I'm still not a fan, but the show's definitely making improvements.
This week, hosts Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood and Tanner Foust take on a challenge familiar to fans of the original Top Gear - taking a cheap car on a road trip up the California coast. It doesn't take them long to find the flaws in their discount vehicles. (Adam remarks that Tanner, in his rattling Mercedes, looks like "an ambassador from a sad, broke-ass country.")
In Santa Barbara, we learn that none of them missed their calling as car thieves. Santa Monica tells us that someone may have been murdered in the back of Adam's car. By the time they get to San Francisco, the cars are failing and Tanner's in a biohazard suit.
Their misadventure still pales in comparison to driving around with a dead animal on the roof of your car, or having an AK-47 in a caravan that you accidentally set on fire, but it looks like the hosts are starting to gel together and that they're having a bit more fun with each other. If that chemistry continues to improve, the show will certainly go up with it.
In other features, Rutledge discusses how the Cadillac brand was dying off "like most of its buyers" before he rolls out the new CTS-V. He's mostly impressed by it, except for the headliner and its interesting door button. (I'm with him on that one.) The CTS-V wagon even beats a Ferrari California in a drag race. If you've ever wanted to see a wagon do 112 MPH, The Stig gives that to you in the subsequent track lap.
The only downer there is that the American Top Gear still hasn't abolished the on-screen track map; in fact, it's added a speedometer. Both feel unnecessary, especially since Tanner is providing some fairly astute commentary at the same time.
As previously mentioned, Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine is this week's celebrity guest. He earns more coolness points in my book because he drives my dream car: an Aston Martin DB9. Sadly, he posts a lap time slower than most of the board. Knowing his competitive streak, when he tells Rutledge that with an extra half hour on the track he'd be number one, I believe him. He is number one in amount of expletives used during a track lap. And not that it matters, but he's still tops on my list. I can't take a dig at him when I'd be swearing up a storm right alongside him.
Top Gear USA has switched up the way it handles that portion of the program as well; unlike last season, the celebrity is introduced out on the track, does their time and then drives the Suzuki back into the studio before being interviewed. It's not a huge difference, but I like it. I'm waiting for the episode where a celeb doesn't quite stop and runs into something on the set.
The American version still has a long way to go before it can reach the level of the UK original, but to be fair, the UK edition has fifteen seasons on it. What I saw tonight didn't make me a fan, but it did make me admit that the show certainly has potential. Whether or not it uses that potential is something we'll have to discuss after another few episodes have gone by.
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved.