The producers of Top Gear on History showed that they’ve been listening to the fans (and anti-fans), because this episode featured new cars, new challenges and reviews. When the global economy started to sink, many people shied away from large, gas-guzzling SUV’s in favour of smaller, more frugal cars. Yet the market for SUV’s hasn’t completely fizzled and manufacturers have not only managed to keep vehicles large, but make them even more luxurious than before. In this episode, the cast embarked on a grand, 544-mile road trip that would start out on Pismo Beach and end up on Mammoth Mountain.
Tanner Foust stood upon sandy shores by a 2012 Range Rover Sport Supercharged HSE. I was very surprised that the next host to arrive was Adam Ferrara in a Cadillac Escalade ESV. I thought for sure that the hip hop soundtrack was announcing Rutledge Wood’s arrival, but the aggressive driving style should have been a dead giveaway. Furthermore, Adam seemed to take a page out of Tanner’s playbook, because his Escalade had a supercharger from Lingenfelter Performance. Tanner was justifiably irate that Adam’s vehicle was tuned for victory; in the same way they were, when he showed up in a Rogue Status Scion XB for the Taxis episode, but I digress. Last on the scene was Rutledge in a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8. At this point, I would have put a couple dollars on Rut to take this episode, but that’s because I’m partial to that brand.
Their first challenge was a race to the Gazebo landmark in the picturesque city of Paso Robles. Rutledge took the conventional route, while Tanner took a shortcut. Adam followed Tanner, causing both to remind us why Tanner’s called The Driver and Adam’s called The Wrecker. Ferrara gave chase vigorously but ultimately it ended up being the first fail of the episode. Tanner proceeded to bomb around the dunes, as he’s wont to do, while Adam was being towed to freedom before setting off after Rutledge. Tanner’s smugness level was at an all-time high, until he realised that the other guys were waiting for him at the gazebo. Oh, the humanity. Here’s a life lesson for you: all race car drivers are sore losers. All of them. Just look at the catty body language on a Formula 1 podium, and you’ll see what I mean. Heck, NASCAR’s podium ceremony doesn’t even include second and third place, because those dudes (and dudettes) are too ticked off to share air with the winner. Ergo, see Tanner lose, see Tanner insist on leaving immediately for the next location.
“I lost but I’m comfortable.” – Adam Ferrara
A short, fifteen mile trip to the beautiful Domain Serene vineyard in Dayton, Oregon, preceded the next challenge of the SUV’s ride quality and comfort. Now if you ever watch Top Gear UK, this whole scenario is atypical of that series. Anytime the general public or paid willing participants of any kind are introduced to a challenge, we can pretty much guarantee wacky and uncharacteristically socially awkward behaviour from the hosts. They were to not only drive couples to a romantic picnic spot, but host the lovers’ luncheon as well. How did it go? Horribly awry. Need I say more? Okay, fine. Apparently, Rutledge not only rambles when he’s nervous, but is a stress-eater as well. Adam’s one heck of a salesman but can turn into General Patton in the blink of an eye; and then there’s Tanner. His scenic drive through the vineyard closer resembled the Dakar Rally, leaving a trail of foodstuff and trauma along the way. Ridiculousness. The guys are entertaining to watch without the need to create comedic situations. Oh, and I don’t like it when they do it on Top Gear UK either. Fast forward to the next bit, please.
“This is going to be tough and fun.” – Tanner Foust
The next day, they set off on the longest leg of their journey. Along a back road route, they found the perfect spot for a drag race. Unfortunately, the Range Rover was having technical difficulties. This led to a torrential downpour of teasing from Adam and Rutledge that rivalled the rainy weather they were experiencing. After the drag race, they engaged in something I’ve seen lots of guys do. They passionately argued about whose car had the most speakers, best interior, etc. Of course, they couldn’t sit there all day yelling about their SUV’s. There was a mountain to climb and a whole new climate to experience. I hope somebody got a cheque from the California Travel and Tourism Commission because they made the state look absolutely amazing and road trip-worthy. It’s certainly high on my list of travel must-see/must-do’s.
On the way to the Mammoth Mountain Inn, Tanner took another shortcut but this time, Adam smartly let him go it alone. His victory celebration was cut short when he arrived because his compadres waiting for him, and kindly had a drink waiting for him. It was a cocktail called ‘The Shortcut’ and had a rather interesting fruit garnish. Tanner’s physical disgust upon its presentation was priceless. I laughed and wiped a tear but completely understand his horror. Dudes are weird…and gross. Bless them. The next morning, they embarked on a drive up the mountain. With snow tires fitted onto the SUV’s, they set off to conquer Mammoth and prove which vehicle was the best. They all got stuck and dealt with it in very different ways. I wonder if Rutledge has some Caribbean ancestry? He had what we consider to be the right idea: lock up the vehicle, and head back inside for something nice to eat. Adam did what any Escalade owner would probably do: pay somebody to make his goal achievable. While Tanner, finally found a setting and headed up the mountain.
“I lost but boy, breakfast was good!” – Rutledge Wood
Near the summit, the Range Rover got stuck again. I’m not saying that the vehicle’s a piece of an overpriced underperformer, but Tanner wasn’t going to sit there playing around with eighty-one buttons and hoping to get it going again. He set out on foot, and they seem to be making a point of ensuring, that footage of Tanner ending up on the ground, ends up in the show. It happened twice as a wrestling match ensued on the mountain top with one of his cast mates. Reunited the three of them looked to head back down in Adam’s Escalade. Rutledge got an invitation, while Tanner had to work for his seat. As a whole, this episode was good but was the closest to a Top Gear UK than we’ve seen in quite a while. It’s understandable that they’ll go with patented gags every once in a while, but this show shines best when they go off in their own direction. The next episode is Minnesota Ice Driving.