Third Grand Tour episode keeps it simple, and it's just right | Episode Review

It's an old formula, but it works for a reason.

Now that is more like it. The Grand Tour's third episode features one primary segment – a journey across Italy from Siena to Venice. The cars? An Aston Martin DB11, a Rolls-Royce Dawn, and a Dodge Challenger Hellcat. But unlike the first two installments of the show – read the reviews here and here – episode three uses this simple premise and these fantastic cars as a backdrop to the natural chemistry between the hosts that made Top Gear the world's most watched factual program.

Everything in this episode plays to Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. The premise – a grand tour, of the sort young British aristocrats assaulted Europe with for centuries – is simple and fun. But more importantly, it's proven. We've been watching this same show on Top Gear for years, from the Stelvio Pass episode of season 10 to the Transfăgărășan Highway film in season 14 to the sprint across the American Southwest in the show's later years. And the concept works as well with Amazon and The Grand Tour.

The Grand Tour, Episode 3

But a large part of what made the shows before so good were the selection of cars. Yes, the picks were always impressive, but they also reflected each host's unique on-screen character for a natural comedic effect. That's the case here, too. Clarkson, ever the fan of "proper" English motoring and "powah," rocks the stereotypical grand tourer, an orange brown Aston Martin DB11. May, the sensible, serious, unsporty type is in the remarkably quiet, comfortable, and relaxed Rolls-Royce Dawn. And Billy Bob "Cheeseburger" Hammond, regularly called a secret American by his coworkers, is in a 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

In the case of The Grand Tour's first big road trip, the combination of cars, scenery, and hosts make for some truly funny interactions. Hammond and his uncouth Hellcat are a perfect foil to Clarkson and May, who seem genuinely interested in a grand tour. But from terrorizing May with the Hellcat's ample supercharger whine and V8 exhaust note to doing donuts outside of Florence's iconic and legendary Uffizi, Hammond and the Hellcat steal the show – and it's completely relatable. First, if you are familiar with the Hellcat, you get why Hammond is driving like a mad man, crazed smile and all. His tire-shredding antics feel genuine. Meanwhile, Hammond's overall interactions with May and Clarkson encapsulate the one friend you simultaneously regret bringing on a road trip while acknowledging it just wouldn't be the same without him.

The Grand Tour, Episode 3

There are naturally, elements of this film we aren't fans of. For one, the one-shot gag "sponsorships" on the Hellcat feel kitschy and pointless. The hosts reference them in the film's intro, and that's it. So why bother? If you want to call out something on the Hellcat, point out the weirdness of seeing a Michigan license plate on an Italian road. We'd also like more on the Rolls. While the Hellcat is effectively the fourth cast member this episode and the DB11 features in an on-track duel at the Mugello Circuit, the Dawn is stuck in the background. It feels more like May's there for Hammond to annoy than to contribute to the segment. The ending, too, is abrupt and never established which vehicle is the best grand tourer. At times, The Grand Tour's first grand tour feels unresolved and disappointing.

Following the road trip segment, Hammond and May collect on the bet they made with Clarkson in episode one – if you'll recall, Clarkson said he'd let James and Richard demolish his house if the McLaren P1 wasn't the fastest car in the hybrid hypercar comparison. It wasn't, so Captain Slow and the Hamster set out for the Cotswolds to destroy Casa de Clarkson. Frankly, this segment feels tacked on and half baked. For one, Clarkson isn't on hand for the demolition – the entire appeal of this kind of segment is watching the house's owner suffer. But the lack of a broader goal is a bigger issue – the last time these guys tore down a house, it was part of an intriguing competition between Top Gear and a professional demolition team. For The Grand Tour, it's just Hammond, May, and some construction equipment. It's a short, boring, one-dimensional piece of TV.

The Grand Tour, Episode 3

It's also important to note what this episode didn't have. Mike "The American" Skinner and the Eboladrome are absent – we didn't miss them. Frankly, of all The Grand Tour episodes, this one worked best because of its simplicity. Sure, Conversation Street is there, and Simon Pegg made an appearance, but episode three feels tighter and better paced without Skinner and the track.

The Grand Tour's third episode is easily the strongest so far. And while we're deducting some points for the overall familiarity of the concept and execution, the reality is, this is precisely the kind of TV we've been waiting for since the BBC effectively fired Clarkson. It's fun, and like so many of the best Top Gear features, it's not because of the cars or the film's raison d'être – it's because of the chemistry and camaraderie of the show's hosts. A quarter of the way through The Grand Tour's inaugural season, we can only hope for more episodes like this.

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