was extremely fast and ridiculously luxurious. Perfect for long distance driving at high speed! And deliver truffles...
While Clarkson went with the Bugatti, May chose the Cessna 1982. The story went that Captain Slow didn't have a night flying license and had to stop over in Lille, France - which is exactly why things didn't quite work out for him.
In the end it was the Bugatti Veyron that won the race and a proud Clarkson called it the best car ever to roll off the assembly line. It was an exciting and very tense challenge!
Bonus Choices: Season 2 of The Grand Tour Episode 1 (although technically not part of the Top Gear franchise)
OK. I know what you're thinking. How can an episode of The Grand Tour be considered one of the best Top Gear episodes of all time? Well, as far as I'm concerned, The Grand Tour is still top gear in my eyes.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, The Grand Tour was a spin-off of the Top Gear franchise after Jerry Clarkson punched a producer and ended up getting fired from Top Gear. Richard and James refused to continue with Top Gear without Jeremy, so (really long story short), Amazon picked them up and created a new series for them called The Grand Tour. It's basically just like Top Gear. Same format and everything.
Anyway, what made this first episode of season 2 so important was the crash at the end. Richard was driving an all-electric Rimac Concept One at high speed on a closed mountain road and lost control, resulting in very serious injuries. That alone was enough to make the episode unforgettable. But it was the aftermath that made it so significant.
Richard came dangerously close to losing his life in this accident. And just like the Vietnam special I mentioned above, it made Jeremy, Richard and James even closer.
As far as I'm concerned, no other automobile show in the history of television has seen its hosts develop such a deep bond as these three. Sometimes it takes terrible events for something like this to happen, but every situation always has a silver lining. That's why I think this episode of The Grand Tour is one of the best Top Gear episodes of all time.
Who am I and why do I think I know enough to make a list of the best Top Gear episodes?
Before I wrap that up, I think it's important to give my credentials as a car guy, lest you think I'm some uninformed git who watched a few episodes and made a flimsy list with no meaning behind them.
First, I'm old. Like 45 years old and I've been watching Top Gear since season one. But long before that, I was a car guy. My earliest childhood memories include a plastic model of a 70's Oldsmobile Cutlass (it was actually brown), and a passion for automobiles runs through my veins.
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond have perfect chemistry together. Also, they all share a passion for cars that a bonified car guy like me can see as genuine and pure. These guys are not counterfeiters. They love what they do and that's why I might as well have called all the episodes the best Top Gear episodes. They put an incredible amount of passion and energy into each one and it was exciting to watch them all.
What are your favorite Top Gear episodes?
Since I'm just a guy with opinions of my own, I'd be very curious to know what others consider to be the best Top Gear episodes. Maybe it was the very first way back to 2002? I would agree that it was an important one - because without it (and the way it evolved into what it has today) we wouldn't have been as lucky to be entertained as we all are years have done.
Everyone has a different way of determining what the best Top Gear episodes are. Do you like the silly gags? Do you like the banter between Jeremy, Richard and James while chatting at the desk? Please let me know in the comments below, along with your own list of what you consider the "best" of Top Gear.
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"Top Gear's" large viewership set a Guinness World Record.
More than 350 million people in more than 200 countries watch the series, according to The Guardian.
Top Gear Is Heavily Scripted
Although The Grand Tour may have abandoned this philosophy, with Clarkson claiming they don't do scripted scenes anymore in an interview with The Express, Top Gear has nearly always been made scripted according to insiders.