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Top Gear, episode 1 recap: bromance blooms for Matt LeBlanc and Co

Top Gear returned with a LeBlanc slate as the series put behind it the upheavals of recent seasons and sprinted off the grid with a solid comeback episode.Utah made for a spectacular backdrop, the banter was top-notch, the cars loud and shiny. Adjust your wing-mirrors and check your indicators, as we recap the highlights of tonight’s episode.1. Has true bromance blossomed among the presenters?Parachuted into Top Gear two years ago at the height of its post-Clarkson crisis Matt LeBlanc made about as much sense as Friends’ Joey Tribbiani in an episode of Holby City.But with naff natterer Chris Evans receiving the ejector-seat treatment and Chris Harris and Rory Reid promoted to full co-hosts, the series has finally recaptured some of the boyish brio of the Jezza epoch.“Your car’s about as American as Silvio Berlusconi,” quipped Harris to LeBlanc, pointing out the engine powering the actor’s bright yellow Mustang had been revamped according to a European design. “Who’s she?” wondered LeBlanc. Thirty minutes in and intra-presenter badinage had achieved take-off.

2. Is Top Gear still the most spectacular car series on television?Even with considerably fatter budgets, rival shows – Jeremy Clarkson’s Grandd Tourr springs to mind – have never quite rivalled that Top Gear visual swagger. Early on in Utah, a drone captured LeBlanc’s Hennessey Mustang GT350 R  and Harris’s McLaren 570 GT from overhead as they engaged in an automative “shoot-out” – free-wheeling across the sand and then, on Reid’s signal, spinning and dashing towards the finish line. The contrast between the shimmering vehicles and the aching red desert was stunning – as was a later sequence in which rally champion Ken Block, in a super-powered dune buggy, soared over Reid’s McLaren as he dashed towards the finish line in a challenge in which the team pretended to be bootleggers fleeing police.

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