Amazon's Grand Tour: the latest on the return of the automotive entertainment titans

UPDATE! The Grand Tour's launch date gets confirmed with tasty new teaser trailer

They’re coming. Those big, loud, expensive things. A lot of cars are coming as well, but first Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Evans are coming with their big mouths and even bigger paychecks.

New Top Gear vs The Grand Tour is the fight of the year in terms of motoring entertainment and, with Top Gear launching very soon, the heat is definitely being turned up right now.

Here we pit both of the new shows against each other, covering each one’s lineups, name, launch date, budget, format, cars and key features. So strap yourself in as it’s going to get Sabine-Schmitz-driving-you-round-the-Nürburgring intense.

The Grand Tour

UPDATE: The Grand Tour's first episode will be made available to watch on November 18, it has been confirmed. Amazon confirmed the launch on The Grand Tour's official website and, to celebrate, also released a teaser trailer for the new series.

UPDATE: Jeremy Clarkson has tweeted some images of The Grand Tour being filmed. Here are those images:

So, we now know what the The Grand Tour tent is like, as well as how the studio audience is going to be laid out.

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It has been confirmed that Jeremy Clarkson's new motoring show will be called The Grand Tour. The news was announced by Clarkson and Richard Hammond on their official Twitter accounts:

The news brings to a close months of speculation as to what the new motoring show was to be called, with Clarkson and company legally forbidden from using the word "gear" in any new title.

The team apparently found it pretty tricky to come up with The Grand Tour, as this video - which was released earlier in the year - demonstrates:

Ok, fine, so when will The Grand Tour launch?

This is much more easy to answer. The Grand Tour will launch in Autumn 2016. How do we know? Because Amazon plaster it all over its website that’s how.

If you were to ask us when in Autumn, then we’d be inclined to say earlier rather than later, as Clarkson has posted up many, many images of the team on location shooting for the show.

The fact they are well into shooting at this point indicates to us here at T3 Towers that The Grand Tour will launch in September, maybe even going head-to-head each week against future episodes of the new series of Top Gear.

Lastly, we can see each new episode dropping on Sunday, as Amazon are currently doing with another of its exclusive shows, Outlander.

And what sort of lineup will the show have?

Another simple one. The answer is Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May of course. The terrible trio will return as the hosts of The Grand Tour. As well as these old men expect a large lineup of auxiliary guest stars to pop up each episode.

Talking of guests, what format will The Grand Tour take and what sort of budget will it have?

Another million pound question. Or, to be more precise, a £160 million pound question, as that figure is confirmed as the official budget for The Grand Tour.

Now, considering that Clarkson et al signed a three series deal with Amazon with each series featuring 12, 60-minute episodes, that means that each episode will cost roughly £4.5 million pounds.

To put that in perspective, when Clarkson worked on the BBC Top Gear, each show cost roughly £450,000, a tenth of what he will now have to spend.

As such, while you should expect plenty more in-studio chat, you should also be prepared for a series of ridonculously expensive challenges and tours.

UPDATE: Clarkson has confirmed that the show will be shot in different place each week, with the show touring around and the on-site studio consisting of a "MASSIVE tent". Hence the name, The Grand Tour...

What sort of cars will be covered in The Grand Tour?

Now look, we obviously don’t have the itinerary for each episode, however what we do know is that in the first episode, Clarkson, Hammond and May will pit the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder against each other. He even recently posted up this short video, showing the P1 being chased by a helicopter.

These hybrid hypercars go like stink and cost the Earth, so we think it is safe to assume that with the show’s massive budget, you will be seeing plenty of hyper, super and luxury marques.

That said though, Clarkson has also pointed out a couple of times on Twitter that the show will also cover and use more normal cars as well.

Whether or not that is restricted to comedy challenges and mockumentary skits remains to be seen, however we’re guessing that not all of each 60-minute episode can be caravans exploding to prog rock.

Ok, so if they’re going to test cars, where are they going to do it?

Well, they’re not going to be using Dunsfold Park, the site of the BBC’s Top Gear Test Track, that’s for sure.

What they will be doing though is filming at a wide-variety of locations and tracks throughout the UK and the wider world. Indeed, that video of the P1 comes from the Autodromo Internacional Algarve in Portugal, which is pictured above and below.

Are there any secret weapons The Grand Tour has in its armoury for the coming war?

Well asides from that ridonculous budget, the original team with their established repartee and the freedom to cover more vehicles in more countries around the world, yes The Grand Tour has one secret weapon.

Andy Wilman.

Who, you say? Andy Wilman is the former executive producer of Top Gear who jumped ship when Clarkson was let go last year. Wilman is now heading up The Grand Tour and brings with him years upon years of experience and contacts to the Amazon exclusive.

New Top Gear details, presenters, on-air date and more

The 23rd series of Top Gear debuts on Sunday 29 May at 8pm on BBC 2

The first new Top Gear review has been published in The Guardian - it's not a review as such, more of an observational piece, but it was generally positive even though Chris Evans was nervous at the studio recording. The journalist who wrote the review successfully applied for a ticket in the public ballot. Lucky them!

The piece was in stark contrast to numerous tabloid pieces that have surfaced recently - such as this one. Indeed, most of the tabloid press has been quite anti-new Top Gear from the start. The proof will be in the pudding as the first episode debuts.

Chris Evans also talked about the Guardian review during his Radio 2 Breakfast show this week and there's a clip of that available online.

Top Gear has had over 40 presenters so far, which have included Angela Rippon, Noel Edmonds, Kate Humble, Tiff Needell and Brendan Coogan - Steve 'Alan Partridge' Coogan’s brother.

Chris Evans has always been a fan of cars, of course. He founded car and music festival CarFest in 2012, which takes place twice a year (first in Cheshire and then in Hampshire) and raises money for Children in Need. His car collection is extensive and has included a £6 million 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, a 1958 Jaguar XK150 and even the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Matt LeBlanc is the first American presenter of Top Gear. He presented a standalone spin-off of the main show called Top Gear: The Races which was broadcast in the USA. He also drove around the Top Gear track in the Kia Cee’d, achieving 1:42.1 which is the fastest celebrity time recorded on the show.

This time there were public auditions process for a new Top Gear presenter:

  • The team had to go through over 6,000 thirty-second audition clips, which took more than a month (most were emailed in but also over 100 were sent in the post).
  • There were audition tapes which included badly rhyming raps, a two year-old who could name cars by looking at toy versions of them, and a Russian Playboy model.
  • Submissions came from all over the world - from America to China and India to the Philippines.
  • Screen tests for our favourites took place at the Dunsfold Top Gear track and involved hopefuls driving the famous circuit while talking to camera, being filmed walking around and talking about a static vehicle in the studio, and having a one-on-one chat with producers.

The Top Gear track and studio is located at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey. As well as being used as the home of Top Gear, Dunsfold Aerodrome has also been used as a backdrop to a number of Hollywood blockbusters such as Casino Royale and The Da Vinci Code.

This series, Top Gear have moved into the 21st century and swapped the golden envelopes for golden phones!

At any one time, Top Gear can be filming up to three different films in three different locations.

This series:

  • The presenters have driven approximately 7,500 miles – which equates to almost twice around the planet
  • Top Gear have visited four continents and nine countries
  • The team have filmed in high temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius (South Africa) and lows of -5 degrees Celsius (America)

In case you didn't know, the famous theme music is a remixed version of a track called ‘Jessica’ by American rockers The Allman Brothers Band.

Top Gear 2016 Episode Guide

Nomad LeBlanc
To test the latest off-road offering from tiny British firm Ariel, Matt LeBlanc heads to the wilds of Morocco, whereupon he discovers that a buggy largely consisting of holes is not the ideal vehicle in which to cross a significant river. Beyond a mild dousing – and a mild dust-storm - it all goes terribly well… until the all-terrain baddies turn up. Armed with a dirt bike, a drone and some sort of enormous desk-fan arrangement.

In addition, this episode features a Dodge Viper ACR going up against a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at the home of Top Gun in Nevada. Guests will include Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network movie and celebrity chef Gordan Ramsay.

The Special Relationship
As a patriotic American and moderately loyal Brit respectively, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans are charged with defending the honour of their nations in a series of motoring challenges. The cars? A pair of very old, very slow off-roaders, in the shape of the Willys Jeep and Series I Land Rover. The battlefield? Blackpool.

But first would come our presenters’ Top Gear initiation drive: a 250-mile journey from London to Blackpool… in a pair of roofless Reliant Rialtos. Which, for those unfamiliar with the history of fibreglass three-wheelers, are rather like Reliant Robins, only no better in any discernable way.

Off-Road Roadies
Never a show to shirk serious consumer issues, Top Gear sets out to solve one of the biggies: what’s the best SUV in which to deliver a musician to play the headline slot at the highest pub in Africa? Enter the investigative team of LeBlanc, Evans and Jordan, chauffeuring Tinie Tempah, Seasick Steve and Texas’s Sharlene Spiteri in the latest 4x4s from Porsche, Jaguar and Mercedes.

Top Gear Meets Top Gun
Chris Evans swallows some brave pills to test out the very muscular Dodge Viper ACR at the home of Top Gun: US Naval Base Fallon, deep in the Nevada desert. Then swallows a few more when Sabine Schmitz rocks up for a fight in a Corvette Z06. Covered in guns.

Happy Happy Harris
The new BMW M2 is the sort of car that makes drivers happy. But exactly how happy, in numerical terms, does it make you? To find out, Chris Harris straps on Top Gear’s patented Funometer 3000, the new headset to scientifically quantify driving joy.

Meet The McMustangs
Classic muscle cars are great news if you live in, say, southern California. Classic muscle cars are rather less great news if you live in, say, northern Scotland, on account of (a) their aversion to rain, (b) their aversion to corners and (c) the fact that their steering wheels are always inconveniently on the incorrect side. But is the new Ford Mustang – with its newfangled ‘right-hand drive’ technology – finally a muscle car fit for Britain? Rory Reid heads to northern Scotland to find out.

Hot new images:

Top Gear presenters

Yep, that’s right, and the answer is a dump truck load of people. Let’s now go through them one at a time:

Chris Evans - The king of UK presenters himself has snaffled the lead position in the new series, with his vast experience in presenting and even vaster car collection winning him the nod. A safe pair of hands Evans certainly is, with decades of experience and a lingering everyman vibe the BBC clearly want to hit home.

Evans also knows quite a bit about cars, as he has spent the better part of the last 20 years collecting a series of super expensive and rare cars, ranging from the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang through to a Ferrari 458 Speciale.

We doubt Evans will be anywhere near as outspoken and controversial as Clarkson, so he probably won’t endear such a diehard following, however he is very well connected celeb-wise, so he should help draw in a number of high-profile guests.

Matt LeBlanc - Talk about getting in a ringer! Friends star Matt LeBlanc has been snapped up by the BBC to sit alongside Evans as one of the show’s lead presenters, with his well-known love of cars scoring him the gig.

LeBlanc also knows his stuff when it comes round to motoring, with the star owning a Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes ML63 AMG and a brace of Porsche supercars. He also guested on Top Gear a few years back and put down a very fast lap around the Top Gear Test Track, so he’s got the driving chops as well.

What he has most though is bucket loads of charisma, with the star appealing to both men and women in equal measure. His acting chops too will also help him be very natural in front of the camera as well, so expect plenty of laughs and slick delivery. Plus, what a smile!

Sabine Schmitz - Definitely a very welcome inclusion to the new series of Top Gear is Sabine Schmitz, the crazy good racing driver that scared Clarkson and company half to death with her super fast driving around the Nürburgring.

She knows her stuff about cars, can drive like the wind and has spent most of her life driving around one of the most famous and demanding race tracks in the world. What’s not to like?

Eddie Jordan - F1 specialist Eddie Jordan is another newcomer this season and, as you would expect, brings a wealth of knowledge about F1 and high-speed motor racing.

Jordan setup Jordan Grand Prix in 1991 and competed in each Formula One season up until 2005, where he took over as the BBC’s chief analyst for Formula One coverage.

I guy who is used to working with legends like Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill should be an excellent addition to the Top Gear roster.

Chris Harris - YouTube star Chris Harris will be unknown to the vast majority of people, however car enthusiasts might have heard of him as his channel “Chris Harris on Cars” has a large 348,873 subscribers.

He’s a motoring journalist with on-screen experience and a wealth of car knowledge. Oh, and by his own admission he is “quite gobby and happy to get into trouble”, so we’re guessing he’ll fit in just fine.

Rory Reid - And, talking of motoring journalists, Rory Reid has also signed up for the new series. Reid was the only one of the presenters who made it through an open audition procedure, submitting an audition tape that supposedly blew Chris Evans away. He has also been confirmed as the host of a new spin-off show Extra Gear, which takes a look behind the scenes of the filming of each episode.

The Stig - Bringing up the rear is everybody’s real favourite presenter. A man of few words, the mysterious Stig nevertheless brings years of screentime experience to bear on the new series of Top Gear, as well as simply mad driving skills.

Simply because The Grand Tour does not have the rights to use the Stig or his likeness, means that we fully expect more Stig action than ever before in the new series.

All of those presenters leads me to ask if and how the format of Top Gear will change?

UPDATE: It has been confirmed that a spin-off show, entitled Extra Gear, will be made available after each regular episode of the show. Extra Gear will be hosted by newcomer Rory Reid and will take a behind the scenes looks at how the episode was filmed and made. Extra Gear will be made available on the BBC iPlayer as wll as BBC Three's webpage.

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Well, simply put, it will have to. You don’t go from three core presenters, who are very much the stars of the show, to six presenters with varying star-factor and the Stig and be able to keep the same format.

The overall runtime will remain the same, as too the Top Gear Studio for live shoots with an audience, however we severely doubt that all six presenters will be present in-studio all the time.

Evans is obviously a fixed entity, and will be hosting the live show recording each episode, however we think the rest of the presenters could be rotated in and out, as we can’t see all six of them, plus a guest, plus the Stig all sitting down on those Top Gear seats to chat. Evans will be like the tent pole the rest of the team rotate around.

We’re guessing lesser stars like Reid and Harris will be engaged more in on-location reviews and shoots (the video portions of the show), while bigger stars like Evans, LeBlanc and Schmitz will see more action both in and out of the studio. Don’t get us wrong, we fully expect to see all the presenters in-studio, just some more than others.

As for the runtime, that will remain the same, with a just under an hour-long show being broadcast every Sunday evening. We also expect the general structure of the show to remain unchanged, with a mix of car reviews, challenges, face-offs, team events, studio chats and interviews.

The Grand Tour has that outrageous budget, how much does Top Gear have to spend on each episode?

Worryingly for the show’s producers no doubt, it has been reported that the new series of Top Gear has only about £650,000 to spend on each episode. If this is true, then it will be putting together each episode for £3.9 million pounds less than its new rival. Remember though, the Top Gear as put together with Clarkson and company on board was done so for less money than Evans now has to play with.

What does this mean though if true? Well, expect a hell of a lot more shooting to take place in Britain for one. We also expect the BBC to lean heavily on Evan’s and LeBlanc’s celebrity contacts for guest stars too.

What sort of cars will be covered in the new series of Top Gear?

We expect business as usual for the show to be honest, however considering the lower budget and lack of Clarkson influence, we think you’ll see more regular car reviews and features.

There will definitely be supercars driven at high speeds and silly challenges involving old or classic cars though. These will just be balanced out more we feel with reviews of the new Ford Focus or Honda Jazz, for example.

Where are they going to test those cars?

Well, naturally, at the Top Gear Test Track. Reports of filming in England and Ireland have also filtered out via the media.

So, finally, what secret weapon does the new series of Top Gear have to use in the coming war?

We think that the star pulling power of Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans will see a higher caliber of guest stars than The Grand Tour. This factor hasn’t really been promoted by the BBC so far, however we think that it could add a real element of glamour and prestige to the show if utilized. Would you be that surprised to see George Clooney, who has been rumoured to be appearing on the new show, sitting in the Top Gear Studio?