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BBC/Warner / 348 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: August 9th, 2011
In Top Gear 16 the group of Jeremy Clarkson, James “Captain Slow” May, Richard Hammond and the newly minted Stig 2.0 bring us back to Surrey for another super-charged season of the international BBC hit series.
This season marks the beginning of the use of a different Stig, the one-named white-coverall and helmet-clad test driver that remains anonymous, voiceless and (mostly) humorless throughout the show. From his inception during the Holiday Special –an amazing and highly dangerous trek beginning in Iraq near Mosul, and threading through an aborted attempt to enter Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and eventually Israel - the new Stig is laced in the same air of mystery as the previous incarnation. About the only difference is the entire cast and many of the guests constantly referring to how much better this Stig is due to the somewhat acrimonious lawsuit against the last one (UK stunt-driver Ben Collins) after the BBC failed in its injunction to keep him from revealing his identity in a planned autobiography.
Top Gear 16 has some great episodes and some truly phenomenal cars throughout. Peppered with hilarious road trips to the US, Albania and throughout the wintery Norwegian countryside, these episodes are one part hilarious road comedy and one part highly insightful look into the world of high-end automotive ownership a part of which most of us can only hopelessly dream to belong. From the latest - but probably not the last - iteration of the Pagani Zonda R to cars from Jaguar, McLaren, Audi and yes, even Sköda, the show does a great job of providing wonderfully choreographed track shots and gear-head tech info mixed with a perfect blend of wide-eyed fandom and humor.
For those of us on the left side of the pond, Top Gear 16 is a great treat. While many of the stars featured in the trademark Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment will draw confused stares –I had to Google a few of them - this is a part of the charm of the show. Amidst the confusing cultural and linguistic differences there is a humorous center that helps everyone find their common ground at the show’s core: a love of all things automotive. Season 16 is most definitely a great addition to the show's overall catalogue and one of my favorites in recent memory.