Review of Top Gear USA’s Need For Speed

Review of Top Gear USA’s Need For Speed

Nobody does televised road trips like Top Gear and the Need For Speed episode’s German romp was truly one to remember. I remember seeing behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot long before it aired on October 2, 2014. It was such a treat for the cast. Usually a trip to the Nürburgring would be the prize for winning an episode’s challenge, but in this case the whole thing was a prize. If that wasn’t enough, they’d be blazing a trail along the world-famous Autobahn on the way. What could possibly make this better? Supercars, my friends, supercars, but we’ll get to that soon. Let’s start with the start. The trip began at Volkswagen’s sprawling and ultra high-tech Wolfburg headquarters. By the way, that was the German national anthem playing after the opening credits. I know this because I follow Formula 1 and that’s a song you hear very often. (Team Mercedes AMG Petronas in yo face!)

The guys were supposed to choose vehicles from the Volkswagen brand for the trip and Tanner Foust did exactly that, introducing the 20145 Volkswagen Golf R. Bless his heart thinking he had an advantage because the little, red hot hatch wasn’t on market yet; because the other presenters chose cars from the Volkswagen Group, which gave them more *cough* variety. Rutledge Wood had a beautiful, black 2014 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S; and Adam Ferrara in a bright, yellow 2014 Lamborghini Huracán. They were as pleased as he was angry and it was time to hit the road.

“Just wait till we get to the Nürburgring.” – Tanner Foust

A Top Gear supercar road trip always starts with a drag race, especially when one of the cars isn’t super by comparison. Tanner got creative with the start and I imagined a text from his boss, Michael Andretti saying something to the effect of, “You’d better not try that with the Volkswagen I pay you to drive, buddy.” Anyway they found a way to make driving on the Autobahn into an interesting competition by seeing who could hit the fastest speed between exits. It was good to see them tangle with traffic because that’s what every well-used highway is like.

The next challenge was to navigate a postcard picturesque town. Without the benefit of GPS and a negligible understanding of the German language, the boys almost didn’t get to the church on time. You’d think having a zippy little car would be an advantage here but, you know what? No more Tanner jokes for the rest of the article. It’s too darned easy and the professionals did a much better job than I ever could. This show is like an Insults Master class. Over lunch, there was a brief conversation about lessons from the trip so far. Surely there was more good stuff but it was too saucy for TV. Indeed, I’d pay money to see an uncut version of this show including especially all the stuff they can’t show on History Channel.

“(waving) auf Wiedersehen! Dunkin’ Donuts!” – Rutledge Wood

Then came what I think was the show’s biggest upset. There was a handling test at an abandoned parking lot and *spoiler alert* Rut won. I figured Adam would have trouble because the Huracán like all Lambos is a wide car, but man, Rutledge was off like a rocket and nailed the beer can slalom like a boss. At this point I was genuinely excited to see how he did on the Nürburgring, which was one speedy trip down the Autobahn away.

Their excitement was completely understandable. In fact I can’t imagine anybody who loves cars but wouldn’t want to drive on the Nürburgring. A race car driver friend of mine moved to Germany just so that he could practice there. The Nürburgring is like Mecca and I look forward to making that pilgrimage one day. Now you don’t put a buy like Tanner in a production Golf R on a Top Gear episode featuring Volkswagen. This is the guy who’s set world records on and off the show. You engineer an awkwardly sneaky switch to a Golf R that’s purpose-built for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. I was sure we’d see the Volkswagen Beetle Rallycross car but alas no. He thrashed the car in grand style and although the Ford Raptor video is still tops in my book for sheer ridiculousness, the hot hot-lap does make up for the morale bobolization he endured during the episode.

“I’m excited because I get to do this. I’m scared because, you know, it’s – it’s me.” – Adam Ferrara

The finale came down to a battle of the Lamborghini’s power versus Rutledge’s racing prowess. I admit it was a kick to see Adam in the Huracán, but knew Rut would be unstoppable in the Porsche. This is one of those times when who won what probably mattered even less because it was so darned fun to watch. They lived out a fantasy and gave a global audience something for their bucket list. This episode is currently available on iTunes and Amazon. As always the cast and fans had a great time live-tweeting both the east and west coast broadcasts. The next episode is the season finale, Weekend Race Cars.