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Top Gear/Season 1 Episode 8
Episode Eight of the first season of Top Gear, and is episode eight overall.
Guest Stars: Rick Parfitt
Audi RS6, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
Jeremy Clarkson reviews the Audi RS6. What Audi has done was to take the body of an ordinary Audi A6 and fitted it with a twin turbocharged 4.2 L V8 that produces 450 bhp. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, but Clarkson was able to get it up to 175 mph on the test track and believes you could get the RS6 up to 200 mph. The RS6 comes in both a sedan and a wagon for around £58,000 (about $120,000) which is more than a BMW M5, but Clarkson believes the RS6 is one of the best cars on the road today. The power is harnessed by Audi's Quattro four-wheel drive system and a firm suspension. The Audi RS6 is easily better than the BMW M5 and Jaguar S-Type R, but Mercedes has gone berserk.
Mercedes-Benz have created the E55 AMG with 500 bhp. Clarkson isn't a fan of the E-class styling, likening it to a Honda, and he isn't a fan of Mercedes' service and customer care. But he is a fan of the E55 AMG's 5.5 L supercharged V8 engine. If you don't mind doing 7 mpg, the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG absolutely flies. It's £3,000 more than the Audi RS6, but you get more and it's faster in a straight line. However, it doesn't have four-wheel drive and Clarkson doesn't believe you can drive it on a rainy day without traction control. He can feel the traction control constantly working and see the traction control light come on at the slightest application of throttle, telling him that machinery is working to keep him from flying off into a ditch.
The Stig takes the Audi RS6 around a very wet test track in 1.33.0. The Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG went around in 1.35.5. Clarkson believes that if they had a dry track then the E55 AMG would have been faster, but the Audi's four-wheel drive system proved to be the deciding factor in the wet.
A Driver's Car
Is it possible to turn anything into a driver's car? To investigate this, Richard Hammond has a fellow's £200 (about $410) Lada Riva 1.5 E brought to Lotus' headquarters in Norfolk. A Lotus engineer drives the car around Lotus' test track, popping a hubcap off the Lada and remarking that it's one of the worst cars he's ever driven. A team of Lotus engineers get to work on upgrading the Lada, realizing that the addition of a carbon fiber wing is worth more than the car itself. With two weeks to work on the car, Lotus give the Lada new brakes, a new paint job and hand-finished seats. A new engine bumps the Lada's old 35 hp to 180 hp.
Clarkson believes this shows that you can take any car and turn it into a driver's car. If you have a team of 10 Lotus engineers, two weeks and £100,000 (about $206,000), as that's how much it would have cost if you went to Lotus yourself.
White Van Man Challenge
Who is the fastest white van man? After over 1,500 applications, five contestants have been picked. Their transit van for the challenge is a Ford World Rally Transit. The engine has been modified to produce 200 bhp. It has race spec wheels, brakes, suspension and exhaust.
Out on the test track, one van driver gets lost, one damages a bracket on the Ford World Rally Transit and one flattens a tire on the Ford World Rally Transit. The average time was around 2.10.0, but the driver who got lost did the lap in 4.55.0. The first place time was 2.02.0.
Last year, one in three cars bought was a supermini, so they're incredibly popular. Not to go overboard, Top Gear have taken the mid-range versions with a 1.4 L engine.
The first up is the Ford Fiesta. It has everything you need in the terms of equipment, but it's all fitted into the ugliest dashboard that Hammond has ever seen. It also drives well and has some room in the back for passengers. For £9,995 (about $20,600) you can get a Fiesta with air conditioning, but not much else. Its biggest problem is that it looks dull inside and out.
Next is the Citroën C3, the spiritual successor of the 2CV. It looks much better than the Ford Fiesta; a surprise from Citroën who have recently been coming up with nothing but bland cars. Hammond believes that, although it's flimsy and once much of the bits of trim have fallen off after a week, the rest of the car will keep on going forever. You'll also have a smooth and comfortable ride, albeit not a fast one. The C3 is cute, but not clever.
For something cute and clever, you'd need the Honda Jazz. For such a small car it feels massive inside. However, its box-like shape makes the noise boomy inside and it feels top-heavy and not very poised. You can't have all that room inside while retaining the driving attributes of a nippy little car. But the Jazz's biggest problem is the price. You're looking at spending £10,300 (about $21,300) for a mid-range model, yet still have to spend extra for a CD player or alloy wheels.
But while the Honda Jazz goes for space, the Nissan Micra goes for gadgets. Some of these gadgets you don't even need, such as how the Micra can wish you "Happy Birthday". For the same price as a fully-equipped Jazz, you can get a fully-loaded Micra with a CD player, alloy wheels and keyless ignition. The windshield wipers come on automatically when it rains, it has parking sensors to help you park, there are CD player controls on the steering wheel and it has climate control. The Nissan Micra is comfortable and refined, but you'll have to look elsewhere for that 1980's small car feel.
The MG ZR looks like something out of 1983. £10,000 (about $20,600) buys a MG ZR 105 with 105 bhp, 20 bhp more than any of the other cars. The interior is really quite unpleasant to Hammond, but it feels more purposeful. You can feel what's going on underneath, but none of the trim is shaking off. It's an ugly car, but a lot of fun.
If you want a practical car, then it would be the Honda Jazz. If you want a sporty car, then it would be the MG ZR. The MG ZR was two seconds faster than the other cars around the test track.
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car
This week's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car is Sir Michael Gambon, an Irish-British actor. Sir Michael Gambon races the Suzuki Liana around a wet test track in 1.55.0, nearly flipping the Liana in the last corner.
Renault and Volkswagen are fighting it out for fourth place in the number of new cars sold in England in 2002. As such, Volkswagen are giving 30% discounts off certain cars. A Volkswagen Passat, normally retailing for £14,600 (about $32,000), are being offered for £11,995 (about $24,800).
Dawe received an email from a dealer selling the Suzuki Liana for £7,495 (about $15,500). Dawe was also offered a Renault Scénic, normally £12,500 (about $25,800), for £9,000 (about $18,600) and a Ford Focus, normally £10,500 (about $21,700), for £7,995 (about $16,500).
Maserati 3200 GT
Clarkson reviews the Maserati 3200 GT. It doesn't have very nice styling and the rear lights don't help, but it has a new 4.2 L V8 engine that develops nearly 400 bhp. Inside the 3200GT has four seats and a Formula 1-style gearbox. There are, however, two good things about the gearbox. It's the same one you get inside a Ferrari 575M Maranello, but whereas the one in the 575 would cost you £6,000 (about $12,400) it only costs £3,000 in the 3200 GT. The second thing is that you don't have to have it.
The suspension can be tuned to suit your mood, but when you push the Sport button to tighten everything up you don't so much as drive the car as hold on. And God be with you if you turn the traction control off. The Maserati 3200 GT is not a sports car. Perhaps it's meant to be a rival for Jaguar, but then where's the sense of opulence inside? The Maserati 3200 GT is a £61,000 (about $126,000) "Mr. Nearly" car, stuck in a no man's land between the Jaguar rock and the Ferrari hard place. If you want a comfortable cruiser, then buy a Jaguar or a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. If you want hardcore performance, then buy a Porsche or a Ferrari.
The Stig takes the Maserati 3200 GT around a very wet test track in 1.38.0.
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